Thursday, October 22, 2009

Gauging Europeans

Two days ago Nick Luck looked to answer the question of which Europeans might be vulnerable at the Breeders' Cup. It's a good question and I thought he wrote out his analysis well. But there is another side to the coin that was not discussed and that is the statistical record of Europeans that fit specific profiles.

Europeans that are favored in Breeders' Cup races don't seem to have any more systematic vulnerability than any other favorites. Favorites have won 67 of the 194 Breeders' Cup races. That's a 34.54% clip. In races where Europeans have been favored the public choice has gone 14 for 45 or 31.11%. The difference is somewhere between negligible and non-existent. European favorites seem to be just as solid but no more solid than hometown favorites.

There is a bit of disparity if you isolate just the favorites that were odds on. North American odds on choices won at a 45.7% rate while European odds on choices managed only 33.3%. You have to take that with a grain of salt though because there have only been 6 European odds on favorites in the history of the Breeders' Cup. If Goldikova happens to be odds on this year and wins the winning percentage would jump to 42% which is right in line. The failed European odds on favorites were often pretty memorable though. Dancing Brave, Zilzal and Dylan Thomas all failed pretty badly.

Another relatively easy way to categorize Europeans is to judge the fresh against the not so fresh. It may be an overly simplistic measurement but look at every European that came to the Breeders' Cup since 1996 that has had more than 3 races since their last layoff. Their overall record is 2 for 48. A caveat to this statistic is the fact that from 1996 to 2007 they were 0 for 36 but last year Raven's Pass and Muhannak both defied the stat. It makes logical sense that a long season without breaks followed by a trip across the ocean may not be the best formula for success.

A third subset of Europeans that we'll examine statistically are those that have come to North America for their final prep before wheeling back in the Breeders' Cup. 34 horses have tried it from 1996 to 2008 and among those 34 a full 10 of them won their preps and 27 of the 34 hit the board. That's nearly an 80% in the money percentage. But when those same horses came back in the Breeders' Cup they have recorded a shocking 34-0-4-3 record. That's no wins and only 20% in the money.

These horses usually attract a fair bit of public support because they've already proven that they can handle American conditions and often they're impressive in the preps. But of the 34 entrants only Docksider, Ace and Banks Hill actually ran better races (ie... achieved an improved finishing position) in the Breeders' Cup than they did in their final preps. None of those three horses won their preps either, nor did they win Breeders' Cup races.

This stat does not include horses like Red Rocks or Winchester last year. Both of those horses did have European careers followed by a single North American race prior to the Breeders' Cup but both of them also had several month layoffs. The theory behind this "Euro bounce" is that a horse does not immediately feel the effects of a intercontinental journey. The adrenaline is still pumping and the jet lag has not set in at the time of their first start. However the arduous activity of a race seems to heighten the post race fatigue and they just can't replicate their form within the next few weeks. Obviously a lengthy spell on the sidelines mitigates this effect.

We've already seen Barry Irwin pull out Gitano Hernando from Classic consideration because of this type of thing. The official story is that he is too tired from his hard race in the Goodwood to wheel back in the Classic. Maybe he knows about the "Euro bounce".

No comments: