Hey Racing: Stop Handicapping the Handicappers


Bettor beware, indeed. Current information available to consider when betting on the races is 2 dimensional: numerous variables related only to the stopwatch and the endless track variants. Nothing comes from the horse itself – the invaluable 3rd dimension. What I aim to do is quantify the old adage: ‘It’s not how fast they go, but how they go fast’.

First, some history-

In 1992 the Beyer Speed Figures become a permanent fixture in DRF past performances. Len Ragozin’s ‘The Sheets’ have been around since 1982 at least, and Jerry Brown’s Thorograph service has public mentions going back to 1989. Pace figures, in all their permutations, seem to have their origins since at least the early 1980’s as well – and there are simply too many to mention without leaving someone important out. Suffice it to say, bettors haven’t had any significant new sources of data for the last 2 decades. Yet we expect gamblers to continue to play despite higher takeout, smaller fields, fewer starts per horse, etc.?

Trakus has recently made some inroads with their advanced timing technologies including ‘distance traveled’ and fractional times to the hundredths of a second, but still we are just scratching the surface of what can be done. The Trakus task is achieved by a small chip placed inside each saddlecloth, that’s it. Equipment placed around the track is also necessary for the system to operate, and that ain’t cheap. But my solution is quite inexpensive.

In order to increase handle, both from whales and from new players, the industry needs another innovation in handicapping data/analysis – physiological information gleaned from the horse itself during competition. This can be accomplished with a simple on-board heart rate monitor, and the past few years have seen many innovations as chronicled on this blog. Up next are some units that leverage infra-red technology to analyze the oxygen content of the muscles, and/or characteristics of the horse’s blood during races. Heck, one system will transmit that data in real-time to your I-Phone or I-Pad. Amazing. This gear will contribute reams of data for owners, trainers, and bettors to consider when going to the racetrack. And it may just well shut up PETA next time they set their sights on our wonderful sport – as we will become the first major sport to monitor physiological vital signs DURING actual competition.

Why hasn’t someone thought of this before? Well, they have – sort of, check out these guys:


I’ve been watching this group for years, but their efforts seemed to have stalled. I think they make their deductions based strictly on high-speed video analysis, but I am not positive. Case The Race was founded by Dr. Gary Knapp, breeder of Big Brown, and I intend on reaching out to him this week as we both seem to be on the same wavelength.

Granted, 99% of horseplayers will have no idea what to do with these numbers and that’s the point; the race will then be on to become conversant in terms such as stride length, VO2max, lactate threshold, recovery heart rate, etc. Early adopters will get an edge – and that is what every gambler is after.

Once Beyer Speed Figures became part of the DRF past performances, their value soon eroded. The right racing circuit can attract significant new business being the first to provide this data stream. I doubt the US will lead the charge in this regard. Perhaps Australia? Two major HR/GPS systems originate in Perth. Hong Kong? Already the HKJC provides the most in depth past performance analysis:


Although the focus of this blog has been using this data to help trainers condition their horses; I will now turn my focus towards using these tools as a way to evaluate a horse’s racing performance. This is probably a multi-year project, so I better get started this week…wish me luck.

Any feedback is always welcome via blog comments below.


About bpressey

Equine Exercise Physiologist

Posted on August 5, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Kudos Bill! HK and Japan I would think would be likely first markets. Don’t see the US getting on board – if they won’t disclose the medical records of runners, no way they are going to share any data on how their horses are training. I believe the only reason bettors have workout times is because a third party is standing around with a stopwatch; something less invasive, if you will, than having a chip on the saddle cloth.

    Good luck!

  2. I agree, trainers would rather you not know workout times, if possible. I don’t care if they wear my gear in training; although that would be a great tool – I just need a small racing jurisdiction to require wearing it during actual races – making the data either freely available or subscription-based.

  3. Phillip Haycock

    I too have been thinking along these lines Bill.
    My idea of future racing is that smart phone apps would gather information from various existing and some new databases and design bets for punters. These apps would allow the user to give weight or value to various attributes which may include gait analysis software.
    A punter could therefore design his own criteria for the app to use.
    Successful apps may even gain a commodity value.
    The same apps may be used by the trainer also.

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