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Racing is Back! 1st June Video Preview

Racing is back! My, how we've missed it. And, to celebrate its return, as well as the return of plenty of subscribers old and new, I've recorded a video preview of the opening contest.

Regardless of how long you've been a Gold subscriber - perhaps you're still not - I hope you'll find some value in the video, which is designed to highlight a process rather than a tip... though as you'll discover I found a few reasons to like a 20/1 shot!

In the video I refer to a post talking about our metrics, which you can find here.

And here's a quick link to the Newcastle Punting Pointers article.

And, finally, if you're not a Gold subscriber, here's the link to sign up. Get your first month for just £1.

 

Gold Updates: Cosmetics and PRB

As well as providing bundles of top class thought-provoking editorial during this interminable lockdown, we've also been beavering away on generating some new bells and whistles on our racecards. Actually, we've been mostly cosmetically enhancing our existing features. Let's start with those...

Blue is the new grey

First up, you'll see a lot more blue about the place and a lot less grey.

The card tab now looks like this:

 

Full Form, with its collapsible blocks, now looks like this:

In the above example, for a geegeez.co.uk syndicate horse, I've collapsed the Race Form and Race Entries blocks.

 

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Perhaps the biggest change is to Instant Expert where we've inverted the colour blocks. So, where previously the outlines and numbers were in the colour (green, amber, red), now the block is that colour with the number font in white. It looks like this:

 

 

Similar cosmetic amendments have been made to the result, pace, odds and draw tabs, which leads me nicely on to...

 

New Draw Metric

We've introduced a new metric on the Draw Analyser and in the draw tab, called Percentage of Rivals Beaten, or PRB. I've explained more about it in this post, which I very much recommend you read if you haven't already.

The value of PRB over, say, win or place percent is that every runner in every race receives a performance value, with only the last placed horse getting 0. So, for example, in a six horse race, there would be a winner, one additional placed horse (as well as the winner), and four unplaced horses.

In the win percentages, that race would produce a breakdown of 100/0/0/0/0/0 (100% win for the winner, 0% win for the rest of the field).

Place percentages would have 100/100/0/0/0/0 (two placed horses, four unplaced '0' horses).

But the third horse has performed better than the fourth, fifth and sixth horses; and the winner has performed better than all of its rivals. PRB aims to more accurately place a value against finishing position. So the percentage of rivals the winner beats will always be 100%, and the PRB of the last placed horse will always be 0%, but in between there will be a sliding scale. In this six-horse race example, the second horse has beaten 80% of its rivals (four out of five rivals), and the fourth placed horse has beaten two home, which is 40% of rivals.

In a fair draw each stall, or group of stalls, would see a PRB score of 50%, or 0.5. And many stalls are within one or two percentage points of that. If a draw location has a PRB of 55%+ (0.55+) it is probably favoured; the converse is also true: if a stall has a PRB of 45% or less it may be somewhat unfavoured. Here's how it looks on the draw tab:

The table columns to the right hand side list PRB and PRB2. In this case we can see that high is favoured to a small degree and low commensurately unfavoured.

PRB2 is simply the PRB score multiplied by itself. What this does is accentuate the percentages: in practical terms it rewards those finishing closer to the winner than those finishing further down the field, recognising that horses may not be ridden out for the best possible placing if that placing is going to be eighth of 20, whereas they virtually always will if that placing is third of 20. There is more on how that works in the horse racing metrics post.

When looking at individual draws, I've introduced a metric called PRB3. Similar to IV3, it takes a rolling three-stall average PRB of the stall in question and its immediate neighbours. So, for example, the PRB3 of stall six would be the average PRB of stalls five, six and seven. It is, in exactly the same way as IV3, a means of smoothing the curve and making sense of draw data distribution. Here it is in action:

 

PRB has lots of potential applications in horseracing datasets, and we've started our adoption in the draw space. It will be especially useful when, as in the examples above, there is not a lot to go on in terms of runs, wins and places. There is still not a great deal in the PRB dataset but, by scoring every horse in each race in the sample, there is more data depth in which to fish.

That's all for this update. Very soon we'll be able to get stuck back into one of our favourite pastimes: messing around with racing data! And Geegeez Gold will have it well covered.

Matt

The Draw Analyser Challenge

Sadly, for those of us who love the UK and/or Irish racing, it looks like we're in limbo until at least June 1st. The good news, relatively at least, is that the odds of a restart on that date are shortening all the time. Assuming nothing untoward occurs during these next few weeks, we ought to be ready to get cracking just 20 days from now. Everything crossed, of course.

In the meantime, it's time to further tool ourselves up, and so I've come up with another challenge!

So that everyone can play I've made our absolutely awesome, best in breed, Draw Analyser tool available to all registered users; so if you have a geegeez account, free or paid, you can join in. This is for the duration of the challenge - one week - only.

Here's what I'd like you to do:

Step 1 - Visualisation

The first thing to do is to bring some logic to the party. It is all too easy to walk straight into the data without thinking about the problem at hand. That casual approach lends itself readily to back-fitting, because you're not trying to prove - or disprove - a theory. Rather, you're looking at the numbers and trying to work back from there. Whilst such an approach is not completely without merit, it is less rigorous than beginning with a notion of what you're hoping to find.

