November 7, 2013 at 20:22 #25042
I’m delighted to report that long-time friend of TRF and highly respected handicapping, form and time expert Simon Rowlands has agreed to take questions from all us TRF’ers. Anyone interested in the vagaries and mathematics of how to assess racehorse performances and predict future performances will, I am sure, want to tap into Simon’s expertise and experience.
The Biography from Simon’s betfair blog http://betting.betfair.com/authors/simon-rowlands/ reads…
“Simon Rowlands has worked at Timeform since 1986, with the exception of a short period earlier this century, and is now Head of Research and Handicapping at the company.
He has developed many numerical and statistical ways of analysing form over the years, launching Timeform’s Irish service in 2007 and Timeform’s free-form US/Canadian service in 2010.
He is an occasional contributor to Timeform Radio (having launched its predecessor Betfair Radio) and a regular blogger on betting.betfair.com. Simon also owns shares in a couple of racehorses. “
In addition Simon will be remembered as one of the Four Horsemen on The Sportsman and will, of course, be remembered fondly on here under his alias ‘Prufrock’.
Please post your questions below by Saturday 16th November. I’ll then send them to Simon.November 10, 2013 at 00:17 #457894
- Total Posts 1984
A hypothetical scenario:
You live on an island, cut-off from any contact with the outside world where the results come in on a ticker tape, where the main betting market is who finishes second.
The odds for second place are posted in advance and sum to 100%, but are subject to a reduction factor from the winner of the race who is treated as a non-runner.
You cannot find any edge betting these odds pre-race.
The ticker tape is paused after the winner of each race is announced, and betting reopened on who finishes second, with all odds reduced proportionately to account for the fact that the winner is now a non-runner.
You have access to all pre-race info you could desire on the runners.
Betting on horses drawn near the winner repeatedly is considered abuse and will get you closed down. Are there any strategies that can turn a long-term profit?
Also, as this a hypothetical scenario, I would like to extend it to my owning the island, living in luxury and having no need of making grubby money from such means. I will watch the results coming in as an enthusiast, like I used to. While sipping a mojito.
But, in the spirit of the question, the important phrases (if I have understood you correctly) are “the odds…sum to 100%…you cannot find any edge” (i.e. it is an efficient market, without an intrinsic favourite/longshot bias) and “all odds reduced proportionately”. They should not be. It is the same principle behind why you should differentiate between the place odds of a horse starting at short price and a long price in the win market and not “reduce the win odds proportionately”. Outsiders need to be reduced by more and there is a limiting factor (of randomness among other things) which applies more to short-priced horses than long-priced ones.
Just to be sure, I looked at how it would work out on all races in one year, UK Flat. If you backed all horses to be second that took out up to and including 10% in the new, pro-rata, book (i.e. outsiders, but not as big outsiders as if the winner counted, obviously) they finished second 5.4% of the time when 4.5% could be expected from their revised odds (30000 cases). Even horses >10% to 20% (between 5.0 and 10.0 in the new market) outperformed expectation, albeit only fractionally.
There may be even more of an advantage in backing these outsiders to be second according to the specific odds of the winner. I don’t know. Frankly, I had another mojito to tackle.November 10, 2013 at 00:26 #457895
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That looks like a cracking question from Glenn? I’m looking forward to Mr. Big’s answer… even though I don’t understand the questionNovember 10, 2013 at 01:02 #457896
- Total Posts 1684
I’m not into sectional times and suchlike that I believe Mr. Rowlands excelles at but feel that I should leave a question – however lame it may be.
Mr. Rowlands, do you ever regret taking on the job as Racing Editor at The Sportsman?
But it was by no means all a negative experience: I got to meet and work with some excellent people; I acquired skills that have served me well since; and, more than anything, I got to live in the best city on the planet for another 4 years (had lived there for shorter in the 1980s). Furthermore, Timeform was stagnating at the time (it is much healthier now) and I was “made an offer I couldn’t (easily) refuse”.
