Monthly Archives: July 2013

More E-Trakka Innovation: Stride Length Captured During Workouts

etrakkaGPS

Adding yet another dimension to understanding your horse’s performance, Etrakka has formally introduced the metric known as SL50 – stride length at 50kmh (31mph, or 14.8sec/furlong). The new GPS antenna also will allow you to view stride length at peak speed; something that is becoming ever more common at 2yo in training sales.

To date: several hundred measurements of SL50 have been taken ranging from 18-23ft, with the average score sitting right at 20 feet. As expected, elite horses average readings come in at just over 21.3 feet. How do your horses measure up?

This link takes you to some info from the manufacturer; including a neat comparison between 2 horses with identical HR/GPS responses to exercise – however a superior stride length made one a millionaire:

http://etrakka.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/E-Trakka-stride-length-summary.pdf

Some barns are looking for reasons to keep a handsome, well bred young colt – and yet others are looking to cull stock. Stride length can provide a valuable piece of information when making those difficult choices.

Bringing along some youngsters and hoping to avoid downtime due to shin soreness? Checking these figures during each workout is crucial – as you can catch the very first instance of a shortening of stride – as little as 1.5 feet, that can be one of the very first signs of problems. Perhaps you are then looking at 2 weeks of rest, as opposed to 2 months-

SecretariatSA

A while back someone had posted this link on my Facebook page about Stride Angle:

http://www.somaxsports.com/photo.php?analysis=SecretariatSA

The great Secretariat was thought to have a stride length at peak speed of just over 25 feet, which may be larger than all the greats save Man O War – however the link above shows him to have a very large stride angle (110 degrees). Conversely, Seattle Slew had a small stride angle of just 88 degrees.

While some of the measurements featured here could be open to debate, the main point is that when you increase stride angle by 1 degree you improve stride length by 2%. Think shoeing, think massage work, think uphill gallops – all ways to increase power and range of motion – leading to an improved stride length – the Etrakka can help you quantify and analyze this variable during your conditioning regimens. Find out what is, and isn’t, working.

Save time. Save money. Win races.

Finally: An App for Trainers with Real-Time HR/GPS: Here’s ClockItEQ

clockittitle

2013 has been an exciting time for new HR/GPS technology, and here comes a solution tied into the I-phone App craze. I’ve had one famous US trainer, a household name with big time stock, ask me when he could stand trackside with his I-pad and get real-time HR/GPS data on his training horses, and ClockItEQ promises to fill that desire.

In my job, teaching trainers how to use equipment remotely, and send me the results via email, has been frustrating on its best days. Unless they are heavily invested, both financially and intellectually, in the concepts of HR/GPS monitoring and exercise physiology, the task can prove too time-consuming for a busy stable. Integration of the gear into a training program along with timely transfer of data to me here in Kentucky is the goal. Enter ClockItEQ.

I’ve already downloaded the free App onto my I-pad and I-phone, and this morning ordered my I-phone 4S compatible strap. If you have an earlier version of an Iphone, there is a small ANT+ antenna to purchase as well. Total startup cost under US$200, and the product ships from Australia.

Here are some screenshots:

clockit1
clockit2
clockit3
clockit4

This is how I understand the workflow:

  1. Jock/rider downloads Jockey App onto his I-phone. (Or trainer gives his to rider).
  2. App is started, and zipped up into any pocket, rider doesn’t need access.
  3. Compatible HR strap is affixed to horse, under girth.
  4. During workout, data is recorded and transmitted to Trainer’s App-enabled Iphone/Ipad trackside. If headsets are employed, trainer can communicate desires to rider up.
  5. Afterwards, data is stored online for further sharing/analysis.

The solution uses the built-in GPS common to modern I-phones. Genius. Thus far, in order to setup any track, you have to walk to each timing pole with your phone. Remote set-up via Google Earth is around the corner, I am told. Each workout session within the App incurs a fee. There is volume pricing available, and current costs are under $2 per session. Thus far, no Android version is available.

I’ll report back later with my experiences here locally. Anyone else out there want to give it a shot? – I’ll be glad to help at NO COST. My goals are evolving a bit; these days I find myself with images of a racing jurisdiction (perhaps Hong Kong) where all trainees and race entries are required to wear HR/GPS gear, and data is recorded/analyzed much like Past Performances – but adding the all-important dimension of heart rate/level of aerobic effort/recovery. Owners/trainers benefit, as well as handicappers and track ownership.

