Michael Pizzolla’s ValueCapping Rant: Derby Preps 3/8/14, Run Ups, Class

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From The Desk Of Michael Pizzolla
March 7, 2014 5:37 PM
Las Vegas, Nevada

Dear ValueCapper and Friend:

By now, you’ve seen how I’ve gone about taking apart the Derby Preps on my videos I’ve been sending. Thanks for all the kind words, as BLAM has been pretty solid in identifying the colts that have won or run very well, but that’s a very different thing than finding a solid value investment, which is the point of ValueCapping.

Rather than doing a long video on the two Derby preps for tomorrow, only to come to the conclusion that these races do not provide clear and solid value investments, I thought I’d summarize my analysis in this email.

The two Derby preps for March 8, 2014 are the Grade II San Felipe at Santa Anita and the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs.

I’ll make this brief:

In the San Felipe, Black Magic: The Ultimate Handicapper Software (BLAM) puts the heavy favorite, the 4, California Chrome, right on top. 3rd start after a layoff, two impressive wins in state bred company, and obvious favorite. Second on the line is the 8, Schoolofhardknocks, impressive winner of its maiden race at Del Mar last August. Then comes the 9, Midnight Hawk, the second ML favorite. These are the obvious colts, and I don’t see much reason to bet for or against. The dark horse in the mix is the 5, Sawyer’s Hill, a colt that’s only had two sprints, and is still a maiden. This would be a huge upset, but might be a reasonable speculative investment at a huge price.

In the Tampa Bay Derby, BLAM is taking a stand against the ML favorite, the 2, Surfing USA, and a deep closer, the 5, Conquest Titan. It gives good marks to the 8, Cousin Stephen and the 6, Vinceremos, two colts that had hard races last out, very gritty performances. Interestingly, the software puts a real longshot on top, the 10, Tuscan Getaway, 20-1 morning line, on a layoff since November, working well. Once again, I don’t see a bet making me, but as in the San Felipe, a small speculation on the 10 if it’s a very long price might be in the cards.

Another thing I wanted to talk with you about is an article that Andy Beyer wrote this week about the variations in the ‘run up’ distances and the confusing array of race classifications.

I’m sure most of you know that the ‘run up’ distance is the distance between the point where the starting gate is and the beam that begins the timing of the race. The longer the run up distance, the better the time looks in the race, because the horses are in stride when they break the beam to start the timing of the official time of the race.

As you might imagine, the owners of the race really like a long run up distance, because it makes the horses look faster, and therefore more valuable.

The other point he made was that the confusing array of optional claimers, classified claimers, etc. are very good for the owners and trainer looking to find a soft spot for their horses, but a nightmare for handicappers trying to assess the class level of the horses in the race.

His point, with which I wholeheartedly agree, is that the racing industry is looking out for the interests of the owners, breeders, and trainers more than the horseplayer. They forget, as they often do, that without the horseplayer, there would be no racing, full stop.

Frankly, there’s not much that can be done about the run up distances. The fact is that they vary from track to track, from meet to meet and, sadly, sometimes from race to race. The best we can do is to base our numbers on the actual times run and make adjustments from those times.

This would be more of an issue if, as ValueCappers, we were only looking at one number, the top number, for example. But we look at the entire set of numbers in the pps. An anomaly in one distance or surface will stick out like a sore thumb.

Rest assured, we’re tweaking numbers like mad scientists here at Post Time, and hopefully we’ll have something that improves things by the Fall. In the meantime, the best thing to do is to use the computer sitting on our shoulders to make some common sense calls about numbers. The tried and true ValueCapping extras such as Reversers, Advanced Form Patterns, Fulcrums, etc., still produce excellent value investments.

I think we’ll see a time when the Trakus system-or one like it-will be in place at all tracks. This is the system that has a computer chip in the saddle of the horse and beams its position and time to a satellite. An almost infinite number of measurements can be made rather than the small number of measurements that we get now. I think that would be great, as numbers will be even better, everyone will have them, and the ValueCapping concepts will keep us even further ahead of the betting public.

There’s also not much to be done about the classification morass. Class is a very slippery concept to begin with, and knowing whether a horse is going up or down sometimes more art than science. I’m dealing with these issues every day on the ValueCapper Professional Software project to automate the process of negative drops. Getting it to excellent has been extremely challenging.

I actually think there’s a silver lining to all of this for ValueCappers.

Our opponents, the Stage 1 handicappers who are trying to predict the outcome of the race, are pulling their hair out trying to make the perfect number by getting it down to the millimeter, and making class rankings for 100s of different classifications of the race. They’re attempting to do something which cannot be done: Create the perfect number and thereby predict the outcome of the race.

Of course, that’s impossible.

But here’s the silver lining:

Instead of obsessing about numbers, we have numbers that are solid, and as close as we can come to perfect, and then we handicap the public, see what they do, see where they are overbetting and underbetting, and bet if the risk is worth it. This key dynamic of ValueCapping will keep us ahead of the crowd regardless of the challenges involved in the measurements of thoroughbred performances.

Well, that’s it for this Rant. I hope this finds you well, and thank you so much for all of your encouragement, support, and kind words.

All the best,


P.S. To get these Rants directly sent to your email inbox, go to posttimedaily.com, scroll down to the bottom of the page and enter your email address and you’ll never miss a Rant!

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