Funnily enough, I might still not have taken the job were it not for my involvement in this forum. I cannot stand people who snipe from the sidelines but won’t do anything to change matters when then given a perfectly good opportunity. The Racing Post was poor back then (I’ll leave it to others to decide whether things have changed) and got a lot of criticism on here, including from me. So, when I got the chance, I tried to do something about it. And failed. But sometimes it is better to try and fail than not to try at all.November 10, 2013 at 11:02 #457909
- Total Posts 4991
Forgive me, but this question is just a general one asked by me as a Timeform subscriber to you as a Timeform employee
A couple of years ago, here on TRF, Cormack and I asked your colleague David Johnson if he could supply a list of the horses who’ve returned the best Timefigures; stats that as far as I’m aware have never been made available to the public-at-large, unlike the familiar roll-call of horses who’ve returned the best Timeform Rating: Frankel 147 Sea-Bird 145 Brigadier Gerard 144 etc etc
David said he’d look into it but nothing emerged
Rumour has it that Troy returned the best-ever timefigure of 145 in his Derby with Dayjur’s 142 in his Nunthorpe runner up
It would be informative to have an exhaustive list of those horses who’ve exceeded a timefigure of, say, 135 and equally informative to have access to the best timefigures returned by the ‘all-time greats’ such as the aforementioned trio and the likes of Tudor Minstrel, Abernant, Mill Reef, Nijinsky
Hope you can help and if not it would be interesting to know why Timeform deem these historical timefigures unfit for public consumption, as in my opinion they would render the familiar ratings more interesting and perhaps more compelling if allied to them.
Unfortunately, all I could find – with DJ’s help – are figures from 1975 onwards, with a few notable additions from the early days. That is not how it should be, but I cannot go back in time and change the situation: either the timefigures did not exist for all 65 years of Timeform or they did but have left no permanent record.
The top ones in that context are:
TROY (1979 Derby) 145; NEVER SAY DIE (1954 St Leger) 144; TUDOR MINSTREL (1947 Guineas) 144; WARNING (1988 QE2) 143; SLIP ANCHOR (1985 Derby) 143; TUDOR MINSTREL (1946 Coventry) 143; HABIBTI (1983 Haydock Sprint) 142; DAYJUR (1990 Nunthorpe) 142; WINDY CITY (1951 Gimcrack) 142; SUN CHARIOT (1942 1000 Guineas) 142. The highest this century is FRANKEL (both International and Guineas) 136.
It appears that ways of calculating timefigures, and their importance in guiding form ratings, has changed since the early years. Timeform is more sceptical about one-off performances of apparent superlative merit nowadays, and that is reflected in the above. Timeform is also a lot more clued-up about how pace affects overall time than it once was (largely because the technology now exists to measure such things regularly). Frankel might never have run a time in the 140s, but Timeform was confident he COULD from an early stage, and a number of his runs were backed up by sectionals in line with his ultimate 147 form rating.
Probably best to contact DJ if you want the full list.November 11, 2013 at 11:01 #457987
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Pru, regarding hand-clocking across picture edits due to a change in camera angle. Do you know if the edits are carried out in a fashion that introduces no error. Also, are the races (media files) displayed always at bang on actual speed.
By the fact that you ask this question, I infer that you have suspicions – or stronger – in this area! I am unaware of systemic errors but I do my best to validate overall times as well as sectional times from “live” pictures (and overall times are additionally validated by Timeform’s racecourse representatives from the course where possible. I have come across few problems, but that is not to say they don’t exist. I would welcome any further details you can provide.November 13, 2013 at 09:43 #458157
A couple of questions from me….
Firstly, when did you first develop an interest in racing and what inspired it?
What would be the three things you’d change about British racing if you were in charge?
Finally, what, in your view, is the single-most, widely available (i.e. in the public domain), piece of information under-valued by betters when considering a race? And which is over-valued?
Like a lot of people, especially “of a certain age”, the Grand National got me interested, not least the intrigue surrounding my Dad placing his once-a-year bets. I would have to guess what he had backed, and he would only reveal after the event which of his several horses had jammily squeezed into the first 4 (I now realise that this was a very early lesson in what has come to be known as “aftertiming”). I remember writing in my diary at junior school about how Crisp was a better horse than Red Rum “at the weights” despite being beaten by him.
However, the thing that undoubtedly sealed it for me was my parents – bereft of ideas and having no knowledge of horseracing – buying me a Form Book (a forerunner of Superform) for my 10th birthday. The horses had numbers next to them, and the bigger the number the better the horse was (if only it were as simple as I imagined at the time!). There was a logic and a purpose to results. In an instant, I was hooked.