A guy can dream, right?

For more info: www.clockiteq.com

Royal Delta: To Be or Not To Be (Injected Pre-Race)

furosemide

Many casual horseplayers don’t even realize that she just won the G1 Delaware Handicap over 10F on a fast dirt surface during the high humidity of an East Coast summer, without the ‘benefit’ of a pre-race Lasix injection. I, too, am guilty of no longer combing the racing form for that missing ‘L’ designation – I’m just used to seeing it 99% of the time in all the big events.

So, what happened?

Well she won handily as expected, even coming off a disappointing effort at Churchill Downs in her last race (on Lasix). Through her now 20 race career she has run without the drug thrice, this past weekend and a few times in Dubai. She has run both well and poorly with and without the drug. Scuttlebutt is that Royal Delta didn’t fare too well after her recent CD defeat, behaving poorly and perhaps listlessly – pretty much the same reaction that Life at Ten gave us in the Breeders Cup a few years back. To Mr. Mott’s credit, he gave her A shot (without THE shot) in Delaware this weekend.

Much further away from the spotlight; one of the 2yo I have worked with in Camden, SC over this past winter recently romped in her second Lasix-less start:

ethical

That’s a 12+ length win in a dirt 5F sprint in hot and humid Iowa, again with no Lasix. She made her first start over turf at Colonial Downs last month and disappointed – so congratulations are due to the connections for keeping with the ‘no unnecessary medication’ plan, even though she’s been claimed away and is likely to run with the drug next time out. Will she improve further due to the FTL, or first time Lasix, angle? My gut says no.

Now we are left with the 2 camps: one who says ‘see, it’s not a performance enhancer’; and the other who says ‘see, most horses don’t need it and can still run well’. Who to believe?

Just twice this past week in the world of sports I have come across the issues of diuretic use. First, I read a fascinating book by cyclist Tyler Hamilton called The Secret Race. Essentially this is the closed door testimony that gave the proper authorities the confidence that Lance Armstrong was dirty. But of most interest were the concepts of blood doping and/or EPO use.

thesecretrace

At some point, cycling authorities set a benchmark for an appropriate concentration of red blood cells (RBCs) in the bloodstream: 50%. That leaves the other 50% for plasma (water). Kind of sounds like permissible levels of medication in horses. More specifically, there is a threshold for TCO2 concentrations in the equine blood as well – I think 37 mmol. (Just as in cycling it’s not the administration of a banned substance that is being tested for – but the effects in the bloodstream.)

Therefore a higher concentration of RBCs in the blood of a cyclist, which also means a lower concentration of water/plasma – has been repeatedly tied to improved performance. Therefore, cyclists would take EPO to bump up this number towards the threshold of 50, and if too close – would guzzle water and take IV fluids to get in under the threshold. Conclusion: anything that lessens the water component of blood will necessarily increase RBC concentrations and is a performance enhancer. Lasix qualifies.

Secondly, a wave of Jamaican track sprinters have also been recently suspended due to diuretic use. The athletes compete in 100-200m events, are both male and female, and the drug concerned is also considered a masking agent by WADA – meaning the diuretic effect, in addition to being performance enhancing, is also a potential cover-up of other drug use. Agenda-driven equine veterinarians swear this is not the case in their industry. Of course not.

This jibes with my feelings on the subject: weight loss via Lasix is a performance enhancer during the relatively brief event lengths of US horseracing: 50-120 seconds. However the hours of post-race recovery probably aren’t too pleasant for many, and repeated episodes of dehydration over the years likely shorten careers and increase unsoundness.

From what I read; Royal Delta is likely to make her next start without Lasix. Kudos to Mr. Mott – perhaps some of his other stable superstars will try it in the future?

 

Exercise Science, Pace, and Handicapping

hueymahl

“A horse’s fractional times do not affect his final time. Horses are never ‘burned up’ by fast fractions. There is no such thing as a ‘killing pace.’” – Andrew Beyer, from Picking Winners: A Horseplayer’s Guide, 1975

That little piece of nonsense has been edited out of more recent editions of the work, and I must congratulate Mr. Beyer for realizing and admitting to his mistake shortly after this unfortunate quote. The book above by Huey Mahl was one of the earliest (along with Sartin and the gang) to pinpoint the importance of pace – or energy disbursement – within the racing game.

