Database Handicapping Software- JCapper Biased About Track Bias
April, 2005


In January I talked about using Race Volatility to find playable races. This time I'm going to focus on using some of the tools in JCapper to find and play track biases.

Much has been written about the subject of track bias, both in handicapping books, and in articles on the web. Authors such as William L. Scott and Andrew Beyer have talked about the subject in their books. Gordon Pine has an article on his site about identifying biases using results charts.

There's a current thread right now at the Pace Advantage message board where the topic of discussion is track bias. The thing that amazes me is that most of those posting in that thread either question or deny the outright existence of track bias to begin with. Most of those questioning the existence of track bias argue the point that there's no consistent way of identifying them.

Au contraire Pierre.

Basically, there are two types of track bias:
  1. Speed Bias
  2. Positional Bias
Speed Bias
Speed bias relates to the extent that a surface is currently either helping, or hindering, the chances of horses with early speed. A speed favoring surface is said to exist when the predominant pattern of recent race winners is horses racing on or near the lead. A speed tiring surface is said to exist when the predominant pattern of recent winners is horses closing from well off the pace.

Positional Bias
Positional Bias relates to the extent a certain part of the racing surface may be either helping, or hindering, the chances of horses having to run on that part of the surface. An inside bias is said to exist when the predominant pattern of recent winning horses are those with inside post positions. An outside bias is said to exist when the predominant pattern of recent winning horses are those with outside post positions.

Playing Track Biases
Playing Track Biases is very much a waiting game. Most of the time, on most ovals, the racing surface has no prevailing bias at all. During these times I find myself making spot plays on my own UDM selections whenever the odds are in the Sweet Spot described by the PScore Odds Line. During these times, I make standard percentage of bankroll win bets and VERY SELDOM find myself making bets that involve multiple races: doubles, pick-threes, pick-fours, etc. But when a bias DOES exist, that's when my I "tune in" and up the ante considerably. When I think a bias exists, I find myself making, in addition to my standard win bets, multiple race bets such as doubles, pick-threes, and pick-fours on horses that figure to benefit from the bias. I also find myself making and cashing win bets on individual horses that figure to benefit from the bias. Oddly enough, at such times I quite often find myself cashing these extra bets at a much higher rate than might be expected under "normal" circumstances. I will continue to make these additional bets so long as I believe that the bias I am playing into exists. As soon as I think the bias has changed, I revert back to restricting my play to my standard UDM horses at overlaid odds. My own carefully kept records tell me conclusively that this approach is one that is highly successful. The key element involved is knowing with a fair degree of accuracy when a bias exists and when one doesn't. I strongly believe that identifying track biases with JCapper is a skillset that most JCapper users can develop and sharpen with a little practice.

Mental State
There's a Mental State that I shoot for when I play horses - one of detached involvement. I know it when I'm there and feel it when I'm not. Here's the thing. When I'm there it seems like I just instinctively do things that maximize gains and minimize losses. And the one question that helps me get there time after time is this: "What should I be doing now?"

When it comes to track bias, the answer to the ever constant "What should I be doing now?" is to pay attention. As a player, you need to be constantly alert. You want to be alert so that you can recognize a bias soon after it first appears.

JCapper has some very good tools for identifying track biases. In the remainder of this article, I'm going to point out how I recently used those tools to uncover a temporary speed bias and how that research and discovery process led me to some outstanding recent plays.

Tools For Discovering Track Biases

Speed Biases

The following JCapper Factors are my personal favorites for uncovering Speed Biases:
  1. CPace
  2. PctE

Positional Biases

The following JCapper Factor is the only one I use for uncovering Positional Bias:
  1. Rail Position

Example of a Speed Bias
Tues 04-05-2005 HAW R2 LADY DANIELLE $79.60

So that readers can follow my narrative, here's a link to the HTML Report for the HAW card for Tues 04-05-2005.