I would say “the rest is History”, but History (and Geography, English, Chemistry etc) suffered as I set out to acquire myself a proper education in all matters racing.
There is no silver bullet regarding British racing (unless you count solving the funding situation, which is beyond me). But there are many examples of bad practice which should be changed, and many initiatives which could make a small difference individually and a much bigger one collectively.
Racing appeals to many different types and on many different levels. However, I feel strongly that there should be a consistent message that betting on horses can be a stimulating intellectual exercise, in which the more knowledge and skills you acquire the more chance you have of losing less, of breaking even, or possibly even of winning. And, of course, the more knowledge and skills you acquire the more you will enjoy the sport itself, become attached to the sport, and are likely to become an unpaid ambassador for the sport. With this in mind, the decision by the BHA to support FOBTs was utterly asinine. The hopeless and demoralising games of chance represented by FOBTs are everything betting on racing is not, or should not be, and an association with them is wrong-headed and potentially pernicious. Heads should roll for this. But, first, it should be made clear that while racing wishes to work with bookmakers rather than against them it will distance itself from something which harms its “brand” as clearly as FOBTs do. The antidote to this sort of brainless dumbing down includes things like sectionals, weighing of horses, pre-race and post-race ratings briefings, and much more besides. The message to the public does not have to be complicated, but it should intrigue and engage.
There are too many factional groups in horseracing. By all means listen to “stakeholders” when that is sensible, but do not allow them to dictate terms to racing. Why are bodies like the Racehorse Owners Association and the National Trainers Federation – both repeat offenders in terms of special-pleading – indulged so much? Rather than sucking up to these self-serving elites, racing should be trying to tap into the knowledge and skills of its wider constituents, many of whom would be willing to give up their time for little or nothing and with no particular axe to grind. There is far more sense (and nonsense, admittedly) spoken on Forums and social media than is evident in the minutes of many of racing’s high-powered meetings. In among all this, it is startling how little mention is ever made of “the punter”, despite the encouraging words of Bittar at the outset. If we are to have a body like the Betting Patterns Working Party, why is it stuffed to the rafters with bookmakers and completely devoid of any representation from punters or from individuals who might consider what is in the longer-term interest of racing’s most neglected customer group? Are we really meant to believe that bookmakers will – in loco parentis – act in the best interests of punters?
This is one for the racecourses, and it has been pre-empted somewhat by ARC’s excellent winter AW championship, but I have long felt it would be a good idea for individual courses to hold their own Finals’ Days, open only to horses (and trainers/jockeys) which have competed at that course in the previous 12 months. It would encourage loyalty among owners/trainers, bolster familiarity with the public and occasionally raise even mundane courses to a position of prominence.
There are many, many more things, including centralised stewarding, the role of bookmakers on course (I am a fan, and I think they need more help), getting racing’s professionals to engage more with the public etc etc, but I have gone on as it is!
Difficult. If I knew this for sure, I would be capitalising on it! Undervalued information probably includes: trainer form and “form” itself, while sectionals are not widely available but can be tapped into by anyone who has the time and is prepared to put in some effort. Overvalued information includes: what trainers and jockeys say, and trends (largely because they are done so badly).November 13, 2013 at 14:39 #458175
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Many thanks for doing this Q&A. Am a fan of your work and Timeform Race Passes subscriber.
I believe something that gives punters an edge is searching for horses who’ve done better than their finishing position makes out judged by sectional times/ the way they ran. eg Prominent runner who’s done comparitively well in an overly strongly run affair. eg Remember at the time of Frankel’s 2000 Guineas having a discussion with Cormack that he should be marked up due to putting up sprint fractions before slowing markedly in final stages. Value for being rated as even more impressive, ie would’ve won by an even greater margin of victory if maintaining even fractions all the way.
Or; one dropped out the back in a slowly run race that’s made more ground up than all the others who’ve come from a similar finishing position. Remember thinking Treve had done well in the Vermaille. But even if she was better than the distances suggest – I personally could not make her my main bet on that form/price. She "only" beat the good (not particularly a "Group 1" mare) Wild Coco by 1 3/4 lengths. Yet despite this Timeform made Treve top rated for the Arc (and with a "p") – and were proven right.
I believe the rating given in these circumstances is not just an informed guess like the rest of us; rather a calculation?