Now of course even casual players recognize the effects of different pace scenarios ranging from early speed during dirt sprints through blazing closing fractions common to the turf routes.

As such many pace handicappers have quantified these concepts and provided their picks for a price. Typically these ‘pace figs’ are best used in conjunction with other speed figures (such as Beyer) when contemplating a wagering strategy.

Here is the one I feel most comfortable with: http://www.simonspeedrations.com/

The handicapper is named Derek Simon, and he’s been affiliated with TwinSpires for as long as I can remember. I’ll probably butcher a description of his Speed Rations and Pace Profiles, so feel free to click the above link for further information.

Simply put, speed rations measure energy expenditure of a horse, not speed. Therefore, each race is evaluated on its own merits, rather than to some theoretical ‘par’. Just as importantly, Derek possesses the database access of a professional handicapper and the statistical skills of a mathematician. Short of receiving HR/GPS data from every horse in a race; this guy has as close to a handle on the concept of ‘it’s not how fast they go, but how they go fast’ as anyone in the game today.

Check this out:

Several days ago, Bill Mott sent a Juddmonte horse named Emollient to post in the Grade 1 American Oaks over the turf course at Betfair Hollywood Park. By now, we know he won impressively in what was his turf debut, albeit as the betting favorite. What caught my eye was the 6F work posted 2 weeks before the race, over the Belmont inner turf course in a comfortable 1:13.34 time. I cannot remember the last time a Mott-trained horse posted an official 6F work.

So, I asked Derek to run some figures for me.

First off, he uses a concept known as Impact Value (IV) to quantify statistical significance. He surely didn’t invent that construct, but he has taken it a step further into the thoroughbred wagering world by figuring odds into the formula – leading to an Odds-Based Impact Value (OBIV), which can determine whether or not a specific variable does/does not have a statistical impact on the event in questions:

OBIV Greater than 0.85 = factor has a positive impact
OBIV Between 0.80-0.85 = factor has negligible impact
OBIV Less than 0.80 = factor has negative impact

My thoughts:
What happens when Bill Mott works a horse further than 5F?
How often does that occur?
Are the results ‘significant’?

The answer: When factoring in Return on Investment (ROI) of your betting dollar, AND considering the above mentioned IV/OBIV – When a Mott entry has at least one of his last 3 works at a distance of 5F or greater BOTH the ROI is positive (win/place/show) AND the IV/OBIV is positive. Neither Mott’s overall stats nor any combination of work distances shorter than 5F produces both positive ROI and positive IV/OBIV.

Bill Mott (7/2012-2/2013)

Variable Number Win % 1-2 % 1-2-3 % 1 ROI 1-2 ROI 1-3 ROI IV OBIV
Overall 170 18.2 35.9 47.5 -30.52% -6.35% -11.35% 1.56 0.90
0 works 43 4.3 19.6 28.3 -66.96% -9.46% -20.54% 0.38 0.44
3/4F 111 23.0 43.4 54.9 -18.23% -1.15% -7.61% 1.97 0.94
5F+ 51 26.8 41.1 51.8 1.07% 1.07% 1.25% 2.24 1.25
 

Certainly Mr. Mott qualifies as a big-name trainer, someone whose name alone attached to a horse usually means the betting public pays attention. The ‘overall’ IV/OBIV shows that Mott conditioned horses win races at a significant level, but the ROI figures show it to be a losing proposition – mainly due to low prices. When Mott entries post no works between starts – the ROI worsens, but when he works them long (for him), every number across the ROI and IV/OBIV fields becomes positive.

Remember, Derek has these figures at his fingertips for every trainer in the game, among reams of other data. Surely other professionals do the same, but good luck getting them to provide this kind of info.

Back to the importance of pace. I feel if you are involved in this game you should go through some of the same physiological demands that our horses are placed under. I recently bought a fancy Concept 2 rowing machine:

concept2

This thing calculates your pace for each pull of the handle; and displays the data real-time on a little LCD screen about 12 inches from your sweaty face. Currently my top 500m sprint time is 1:49. When I began 4 months ago, a time of 2:08 was my best. This exercise works 80%+ of the muscles in your body simultaneously, and with no impact – quite helpful for a 43yo with a bad back and 3 knee surgeries in his rear view mirror. I interval train exclusively, no long slow rowing sessions. I am a cheap claimer. Get out the bute.

