In "Moneyball," the film version of the Michael Lewis book documenting Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane's success of using new statistical studies to find hidden gem players, a key find is Scott Hatteberg because of his high on-base percentage.
A new approach to horse racing past performances from sports data company STATS aims to help handicappers uncover their own overlooked gems. STATS has begun a soft launch of its analytical handicapping tool Race Lens, with a full launch and promotion set for next month, along with its beginner handicapping software, the mobile-friendly True Odds.
"I think what appealed to us about horse racing is that handicappers are essentially making handicapping decisions by evaluating data," said STATS product manager Brett Gallo. "So we felt like it would be a natural fit with our core competency in evaluating data and being able to make handicapping decisions in an efficient and smart way."
STATS Race Lens is a result of a collaborative effort between STATS, which currently analyzes 100,000 games a year, and horse racing industry data collection agency and provider Equibase. David Siegel, chief executive officer of Equibase handicapping product subsidiary TrackMaster, said STATS, celebrating its 35th year of operation, brings unique expertise to the equation.
"We looked at all of the products out there on the market, including some of our own, to see what things we could improve, but more importantly, what things we could add that the market was looking for that would really move the handicapping side of the market forward," Siegel said. "Basically we had the raw data but STATS had deep experience in predictive analysis and putting software packages together that are really the upper echelon of offerings for all sports. That was our perspective."
Some highlights of the new handicapping software include giving handicappers the ability to tailor their own statistical study of horses, trainers, and jockeys. Beyond that, the software allows horseplayers to formulate racing angles and then run their own studies, based on real-life results, to see how those angles perform over time.
Past performances allow for automated, color-coded highlighting of statistics, again crafted by the player. Players can assign notes to horses running in races and those notes stick with the horses the next time a horse is entered. Along with these features, the software adds STATS' proprietary predictive modeling.
"By leveraging the comprehensive historical database from Equibase and our predictive algorithms for Major League Baseball, the National Football League and other major sports, we have developed a truly unique and innovative handicapping product for horse racing in STATS Race Lens," said STATS chief technology officer Darryl Lewis.
Chris Dawahare, Equibase vice president of data operations and development, said the software brings new levels of customization for players and streamlines the handicapping process.
"We have so many criteria from our database—all the different ways you could construct an angle. What's really cool about this product is its ability to back test. None of the mainstream retail products out there now allow you to do that," Dawahare said. "Now you can actually test your theories against data going back one year to see what the win percentage is had you played that angle, what the (return on investment) is. It is really powerful stuff when you're trying to find profitable plays.
"Also the ability to customize and mark up your past performances, we think will really streamline the handicapping process because you can basically do things like highlight the highest speed figure in a race, the horse with the highest earnings, and then create as many templates as you like. Then the product does the work for you and the entire PP is marked up. We think that kind of takes the customization to another level. It's not just filtering running lines displayed; it's truly helping you handicap and making it a more efficient process."
STATS Race Lens has been tweaked through extensive input from focus groups that Siegel said varied in level of expertise, region, and age. Along with Race Lens, STATS also will launch True Odds, which is more targeted to beginning players but still puts STATS' powerful predictive modeling in their hands. STATS True Odds aims to assign win probabilities to each horse in a race that, in real-time, can be compared to the actual pari-mutuel odds being offered.
"STATS Race Lens will provide handicappers with more data, deeper insights and the ability to create angles and test their theories, all within an attractive and easy-to-use interface," said Equibase president Jason Wilson. "This is the first result of our strategic partnership with STATS, and we look forward to developing additional services for horseplayers in the near future."
In developing the handicapping software, Gallo said STATS was impressed with the amount of data available in horse racing.
"There was a significant ramp-up period to get our team up to speed with the sport of horse racing, understanding the data, and putting forth something that would make sense," Gallo said. "It was quite a challenge on our end but we felt there was an opportunity there. The data was entirely different and there was a lot more of it."
Siegel said those efforts have resulted in software products that should prove valuable to expert players and beginners alike.
"The product called Race Lens is specifically targeted at the sophisticated handicapper; the handicapper using the Daily Racing Form today, or TrackMaster Platinum Past Performances, the Equibase Past Performances, or some of the other third-party vendors, but serious players who do serious analysis," Siegel said. "So that is our primary target for the RaceLens product.
"However we recognize that with the goal of moving the industry forward, we really needed to construct something for the newcomer as well. So we basically went after both ends of the spectrum. There is a second product called True Odds that will be released shortly after RaceLens. It's at the other end; it's very, very simple. It leverages STATS' predictive analysis and pretty much is a couple of screens when you look at it. It's totally targeted at the mobile experience. Compared with classic past performances, it's a little more graphical in nature and can drive somebody to an answer quickly. You really could utilize that product and understand virtually nothing about the game and wagering aspects of horse racing.
"We're going after both ends; the Race Lens product for the sophisticated player, and True Odds, for the newcomer."