(Overall race Time x Sectional race distance (eg "2" for last 2f in 1m or less races) x 100) ‘/, (Overall race distance x sectional time) = ?*
1.25 X (sectional distance ‘/, overall race distance) x ((Overall time – ?*) x Overall time – ?*) = The amount a horse can be marked up for the "poor ride".
Hope I have that right.
…and finally my questions:
How accurate do you believe this calculation to be compared to a race run in equal (optimal) fractions?
I am all for upping the rating when this type of thing happens, but…
Do/should Timeform always give every horse the same credit for such a scenario?
ie If the calculation is saying a horse can be "upped 5 lbs" for the way it produced the performance – yet it may be (comparitively) a sprinter/doubtful stayer at the trip – so may even be suited by a slowly run race (test of speed at trip) and incapable of showing the "5 lbs" better form in a more evenly paced affair.
There are also some horses who (it seems) often do well at their favoured distance despite not having even fractions. eg Dandino and Fanunalter. So (imo) may not be value for the full amount a calculation suggests.
Thanks in advance
Thanks, Gingertipster. The (100*T*d)/(D*t) is a simple but very effective and intuitive way of representing sectional information: I devised it, and it remains the way I favour, for all that there are perfectly valid alternatives. However, the second equation is incorrect. It was originally (O-A)*(O-A)*d/D, where “O” was optimum finishing speed %, “A” was actual finishing speed %, “d” was distance of sectional and “D” was overall race distance. But that was a first pass at tackling the problem. My subsequent research, and those of others (including Bob Wilkins), suggests that the equation is in the right neighbourhood but can be improved upon. The parabola described by the data is steeper (O-A needs to be raised to a higher power than simply being squared) and not quite symmetrical (going too fast costs you slightly more than going too slow), while d/D is simplistic. So I have amended that second equation, but it’s not for publication, sorry.
The important thing to remember when dealing with sectional analysis is that what you are doing is time analysis but just in a much more nuanced way: you are primarily looking to amend the final time in the light of how that time was arrived at. So, if you are confident in your processes, and those processes suggest an upgrading of 5 lb, that is an upgrading of the horse’s TIME performance by that amount. In slowly-run races that is unlikely to turn a poor overall time into a good one. Slowly-run races test a horse’s ability to settle and quicken, and not just its positioning relative to the pace. They favour some horses, but those horses do not usually get good sectional ratings on the back of them. That said, there is sometimes merit in interpreting the result with sectionals in mind, even when the overall time moderated by those sectionals is not especially good. When you know little about a field of 2yos, the overall time is modest but the winner sprinted home and looks a few lengths better than the result on sectionals, it usually makes sense to go with that rather than hide behind the bare result itself.
Another thing that should be remembered about sectionals – and about all analysis – is that what we are seeking is utility, not unerring accuracy. “Is your interpretation/model likely to push you in the right direction?” is the correct question, not “is your interpretation/model unerringly correct?”
Or, as the statistician George Box once said: “all models are wrong, but some models are useful”.value is everythingNovember 13, 2013 at 20:22 #458214
The Eye Of SauronParticipant
- Total Posts 148
1. Do Timeform time NH races from when the tape goes up, or from when the first horse passes the start line?
2. This is a really minor pedantic one, but has been bugging me. What is the reason behind the Timeform house-style for French names ‘de’ ‘du’ and ‘de La’ whereby it is (when lower case used) Oiseau de Nuit, Jair du Cochet and Madison de Berlais, but Michel Le Bon, Bel La Vie, Rubis Sur Ongle etc. And Notus de La Tour…….
3. Is it an irritant to have to continually justify the ratings of Arkle & Flyingbolt (have lost count of the number of essays in Chasers & Hurdlers over the years which seeks to do this)? Personally, I have read them all, taken a view and I agree with Timeform’s view given the weight of evidence Timeform present, but has this had a sub-conscious effect on recent higher ratings for the top chasers?
Taking Timeform’s top 20 rated chasers, 4 of them raced in the mid 60’s, and 11 have raced since 2000, leaving only Desert Orchid, Burrough Hill Lad, Master Oats, Captain Christy and Carvill’s Hill to represent the 30-odd year period from say 1967 to 1998.
Has the standard improved so much this century?
Thanks for taking the time and trouble to answer these questions.