So, when I do my twice monthly time trials – I can see how fast I start out, and how fast I finish. I am trying to learn how to blast off the starting blocks and settle into a manageable pace that still allows me to kick for home. Just like a horse. I haven’t got it figured out, yet.

If my first 100m is at a 1:45 pace (4 sec faster than goal), I fall apart the final 200m – only able to hang on with a 1:52 pace and a feeling like death would be most welcome for dozens of excruciating seconds. However, if I can get a start in 1:48 or thereabouts – the final time is a tick faster and the whole experience is much more enjoyable, much more of a confidence-builder. Same goes for horses, I would imagine.

Seems the venerable Mr. Andy Beyer has never been on a rowing machine, hacking away at that thing like a maniac. If he had been, perhaps he would have not begun his career dismissing the importance of pace?

I’m not a big time bettor, but if you are please give Derek a look, he gives away several free plays a day, posts his running results, and also has a paid service with much more data. In addition to the above link, here are some other places you can catch up with him:

Facebook:          https://www.facebook.com/Youbet.DerekSimon
Twitter:               https://twitter.com/ValueWagering
Podcast:              http://www.blogtalkradio.com/twinspires
More:                   http://helloracefans.com/handicapping/pace/speed-rations/

EDIT: Well I just had my latest interval workout, coming after my personal best 1:49 for 500m time trial. This time I changed things up a bit with regards to my warmup. I began with an easy 500m in 2:04, then I went to my foam roller/massage routine and a series of static and dynamic stretches, focusing mainly on the hips. (Previously, I did the easy 500m AFTER the roller/stretches).

The result: A record 250m pace of 1:42! 3 seconds faster than ever before, and with the same perceived level of exertion. Also of note, my SPM – or strokes per minute, which typically in such a sprint is around 37, jumped up to 40. Would be nice for horse trainers to experiment during morning breezes on what warmup protocol gives the best HR/GPS results!

$3.99 E-Book Alert: Legendary US Trainer ‘Sunny Jim’ Fitzsimmons

sunnyjim

For a limited time; this biography of the only trainer to win 2 Triple Crowns is available digitally for just $3.99, discounted from a regular price point of $14.99 (the paperback seems to run $29+!).

I just grabbed my copy today (Sunday, July 14, 2013 at 1:38pm Eastern time), but my experience tells me it may not last long, perhaps another day or two.

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Sunny-Jim-America%2527s-Fitzsimmons-ebook/dp/B00704TS1G/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1373834353&sr=1-1&keywords=sunny+jim

Nook:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sunny-jim-jimmy-breslin/1113653384?ean=9781453245316

Did you know this trainer initially had Seabiscuit in his stable, but gave up on him? You may understand why upon reading this book authored by Pulitzer Prize winner Jimmy Breslin.

New to E-books? Both Amazon and Barnes and Noble can help you out, even if you have no dedicated e-reader or tablet, you can download a free program for your PC or laptop. On Apple? Their I-bookstore is not too popular, but they offer a Kindle app, which is what I use.

I will be sure to take notes and post a review when I finish it, but in the meantime I want to talk about the revolution taking over the book publishing industry, of which I am intimately familiar.

This temporary $3.99 sale is a prime example of the flexibility of digital publishing. Apple just lost their case vs. the US government where it was proven they conspired with traditional paperback publishers to artificially inflate the e-book price for new releases. Amazon was on the winning side; their discounting of digital best sellers to $9.99 was the fuse that lit the powderkeg a few years ago.

Simply put, the distribution of a digital book costs a fraction of a cent when compared to the paperback model: but who benefits from that cost savings? Apple and the Big 6 (now 5) NYC publishing houses wanted to keep those extra billions for themselves, but Amazon wanted to pass the savings borne out of distribution efficiencies unto the end customer, or reader. Amazon won. Hooray.

Now, how this relates to yours truly. My wife, Rose Pressey, is a fiction writer, she wrote 6 novels over 4 years and through 3 agents received 500+ rejections from potential publishers from 2007-2011. Many remarked that her writing was superb, but that her market was too small. She writes for women 99% of the time; but no overt violence, little cursing, and relatively clean books overall. Not traditionally a big seller, in other words.

