"Success is the maximum utilization of the ability that you have." - Zig Ziglar
How many times have you been beat by a horse that, despite not showing great recent form, seems to either run back to old form or have success against a field that may just not be of the same caliber despite meeting the conditions? Over the last few weeks I have been struggling to quantify a horse's potential ability versus what its current form suggests. Couple this factor with my periodic perusal of what new handicapping books are out there that I have not yet had the change to read and we are left with an 'Aha!' moment.
I had recently read 'Total Victory at the Track' by William M. Scott and added his PCR (Performance Class Rating) and ABT (Ability Time) factors to my ever growing sheet (along with a more pared down version that picked more applicable races). I had found modest results, but it was not a metric of measuring current form versus potential form while looking at finish positions and second call positions versus field size. On a whim, I ordered Dave Vaccaro's 'The Matrix System of Handicapping' despite seeing the reviews on Paceadvantage that is was more geared for beginners than the more advanced handicapper and found what appears to be a much better suited idea for this application.
I have always contended that a book or systems worth is based on what I can extract out and incorporate into my own thinking or process. I have also been trying to find that fine line between a ton of work for a profit and trying to keep things simple and still reap some rewards. Vaccaro does just that. Within the first few pages, I had a good feeling about his work since he made a statement that holds true to me - "Any good handicapping system takes bits and pieces from other systems and sources and puts them together to make an original product" - that this should or could be part of your established handicapping process, but can be used in addition to it. As I worked up the parameters in Excel, his target and ability time criteria became another factor on my sheet (next to velocities, AP, EP, SP, FX, E%, PCR, ABT, Turn Times, homegrown speed figures, etc.). His logic is simple, the math is simple (once you get the hang of it) and does tend to hone in on the top contenders within the field - without requiring a calculator or any kind of conversion chart. As with anything, I am never happy to take a new figure or angle at face value and am starting to watch it for trends or anomalies. For instance, when a horse's target value exceeds the rest of the fields ability value, how will that perform? What percentage of races are won by horses in the top 3 or within 10% of the top value of either ability time or target time? How does this correlate to my pace analysis? How does the track variant play into to the times used for comparison?
Vaccaro's book was enough to get me past my Handicapper's Block and on the path to refinement/testing/use-or-abandonment - while I agree that this book would be great for a novice since it does touch on form, pace, class, etc.; the simple analysis used for Ability Time and Target Times is useful as a metric for current versus potential form. As is usually the case with my process, it is now time to mold, shape, tweak, collect data, test, tweak some more, and challenge my thoughts and the figures for the next few months. Hopefully I will have some positive findings to report here (as well as back to Dave Vaccaro).
Some thoughts on Saturday's potentially wet Monmouth Park card:
Race 1 -7 Killthemessenger (5-2) and 1 Dan the Irishman (7-2) look to benefit from a speed duel between 5 Dubonnet Red and 6 Exactness.
Race 2 - If it stays on the turf or is run on the main track, 3 Charmingmegan (7-2) and 1 Love Shack (4-1) look to be the plays here as the early pace should fold by the stretch.
Race 3 - 6 Pro Prospect (6-5) should take this field wire to wire, but the value isn't there; 3 Xanthos 3-1 has a chance at the upset
Race 4 - 7 Small Secret (9-2) will be making a late run with 2 Lost Yer Number (3-1) as the early pace of 3 Ruby's Mine (5-2) and 6 Trish's Wish (15-1) falls apart
Race 5 - 8 Blazing Prize (5-2) could take this wire to wire, but 7 Jersey Kiss (7-2) and 4 Ghosts and Legends (5-1) loom late if the early pace is contested.
Race 6 - Wide open; leaning towards 7 Maintain the Magic (3-1) adding the hood with 6 Sweeter Turn (9-2), 2 On Parole (7-2), and 5 Really Charming (4-1); should this go over the main track, watch 9 Sweet Tooth Sweety (5-1) with 7 and 2.
Race 7 - 5 Co Pilot (7-2) needed the last first off of the shelf and should go wire to wire here over 8 I'm On Fire (5-2) and 1 Meatbeau (6-1).
Race 8 - 8 Atavism (9-2) has solid connections and adds the hood after two flat efforts at TAM; 4 Go Bernie Go (7-2) makes his 3yo debut after showing early foot against better; 6 Airgead (4-1) showed some life and looks to move forward here... if over the dirt 2 Vizir (15-1) may flash some early speed and get loose early, 9 Royal Hard Spun (6-1) has shown some recent form, and 3 Write A Song (4-1) should improve in his 3yo debut.
Race 9 - 8 Dancing Lion (3-1) and 7 Agent Cooper (7-2) both benefit from a weak pace set by 2 Sinatra'srazedbrow (6-1) and 4 Macho Mo Mon (5-1)
Race 10 - 7 The Louisiana Kid (5-1) should be the one to beat regardless of what surface this is run over with a late run by 3 He's Hollywood (3-1) coming up just short. 6 Cocodimama (4-1) and 8 Michal P (9-2) have a chance over the turf for a minor share, and 9 Cool Under Fire (6-1) looks to be a factor over the main track.
Race 11 - 9 Pants On Fire (4-1) will fire first off the shelf and has a class edge over 10 Bowman's Beast (6-1) who needs to prove he belongs at this level. 7 Ruler On Ice (8-1) may figure late over 8 Buffum (3-1) who has yet to prove himself around two turns.
Race 12 - 4 Perfect Lover (4-1) should get loose and go wire to wire, but not without a late rally by 6 Emotional Lady (5-2) and 10 Wildcat Thunder (3-1) that she will need to hold off.
Have a great Memorial Day Weekend! Good luck all!