Derek Simon 11/24 - Where's the Value?

Where's the Value?

What races offer the most bang for one's buck?

By Derek Simon

I've talked a lot in the past about the efficiency of markets - both financial and betting - and how, with more and more information now readily available to investors, it's gotten even harder to turn a wagering profit.

As proof of this, I recently broke down my Win Factor Report data by breed. I was interested to see whether harness racing, with less handicapping material published on the subject (or at least less material that has been widely circulated), offered better value than thoroughbred horse racing, which, of course, has been covered more often than Madonna... songs.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with my work, i.e. the overwhelming majority, my Win Factor Report is simply a computerized fair odds line that I use when I handicap. In addition to being very effective at isolating good betting races, it has also produced a positive ROI under certain circumstances.

But before we look at the wagering statistics for different breeds, let's first examine the overall numbers for horses meeting the following criteria (from a variety of qualifying races run from Jan. 1, 2009 to July 30, 2010):

  • Top Win Factor of 1.00 or greater.

The Win Factor is a comprehensive rating (ranging from zero to 10) comprised of general ability, current form, speed, class, conditioning, and distance compatibility. The higher the rating, the more reliable the resultant fair odds are likely to be.

  • At least five Rated Starts.

Rated Starts refer to the number of races used to derive the performance ratings listed above. Horses with less than five Rated Starts tend to be less reliable than steeds with six or more.

  • Race Rating of 75 percent or greater.

The Race Rating is a percentage (0-100) that measures the separation between contenders and the inherent value (overlay) potential of the race in question. Higher percentages generally indicate more predictable and/or formful races.

Number of Qualifying Plays: 735 

Winners: 294

Rate: 40.0%

Return: $1,502.80

ROI: +2.23%

Now, let's look at those same races, filtered by breed:



Number: 482

Winners: 190

Rate: 39.4%

Return: $1,018.40

ROI: +5.64%


Number: 226

Winners: 91

Rate: 40.3%

Return: $410.40

ROI: -9.20%

Quarter Horses

Number: 23

Winners: 11

Rate: 47.8%

Return: $68.00

ROI: +47.83%


Number: 4

Winners: 2

Rate: 50.0%

Return: $6.00

ROI: -25.00%

Notice that, although the winning rate stayed more or less static, wagering on thoroughbred races resulted in a 9.2 percent loss, whereas betting on standardbred events produced a 5.6 percent profit. This suggests, of course, that thoroughbred races are indeed more difficult to profit from.

For further insights into harness handicapping, be sure to check out Frank Cotolo's work at

And, don't fret, just because thoroughbred races are more difficult to beat than races for other breeds doesn't mean it is a mission impossible. Remember: the statistics above represent all the qualifying plays, with no consideration of price or value. In fact, just insisting on 3-1 morning line odds or higher boosts the thoroughbred plays into the black (with no handicapping required):

Number: 93

Winners: 32

Rate: 34.4%

Return: $202.50

ROI: +8.87%

Now, let's do some holiday handicapping and see if we can add some cabbage to the Thanksgiving Day fare:


Hawthorne (11/24/10)

Race 1 * 8.5 Furlongs * Dirt

5-Domain's Rap (5/2)

Fair Odds: 2-1

6-Next Kitten (3/1)

Fair Odds: 5-2

4-Clearance Sale (5/1)

Fair Odds: 6-1

COMMENTS: Although I'm not thrilled with his latest effort, in which he went very fast early (-14 ESR) and very slow late (-15 LSR), DOMAIN'S RAP is clearly the quickest in this field. If he runs back to his penultimate start on Oct. 9, when he rallied to finish second behind subsequent restricted stakes winner Luck With Kiss, he should get his picture taken. Trainer Wayne Catalano is deadly when switching from the grass to the dirt, even with horses that have lawn-loving pedigrees like NEXT KITTEN. What's more, Next Kitten is one of the few pure closers in Friday's opener. CLEARANCE SALE broke her maiden at Mountaineer last time and deserves consideration at 6-1 or better.                                                                     

BET(S): WIN on 5 at odds of 2-1 or greater.

Hawthorne (11/24/10)

Race 6 * 6.0 Furlongs * Dirt

4-See I A (7/2)

Fair Odds: 5-2

1A-Recapturetheglory (3/1)

Fair Odds: 7-2

8-Big Rushlet (8/1)

Fair Odds: 6-1

COMMENTS: SEE I A is in great form and should get a trip very similar to the one he got last time, stalking the speed and pouncing late. RECAPTURETHEGLORY will attempt to do just that, as the former Illinois Derby winner seeks to stay perfect at Hawthorne by posting the first sprint win of his career. BIG RUSHLET should be closing down the lane.                                                                     

BET(S): WIN on 4 at odds of 5-2 or greater.                                                                                                            

Churchill Downs (11/25/10)

Race 8 * 6.0 Furlongs * Dirt

3-China (5/2)

Fair Odds: 7-5                                                              

2-Bergman (12/1)

Fair Odds: 8-1                                                              

8-Dream of Kaylee (5/1)

Fair Odds: 6-1                                                                                                                                     

BET(S): WIN on 3 at odds of 7-5 or greater.

Churchill Downs (11/25/10)

Race 11 * 9.0 Furlongs * Dirt


3-Striking Dancer (2/1)

Fair Odds: 2-1                                                              

1-Dudalk Dust (8/1)

Fair Odds: 9-2                                                              

4-Distinctive Dixie (9/5)

Fair Odds: 7-2                                                                                                                         

BET(S): WIN on 3 at odds of 2-1 or greater and/or WIN/PLACE on 1 at odds of 9-2 or greater.



Early Speed Ration (ESR): A measurement of a horse's early energy expenditure in relation to the total race requirements. The lower the figure, the greater the horse's early exertion in that event.














Tip(s): Animals that combine low ESRs with high speed figures are often prime candidates to win in wire-to-wire fashion. So too are those steeds with a significant overall ESR advantage.

Late Speed Ration (LSR): A measurement of a horse's late energy expenditure in relation to the total race requirements. The higher the figure, the greater the horse's late exertion in that event.














Tip(s): Because late speed is measured when each horse is being asked for its maximum effort, LSRs can be a great indication of form as well. Young horses with improving Late Speed Rations are often superior to older, more experienced rivals with established figures. Furthermore, any animal that combines a positive Pace Profile with high relative LSRs and good speed figures must be given strong consideration. Entrants that show positive LSRs or those coming off of a big win punctuated by a superior LSR are especially strong contenders.

The Late Speed Rations are also very effective in a negative context as well. Horses with consistently poor figures in relation to the rest of the field make notoriously poor favorites and can often lead to great overlays on other, less fancied runners.

Pace Profile: A simple comparison between a horse's Late Speed Ration and the Early Speed Ration of the race in which it was earned. A positive (+) profile is greatly desired and serves to authenticate especially impressive LSRs. The Pace Profile is an easy, yet crucial means of relating early speed to late speed.

Tip(s): The Pace Profile of a particular race can be especially useful when horses are switching distances/surfaces. For example, an animal that has been competing in dirt sprints might be given extra consideration in a turf route if he/she shows a string of positive (+) Pace Profiles, as distance races on the lawn tend to emphasize late speed.



Races (Selections):

75 (76)














(This year's published selections through 11/17/10.)