I really don’t know regarding the house style for French horses! While I am no fan of accepting something just because “that is the way it has always been”, this is one of those instances. Unlike many other points of language, I suspect there may be no right or wrong, just a preferred style which you need to apply consistently. Please let me know if you find out differently!
In some respects, yes, in others, no. Arkle’s rating is lost in the mists of time, 10 years before the first Chasers & Hurdlers and 20 years before even I joined Timeform. Others looked at that rating in great detail long before I got involved and I am not as well placed as they were to comment. On the other hand, I think it is really rather wonderful that racing still talks about a horse from 50 years ago as if he has great relevance to what is going on now, not least because of THAT rating. That sort of comparison across-the-years is something racing does better than most other sports, because it long ago formalised a way of comparative assessment which is much more sophisticated than can be found in other sports. That’s something to be encouraged, celebrated even.
I can speak with more authority about jumps ratings from the 1980s onwards, as I was Timeform’s jumps handicapper from 1987 to 1997 and have kept an eye on things since, of course. I do think that truly top-notch chasers were few and far between in the later years of the last century, and I do think that the top chasers of recent years have been exceptional. More to the point, I can vouch for the ratings’ methodologies that have independently come to that sort of conclusion.
It should also be acknowledged that many of Timeform’s top hurdlers came in the otherwise “barren” period of the 1970s/1980s. Night Nurse (182), Monksfield (180), Persian War (179), Comedy of Errors (178), Lanzarote (177), Bird’s Nest (176), Bula (176) and Golden Cygnet (176) were around over a pretty short space of time. Wouldn’t mind a few of them showing up again to teach the youngsters a thing or two!November 13, 2013 at 21:15 #458224
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Hi Simon. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.
1. I understand that the way Timeform and BHA handicap horses is different. What do you feel are the main faults with the way the BHA handicap horses ?
2. What advice would you give those of us who would like to start looking at race times and sectionals over the jumps ?
In summary, and by no means exhaustively: the use of “marker” horses, which are considered to have run to form, is too subjective and unscientific; the contention that you cannot formalise ratings procedures to a large degree, when all other fields of data analysis are off down the road with algorithmic approaches to numerical inputs/outputs, is toe-curling (or perhaps just a case of a particular turkey’s reluctance to vote for Christmas); pounds-per-margin should be sensitive to circumstance, and it is illogical to apply the same pounds-per-length at a given distance regardless; handicaps should be dynamic, responding to new information as it comes in, but the BHA has less scope (or feels it has less scope) to keep its ratings fluid; someone seems to have torn the “standardisation” chapter out of the BHA Handicapping guide book.
Race times are more difficult than sectionals, as it happens. Besides anything else, it is very easy to know when a horse has passed a sectional juncture if that sectional juncture is an obstacle. On the other hand, overall race times are often suspect (see answers elsewhere) and the race distance always is suspect, as it is given only to the nearest 110 yards (even that may well be wrong). Tackle race times over jumps only if you have the resources to validate race distances (such as by the start’s positioning compared to a fixed feature, and by allowing for rail movements) and race times to a reasonable degree. One option might be to tackle chases and to time from when the horses cross the first (immoveable) obstacle. Good luck with that project! Jumps sectionals can mislead if using finishing speeds as a proxy for pace of race, as you get superior winners bursting clear and horses winning by wide margins etc, so be wary of that and try to get a sectional for more than just the winner. Establishing estimated closing sectional pars does not take all that long and can highlight some very clear cases of slow/fast finishes that may be associated with suspect form but which are not picked up widely. Even the imprecision of overall race distances is not such a big deal as (100*T*d)/(D*t) is not thrown out much by the difference between, say, 20f and 20.5f for “D”.
All in all, it is a big task, but not an impossible one: it is arguably best shared by a team concerned with both Form and Time, some might say.November 16, 2013 at 07:49 #458510
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As an expert on sectional timing what is your opinion about RUK using them and putting them on screen during jumps racing from Cheltenham this weekend?
I thought it was farcical and could see no possible use for them for the vast majority, if not all viewers. I just found them obtrusive and a distraction.
Did/would you find them useful for a jumps meeting at Cheltenham and if so how, based on the times RUK put on screen?
