Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Crunching Numbers Part II: Delving into the results

Okay, I'm finally ready for Part Deux of the Crunching Numbers series. In the first part I summarized my database and the three ratings I calculated from those numbers - Horse Rating, Race Rating, and the Harper Rating (Horse/Race Power Rating), which combines the Horse Rating and the Race Rating. In this installment, I'll take a look at races and horses that rated highly since 2013, as well as look at some of the divisions (including this year's 3yo Colts) and how the ratings viewed those performances. The numbers (median, average, overall range) have changed slightly since my last entry due to additional data from the last few weeks. But, for the most part, the order or races hasn't changed.

Out of all the races in the sample (Jan 2013 to today), the 2014 BC Classic rated as the top Race Rating, followed by the 2013 BC Classic, 2013 Whitney, 2015 BC Sprint, and 2015 Whitney.

2014 BC Classic
2013 BC Classic
2013 Whitney
2015 BC Sprint
2015 Whitney

Given the way I put together these ratings, any race in which the winner puts up a big number across all figure/ratings systems AND where the top three finishers were closely bunched at the wire, will rate very high. Both the 2013 and 2014 Classics were photo finishes where the top three finishers all received high figures, which is why those two races occupy the exacta in the Race Ratings category.

If I were to simply look at the individual Horse Ratings for all dirt performances since 2013, the top 10 break down in the following manner:

103.47 Fort Larned - 2013 Stephen Foster (1st)
103.46 Game On Dude - 2013 Santa Anita Handicap (1st)
103.30 Game On Dude - 2013 San Antionio (1st)
103.16 Game On Dude - 2014 Santa Anita Handicap (1st)
102.99 Verrazano - 2013 Haskell (1st)
102.62 Shared Belief - 2015 Santa Anita Handicap (1st)
102.62 Ron the Greek - 2013 Jockey Club Gold Cup (1st)
102.59 Bayern - 2014 Breeders' Cup Classic (1st)
102.59 Toast of New York - 2014 Breeders' Cup Classic (2nd)
102.53 Liam's Map - 2015 Breeder's Cup Dirt Mile

As you can see from the above list, the 2014 Classic generated the 8th and 9th best Horse Ratings in the sample. After we factor in the Race Rating, the Harper Ratings top 10 breaks down as follows:

210.20 Bayern - 2014 BC Classic (1st)
210.20 Toast of New York - 2014 BC Classic (2nd)
209.32 California Chrome - 2014 BC Classic (3rd)
208.18 Mucho Macho Man - 2013 BC Classic (1st)
207.70 Will Take Charge - 2013 BC Classic (2nd)
207.70 Declaration of War - 2013 BC Classic (3rd)
201.33 Cross Traffic - 2013 Whitney (1st)
199.90 Runhappy - 2015 BC Sprint (1st)
199.90 Successful Dan - 2013 Whitney (2nd)
196.09 Private Zone - 2015 BC Sprint (2nd)

As I was typing out that list I almost expected a Runhappy commercial to start playing. 

Okay, so in terms of overall power rating, we can see how the strength of the race plays a big factor in the rankings. Fort Larned, Game On Dude, Verrazano - all with high Horse Ratings but not in the Top 10 in the Harper Ratings due to weaker figures (respectively) of the place and show horses. All of the horses on the Harper list came out of strong races.

There are a couple things I quickly noted about this list the first time I ran it: the absence of American Pharoah's BC Classic in the Top 10 and the triple shot of Game On Dude in the Horse Ratings.

I think it's clear why American Pharoah's BC Classic didn't rate in the Top 10 on the Harper Rating: the horses that finished 2nd and 3rd didn't receive high figures across the board, so while the individual performance was excellent (11th best Horse Rating in the sample), the rest of the field didn't do a whole lot. With the exception of the Derby, none of the horses that finished second or third to Pharoah really put up strong efforts. His highest rated race, his victory in the Classic, is almost entirely due to his high individual ratings and not those of his rivals.
American Pharoah’s Classic win generated a Power Rating of 181.26, which ranks 39th out of a sample of 2,281, or in the 98% percentile. There’s certainly nothing bad about that. His Belmont victory had a Power Rating of 144.49, ranking in the top 9% of all performance. While his Arkansas Derby generated a Power Rating of 86.82, a clearly above-average performance which ranked in the top 30% of all horses in the sample.