Finally she published her first book on Amazon and Nook in April of 2011. Since that time she has published 16 full length novels and sold nearly 200,000 copies of her work. Over 1,000 readers have left positive reviews on Amazon; and eventually a big NYC publisher came knocking on HER door offering paperback representation!

I am so proud of her, she is afflicted with crippling arthritis at a very young age – and created a massively successful career for herself while sitting at her laptop, which really was her only option. She prices her books from $0.99 through $3.99 and sells enough copies to compete with the big boys and girls. And she is not the only one doing so, many so-called ‘independent’ authors populate the online bookstores and provide quality work at a fraction of the prices charged by the household names, and quite often they turn out new work several times a year. Many of the more established indie authors, like my wife, outsource professional cover design and editing, just like more traditional writers. Quality is not lacking, only the price! Best of all, this new breed of author is forcing the big publishing houses to offer better pricing, as in this case.

I know from my blog stats that over 100 countries send visitors to this site. Amazing. I also know that the US is far and away the leader in e-book sales. If you are reading this from another country, know that the technology is coming to your shores – and although it may be intimidating at first, in the long run there is ample room in your library for books on your hard drive. (Sad to say, you may not be able to take advantage of this current Sunny Jim book deal. Fingers crossed for you.)

Browse from home, choose a book at a great price, download, and be reading it in under 20 seconds. Best of all, Amazon and Nook are full of thousands of free books, new releases as well as the classics. Enjoy!

P.S. Please leave a comment if you take advantage of this deal, I’m curious as to both the reach of my blog as well as the degree to which readers are comfortable with digital delivery of material. Also, that will remind me to make a note when the price is no longer $3.99.

Taking Away Lasix After 50+ Lifetime Starts

2013 Millarville Derby

Ever see a former $1.3 million dollar yearling purchase come off a 4.5 month layoff and win a dirt 9F race over 4 turns making his 53rd lifetime start, but just the first without Lasix?

Well, click the link above and now say you have done so. (You may have to suffer through a 15sec advertisement first)

Rascal Cat is the 8 year old in question, and here is a slice of his past performances leading up to his triumph in the Millarville Derby last week:

rascalcatpp

(click to enlarge)

Congrats to the owners: Brian Engelking and Murray Cluff, trainer Mr. Darcy Hawkes, and the veterinary consultant Jodie Santarossa who teamed up to wean this veteran off the diuretic after a lifetime of pre-race injections; something I bet 99% of US vets would tell you is an impossible task.

How did they do it?

First, after purchasing the horse as a pure pedigree play early in 2013, they shipped him northwest to Canada’s Northlands Park for a brief rest period. When brought back into training, he was equipped with HR/GPS gear and eventually graduated to working fast every 5 days, including the final blowout just 3 days prior to the above triumph. Also, the supplement STORM was added to his daily ration upon the onset of intense exercise.

Here are the final 3 breezes leading up to the 7/1/13 Derby:

Track

Date

Course

Distance

Time

Note

Rank

Northlands Park

6/28/2013

Dirt

3F

36.60

Handily

5/18

Northlands Park

6/23/2013

Dirt

5F

1:03.40

Handily

2/12

Northlands Park

6/18/2013

Dirt

3F

37.40

Handily

9/21

We know from well-documented interviews that trainer Graham Motion gives his un-raced, yet-to-be trained 2 year olds Lasix as a ‘preventative’ measure. So we can assume he did the same with this expensive purchase from the venerable Stonestreet Stables and Jess Jackson. Now several years later we have proven that sensible exercise and sports-specific nutrition can achieve the same ends (less the pharmaceutical side effects), as ‘The Cat’ scoped clean as a whistle following his big win.

And don’t think for a second that it was an easy task. Many local horsemen trackside watching this old timer breeze fast every 5th day without Bute muttered: ‘You’re gonna kill that horse’.

Sure it’s Canada where many race Lasix-free and it’s quite a class drop, but dirt is dirt and 9F is still 9F. The winning time may be slower than most in the US are accustomed to, but then again who the hell runs around 4 turns these days?

Of interest: co-owner Cluff is a former world class skier:  http://www.albertasportshalloffame.com/component/zoo/item/cluff-murray