However, if you can trust the live data, you can establish the speed of the surface earlier in proceedings, project final times and the sectionals that would give rise to them, and have some extremely useful information for betting in-running (or even just for spectating in the knowledge that e.g. the leaders in the Gold Cup have probably kicked on too soon). Believe me, this is all possible if any of the broadcasters wish to give it a go. Unfortunately, sectional timing has suffered throughout by a lack of explanation and context. That is just the way it is.November 16, 2013 at 13:03 #458616
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As Glenn has raised the bar on hypothetical questions I will do my best Simon in dipping into reality. Some of my questions you will find are, of more of a personal nature – I feel ok in putting them as I feel I know you well from your communications on this forum. You must be the judge of whether you want to answer them.
You are based in the land of time. Does the forum clock in here, which keeps me a little younger, prove an irritant, now or in the past ? ( I am quite happy if you dodge this question )
You used to write on the Ultimate forum (my memory is sharp but if I am wrong will beat myself up), and on a matter of principle you confronted the_mgt, as I remember, and you decided to withdraw your expertise away from that place. Do you still have access, do you still look in and what is your take on forums these days. Sadly, Ray Joseph (The_Mgt) passed away recently. Do you wish to express any thoughts on him ?
I liked Ray very much and am most upset to hear that news. We met a few times, back in the early days of Betfair, when he posted as U R Wochuwyz, and he was like that slightly mad Uncle that I never had, the one that had once played poker for a living at Baden-Baden and who got expelled from the Comedy Club in London on an Ultimate Forum night out for smoking a spliff. I crashed at his place in Charlton once. He was a gent.
He also made it clear that a questioning mind about certain topics (Israel, other world politics) would not be accommodated at the Ultimate Forum. I don’t do sacred cows, or didn’t then, so I took myself off to other pastures, imagining that our paths would cross again some time, some place. They never did – my life got complex and very busy around that time – and that I regret.
While forums and social media are great in many ways, they can devalue the noble concept of friendship. It is easy to strike up a “friendship” with someone you scarcely know, and it is even easier to bury that “friendship” at a click of a button even when you know that person quite well. Ray is one person I wish I had got back in touch with. One of the good guys.
Anyone wanting to make any real money at gambling needs a willing tribe of bearded accountants these days. There has always been issues of public and private knowledge and corruption of course. Betfair was once seen as the holy land but many professionals left at the prospect of a 40% net profit.
You are highly specialised in speed and time, which would add to a professionals armoury. Where do you see your audience – is it in the Saturday yankee men – now the suits have largely left ?
In view of the above question. Do you see betting as a profitable pastime for future gamblers rather than a profession and does this matter at all ?
My final question – Is horse racing dead and if not how do you see its future ? Mixed with it – are you still based in the London area ?
I moved to the beautiful Peak District 4 years ago to the day. Stunning scenery, charming villages, a spacious barn conversion for a fraction of what it cost me to rent a shoebox in Kew. I am, however, beginning to die of boredom.
( I was a big advocate of time in the past – thank you for all of your input in here and I wish you all the best)
Why, thank you, Gamble. Your input to this Q&A, although it saddened me in one respect, has been very welcome. I am rather concerned that I have become typecast as a “time/sectional” guru, here and elsewhere. I wish to have many other strings to my bow, but I took it upon myself to make the case for sectionals – both to the outside world and to some of those within Timeform – at the beginning of this year and seem to have painted myself into a corner! 0November 16, 2013 at 14:06 #458633
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Few more questions for you Simon, don’t know if anyone else has asked this:
How much is the old scale of pounds per length by race distance style of handicapping used at Timeform these days?
What are Timeform’s pounds per length scale for each race distance nowadays? And how much would it be effected by going, pace and wind speed/direction?
Thanks in advance.
I cannot divulge Timeform’s pounds-per-length in detail, but it is in the region of 25%-30% higher than that suggested by the BHA and is much more in line with the findings of Bob Wilkins and my own findings for that matter. It is also important to realise that pounds-per-length is the end of a process not the process itself. Since margins in UK racing became conversions of time lapses between those horses, in 1997, it has been necessary to establish a pounds-per-second (something familiar already to time analysts) and divide it by the lengths-per-second used by the person compiling those margins (the Judge) to get a pounds-per-length (lb/sec divided by length/sec = lb/length). Tackle it from a time angle (for that is what margins are these days) and the answers should follow.value is everythingNovember 18, 2013 at 18:37 #458864
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Hi Simon and thanks for taking the time.