As for Game On Dude, I don't think his inclusion on the Horse Ratings top 10 but exclusion on the Harper Ratings is all that shocking. Game On Dude ran some huge races during his career but, at least with respect to the 2013-to-present sample, the horses running behind him never put up big figures themselves in those races.

The above situations are why I look at both the Harper and the Horse Ratings in tandem - neither tells the whole story on their own. And, really, what I'm trying to find in the Harper Ratings are the non-winners that rated well due to the strength of the race and their rivals.

Okay, so I was going to go into some of the other divisions, like Distaff and Sprint, but I figure since it's Derby season I'll go ahead and look at some numbers from this year's three-year-old crop. All of these figures are for races beginning in 2016 (thus, excluding the juvenile campaign cause juvenile stakes races... ugh!).

We'll start with the top 10 individual Horse Ratings and then list the Harper Ratings. The Top 10 Horse Ratings for this year's Derby contenders:

85.55 Danzing Candy - San Felipe (1st)
75.28 Mor Spirit - San Felipe (2nd)
73.38 Nyquist - San Vicente (1st)
70.61 Destin - Tampa Bay Derby (1st)
69.31 Mohaymen - Fountain of Youth (1st)
61.74 Exaggerator - San Felipe (2nd)
58.25 Outwork - Tampa Bay Derby (2nd)
57.83 Exaggerator - San Felipe (3rd)
57.49 Mohaymen - Holy Bull (1st)
56.83 Awesome Banner - Swale (1st)

I found this list very interesting when I ran it today because the current future book favorite to win the Kentucky Derby - Mohaymen - ranks fifth in terms of individual performance this springs before I even factor in race strength. The reason? Quite simply, the figure systems are a bit all over the map on Mohaymen's races this spring. Pure speed figs like Mohaymen. Figures incorporating pace are a bit less bullish. While the Euro-style weight ratings love the colt. On the other hand, the systems were all pretty much in agreement that Danzing Candy ran a big race in the San Felipe. The systems also loved the place and show horses at Santa Anita last Saturday (Mor Spirit and Exaggerator).

As you can probably guess, the San Felipe scores well on the Race Ratings, coming in as the strongest prep race so far this spring. As a result, here are the Top 10 on the Harper Ratings:

120.74 Danzing Candy - San Felipe (1st)
108.92 Mor Spirit - San Felipe (2nd)
83.56 Exaggerator - San Felipe (3rd)
83.24 Nyquist - San Vicente (1st)
69.74 Exaggerator - San Vicente (2nd)
68.32 Destin - Tampa Bay Derby (1st)
61.99 Mohaymen - Fountain of Youth (1st)
56.36 Outwork - Tampa Bay Derby (2nd)
46.82 Forevamo - Risen Star (2nd)
44.68 Gun Runner - Risen Star (1st)

So, you may be wondering how the second place horse in the Risen Star (Forevamo) rates higher than the winner (Gun Runner)? It's a bit of a quirk of the Euro-style ratings systems when we have a race that finishes very close at the wire: Gun Runner beat Forevamo by a 1/2 length at the wire, so their speed figure ratings are only a tick apart. But, Forevamo carried 120 pounds in the race, compared to Gun Runner's 116. Given the close finish, and the higher weight carried by the runner-up, Forevamo rated higher on systems like the Racing Post Ratings.

(Personally, I don't put a lot of stock into weight unless the differences are quite large but a lot of handicappers feel the opposite. I try not to question the figure makers methods or reasoning; I just want to include their system in the model.)

Given the rapid development of three-year-old colts this time of the year, I'm not putting a whole lot of stock in any of these numbers at this point. At a minimum, I hope I can find two or three colts that come out of strong races that will look good in the exacta and trifecta spots on the first Saturday in May.

I was about the type out the same breakdown for the Oaks contenders but I'll spare my fingers and give you the TL;DR version: Songbird kicks ass.

The only filly that's even close to Songbird on the ratings is Cathryn Sophia and she still hasn't approached the champion's best efforts. We'll see if that holds true in the days leading up to the Oaks.

All right... it's late and I'm ready to rest my eyes. I'll be back with some additional ratings and divisional breakdowns as we move closer to the Derby. I'll also summarize the ratings for Turf Races and write a little bit as to the difficulty performing this analysis with races on the lawn.


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