A way to do this when considering potential draw biases is to first look at the track layout. Let's use an example, York racecourse in this case.

1a. Go to our UK racecourses page and choose a course.

I've linked to it there, and you'll find it in the top menu under Courses/Fixtures.

Hint: try to avoid obvious ones like Chester; we're looking for angles that might not be over-exposed

In the top right corner of the racecourse page, you'll see a course map. Clicking on it will expand it and display the locations of the race starts.

 

1b. Scan for possible draw-affected race distances.

I'm immediately drawn to the mile (1m) and 1m1f distances because of that sharp bend at the top of the home straight that comes up fairly quickly. I wonder if, in bigger fields, that might inconvenience wide/high draws and, therefore, favour low to middle stalls.

So that's the assumption I'm going to test. (I think it's possible that in bigger-field two mile races there might be a similar bias for a similar reason given the number of left-handers the field takes, but we'll save that for another day).

Step 2 - Set up the tool

So now we need to set up the Draw Analyser. We're going to do this in a specific way so we test apples against apples, as it were.

The Draw Analyser has a series of options at the top of the page to allow us to configure things as we'd like.

 

So we're going to use a standard set of parameters, shown above and ignoring course and distance for now, as follows:

- Set 'Draw' to Actual - this will review the data based on the actual stall positions of the horses, removing any non-runners from consideration (so, for example, the horse drawn six would have an actual draw of five if one of the horses drawn inside him was declared a non-runner, and so on).

- Set 'Going' to Hard to Heavy (you could use Firm or, at most courses, Good to Firm, but we'll do this for now).

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- Set 'Runners' to 10 to 16+

- Set 'Races' to Hcap (so we're only looking at handicaps)

- Set 'Dates' to 2009 to 2020

Once these are set up they will only change when we change them, as all data below the options area updates auto-magically 🙂

Now select your course and distance combination from the dropdowns.

Step 3 - Review the data

If we've performed steps 1 and 2 correctly we should have some data in the tool which may or may not support our theory. Let's review that to see if it is starting to tell us anything.

3a. Consider the course and distance draw 'all going' data

We can see from the chart that there's a lovely linearity - a straight line - from low to high. That is a very good start and normally things will be less cut and dried at this stage. N.B. Do make sure you check the left hand scale because you might see a line like this with very few percentage points from the top of the scale to the bottom.

The table above the chart tells us a number of things:

- There have been 65 races that match our criteria (wins column, 32 + 21 + 12) so a reasonable sample

- The win percentage drops as we move from low to middle to high; so, too, does the place percentage

- The A/E and IV figures for low are both above 1.00, a strong sign

3b. Consider going subsets

At some courses the favoured sector of the draw/track can change markedly on differing ground. For example, at Epsom and Brighton, jockeys will chart a course to the polar opposite side of the home straight on soft or heavy ground due to the way the camber leans and, therefore, the way the rainwater drains (it is always softest at the bottom of a hill or incline).

So we must check for any variance of going. I divide things into two simple subsets, fast and slow. Fast is 'Good or quicker', and slow is 'good to soft or slower'. [For all-weather, I include all AW going in a single range]

N.B. When using going ranges, the faster going must go in the top box or you will get no data returned.

Let's bisect our York mile data in this way:

Fast:

Slow:

In this case there is very little of note: the slow group has only a few races in it and it appears progressively tougher for high drawn horses to prevail, but there is not really enough evidence to be categorical about that.

What we can say is that the bias is 'going agnostic', that is, it manifests largely the same regardless of the state of the ground.

3c. Retest on date range subsets

Racecourse husbandry is an extremely complex business. I, and many others who value data in their wagering decisions, have given clerks of the course a hard time on occasion for their misleading reporting, but there is little doubt that all of them operate to a high level of skill in their field (pun intended!). Advances in irrigation (watering) and drainage, as well as tactical rail movements, have reduced or eliminated many historical biases and so it is important to check our data against different periods of time.

Dave Renham, our main resident draw expert (along with Jon Shenton, who takes a broader sweep in his course analyses), has recently taken to following the Mordin approach of rolling five-year subsets (e.g. 2009-2013, 2010-2014, 2011-2015, etc) and that is a great way to go if you have the time and inclination. For now, though, we'll break the data into two groups, 2009-2014 - the oldest six years in our database - and 2015-2019, the most recent five years. Again we're looking for any material change in the bias.

Hint: Remember to reinstate the full going range

2009-2014

2015-2019

While the sample sizes are quite small, the general principle is the same: low favoured, middle less favoured, high unfavoured. So we appear to have a bias that is consistent against both time and going. These are rare birds so do not fret if you don't find such a clean and consistent relationship with your chosen course and distance combination; after all, mine was cherry-picked for example purposes!

Step 4 - Fine Tuning and Scoring

The last step, assuming there is anything of note to this point, is to fine tune and score your course/distance combination. Actually, there is value in noting that there is little or no bias over a course and distance. No knowledge is bad knowledge and knowing that draw is not a factor in certain races enables an unencumbered focus on other aspects of the puzzle.