In over a decade now of gathering and crunching millions of rows of data from several different racing data providers, I’ve never used a Timeform product, solely down to the general inacessability of the product to the computer handicapper. I know your a big advocate of greater accessibility to quality data. What’s your opinion on Timeforms approach to this sector of its business?
Sectional timing excepted, do Timeform use the exact same methodology to rate a seller at Warwick as a Group 1 at Royal Ascot? And if not, why not?
Why aren’t you in the media doing punditry more often? There is a death of quality analysis across almost all platforms at the moment IMO?
Other than that, Timeform has very recently completed a major overhaul of its database to an all-singing and all-dancing digital version, and I would anticipate all sorts of positive things to come out of that. “Watch this space”?!
It depends what you mean by “the exact same methodology”. Every race – Flat and jumps, Ireland, UK and North America – is assessed at the time by sophisticated algorithms which auto-populate the results as soon as they come in. But those algorithms will be different for a seller at Warwick than a Gr 1 at Royal Ascot (e.g. you would not expect a seller winner to improve on its prior rating to the same degree as a Gr 1 winner, and you would not expect the same from a race restricted to 3yos or to fillies/mares as an “open” race, whether it is a seller or a Gr 1), and the pounds-per-second/per-length will obviously be different. Thereafter, it is a question of manual validation of results – which applies whether the race is a seller or a Gr 1 – including feeding in report observations about ease of victory/effect of draw etc etc, and we work in sectional and other time analysis where we can. It is a sophisticated process, sensitive to circumstance, but the principles are logical and derived from those that have been established over many decades. So, yes, the process is applied consistently, no matter what the standard of racing, but the approach is far more nuanced than that might starkly imply.
Lol, thanks for the implied compliment. My style lends itself far more to the written word than to telly. I am self-conscious and believe in checking facts/expressing myself as clearly as I can, neither of which can be done perfectly live (though some practitioners do an admirably good job of it). Media work also, understandably, requires that you know your stuff about a specific population of horses/trainers/jockeys, which requires a day-to-day involvement that I have not had of late, so I am left to mug up on racing that I know only in part. Quite clearly, much of what passes for analysis on telly is superficial. It is bound to be, given the immediacy of the situation and the likely audience. It is entertainment and not just education, though I do think that some of James Willoughby’s work on RUK recently has magnificently managed to straddle both.November 21, 2013 at 20:52 #459218
A couple of people posted on another thread – here are Simon’s replies to those –
From – Deep Sensation
I see sectional times as an extra (and important) tool to studying form and I hope they will one day be the norm in our media coverage.
I would like to ask you 2 questions:
1. Why do you think there is such a lack of willing (even anger)from punters / race fans in looking at sectional timing as a tool in studying form?
2. Do you think we will ever get sectional timings for every flat meeting in Britain?
I have sensed much less hostility towards sectional timing recently, but there is still quite a bit of indifference. That’s fine: not everyone is going to want to tackle analysis in this way, and those that see sectionals as providing them with an edge should be thankful that not everyone “gets” them or even wants them. The deeply conservative nature of many within racing is not just a frustration: it also provides an opportunity for those with more open minds. My Sectional Debrief blogs on Betfair/Timeform have been fairly popular, which suggests the public is more receptive to the concept than was once the case.
Yes, I do think we will have comprehensive sectionals someday, but it is not certain. For now, the choice seems to be between technology which is so expensive that no-one is prepared to bankroll it and cheaper solutions which, rightly or wrongly, the authorities are not prepared to run with. Something should come along which is more acceptable. In the meantime, the absence of official sectionals does provide a big opportunity to those able and willing to do the graft themselves. There are betting syndicates out there who are all over this and probably don’t want things to change! [/color:2hnxwa9l]
From Ricky Lake
Simon , do you think that the marked reluctance to proceed with sectional timing for all flat racing in the Uk , has something do do with extra punter profits , hence impacting the Levy and the long term yield to racing
I have been involved in a good number of the discussions regarding sectional timing in recent years, both with officialdom and with other interested bodies. I think any backing off has been legitimate and not prompted by any concern that punters might do too well out of the introduction of sectionals. Indeed, the BHA has made a lot of the right noises, though, as we know, actions speak louder than words. That said, you won’t find many bookmakers campaigning for the introduction of sectionals! [/color:2hnxwa9l]
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