4a. Fine tuning

The fine tuning comes first; it's not really fine tuning as such, because we are working within the fixed parameters of field size, going and date ranges to resist accusations of convenience fitting.

But... it is sometimes the case that, for instance, very wet (heavy) ground or the biggest fields accentuate a bias, and it is worth noting that alongside the 'fixed parameter' work.

For my mile handicaps at York research, I wanted to see if a bigger field would emphasise the advantage to those drawn inside and the disadvantage to those drawn highest.

This is really interesting: in the 30 qualifying races, low has readily outstripped middle and high. But looking at the constituent draw data we can see that stalls six and thirteen, on either cusp of the middle draw section, have kept that group afloat. It does appear that either the inside stalls 'get away' or the wider drawn horses sweep around the outside to prevail. Those berthed in the middle have had a tough time being neither one nor the other of those things: not getting first run, and being potentially trapped behind horses in the straight preventing them getting the late run also.

That is conjecture on my part to some degree, but it's credible enough. Of course, I welcome alternative theories!

The IV3 chart at the bottom of the image above (IV3 being the average Impact Value of a stall and its immediate neighbours) demonstrates the middle drawn hinterland as well as the low-draw safe haven for punters.The constituent draw table reveals that ten of the 30 races in the sample were won by horses drawn 1, 2 or 3: that's a third of the winners from less than a fifth of the runners.

4b. Scoring

The last part of the process is to try to score the utility of any observed bias. It may be useful from an elimination perspective - that is, avoid high draws unless their form/value case is irresistible - or, more generally, from a 'mark up' perspective: in other words, bonus points to the case for a horse optimally housed.

The score should be more than a mere number, because there is normally a qualitative element to our observations as well the quantitative component.

For example, in my York mile example, I will score the bias as a solid 7 at this stage. When I've worked through a few more course/distance combinations, I might revisit that score and nudge it up or down a bit, but 7 feels about right for now.

The fact that it's somewhat 'feel-based' - we could use percentage scoring bases, but this challenge is not intended to be too academic in its rigour - adds ballast to the need for the quantitative element: some commentary on what we've discovered.

In this example, my final comments are thus:

York, 1m - 7/10 LOW

Strong linearity from low to high, the widest-drawn runners unfavoured. Bias has been consistent over time and on all going, and is accentuated in bigger fields (8/10 in 16+ runner handicaps), where the bottom three stalls have won a third of the 30 races in review.

 

5 The Challenge

This challenge may be considered a little more in-depth than the horse profiling one from last week, but it's actually about the same once you get into a rhythm. It would be easy to go through all of the distances at a given track in 30-40 minutes, and to select and review the most likely distance(s) in 15 minutes or so.

I'd very much welcome readers of a curious bent taking up the challenge and adding a comment below in the style of my York 1m note and score. I'll add it to the comments as an example, and hope it's not a lone comment!

Good luck,

Matt

New and Improved: Draw / Pace Display

We're at the start of a busy period of development within Geegeez Gold just now, and an early part of this work is to bring a couple of rather clunky elements of the visuals into the 21st century.

Specifically, we've smoothed our draw and pace chart curves; and we've made the pace heat map a bit less 'blocky'.

There is also a new view on the Pace tab - and a very interesting one at that.

Gold users can now see which parts of the draw are favoured by the respective run styles, as well as which horses sit where against that draw / run style underlay. It's quite difficult to explain, so have a look at the short video below and see what you think.

Plenty more coming soon!

Matt

p.s. the user guide has been updated accordingly and you can download the latest version from your My Geegeez page.

The (Occasional) Influence of Draw

In today's video post, I've looked at the paucity of meaningful draw information on horse racing websites.

Naturally, geegeez.co.uk is an exception - in fact, I strongly believe we have the most detailed and user-configurable draw tool for British/Irish racing.

But as punters, we have to be careful around draw data, because much of it is half-baked or plain wrong.

Take a look at this short video...

 

 

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Updated User Guide, including Draw and Query Tool 'how to'

 

NEW: Draw Analyser Tool

We've added a new tool to the Geegeez Gold arsenal. It's called Draw Analyser and its layout will be familiar to those of you who already use our cards for flat race purposes.

Within each flat race card is a 'DRAW' tab. The data in this tab relates specifically to the course and distance of the race in question, and is broken down by draw thirds, constituent stalls and, most interestingly (perhaps), by draw/run style combination.

Well, we've taken the race specific draw tab, and created a more generic tool that can be used to view draw information for any course/distance combination. You can also group distances together (make sure you do it sensibly, so you're comparing apples with apples!), change the going range, view by advertised or 'actual' (i.e. after non-runners) draw, and by all races or handicaps only.

We think it's pretty neat. Much more than that, Gold subscribers are telling us they think it's very useful. Here's a short video showcasing what it can do for you...

 

The Draw Analyser can be found here and it is available to Geegeez Gold subscribers. If you've never tried Gold before, you can take a 30 day trial for £1 here.

Matt