I recently made a post on the JCapper Message board about R2 at HAW on 04-05-2005 that read:

I'm wondering, did anyone else happen to catch the J1, CPace1, and Form1 horse, #7 LADY DANIELLE in R2 at HAW today? The horse was highlighted in bright yellow on the report, had a fair odds line of 5-1, and paid... $79.60 to win!!! Four of my own UDMs also pointed this one out- including the UDM outlined in the one and only handicapping article that I've published to date.

That's right. The same UDM I outlined in the Jan 2005 article on Race Volatility also pointed out this very same horse. But my post about this horse on the message board only hinted at the extent of damage I did. I crushed this horse in the win pool, and used this horse to catch two enormous pick-threes as well as a very nice pick-four. Go ahead, accuse me of redboarding if you want. I don't mind a bit. Any JCapper user with a Bris file for HAW that day could have had this horse. Even if you just skimmed through the Jan 2005 article and didn't bother to create the UDM, this horse was clearly picked up by Overlay Highlighting on the HTML Report. But judging from the payoffs, I very seriously doubt that many out there thought before the race that this one offered truly outstanding value. I certainly did. And the reason had everything to do with track bias.

Here are my thoughts leading up to this race...

I first started to notice a speed bias at HAW midway through the Sunday card on April 3, 2005. On that day, seven out of the nine races were won by a horse that ranked either first or second in CPace. The trend continued the next day when six of the nine races were won by a horse ranked either first, second, or third, in CPace. Contrast that to the Saturday card where only five of the ten races were won by a horse ranked first, second, or third in CPace. Monday night I did a little Data Window research and saw conclusively that a speed bias was going on at HAW.

Here is the Data Window output for the Sun 04-03-2005 and Mon 04-04-2005 HAW cards broken out by PctE and CPace rank:

Data Summary Win Place Show
Mutuel Totals 167.60 191.80 168.60
Bet -252.00 -252.00 -252.00
Gain -84.40 -60.20 -83.40
Wins 18 36 54
Plays 126 126 126
PCT .1429 .2857 .4286
ROI 0.6651 0.7611 0.6690
Avg Mut 9.31 5.33 3.12

By: pctE Rank            
Rank Gain Bet Roi Wins Plays Pct
1 18.00 36.00 1.5000 8 18 .4444
2 -25.00 36.00 0.3056 1 18 .0556
3 10.40 36.00 1.2889 4 18 .2222
4 -3.40 36.00 0.9056 1 18 .0556
5 -28.20 38.00 0.2579 1 19 .0526
6 -20.20 30.00 0.3267 2 15 .1333
7 -20.00 24.00 0.1667 1 12 .0833
8 -8.00 8.00 0.0000 0 4 .0000
9 -6.00 6.00 0.0000 0 3 .0000
10 -2.00 2.00 0.0000 0 1 .0000

By: CPace Rank            
Rank Gain Bet Roi Wins Plays Pct
1 9.40 36.00 1.2611 5 18 .2778
2 23.60 36.00 1.6556 7 18 .3889
3 3.00 36.00 1.0833 2 18 .1111
4 -36.00 36.00 0.0000 0 18 .0000
5 -16.40 36.00 0.5444 3 18 .1667
6 -28.00 32.00 0.1250 1 16 .0625
7 -22.00 22.00 0.0000 0 11 .0000
8 -10.00 10.00 0.0000 0 5 .0000
9 -6.00 6.00 0.0000 0 3 .0000
10 -2.00 2.00 0.0000 0 1 .0000

And here is the same PctE and CPace rank breakout for HAW YTD through 04-02-2005:

Data Summary Win Place Show
Mutuel Totals 2658.60 2711.20 2753.20
Bet -3806.00 -3806.00 -3806.00
Gain -1147.40 -1094.80 -1052.80
Wins 253 501 747
Plays 1903 1903 1903
PCT .1329 .2633 .3925
ROI 0.6985 0.7123 0.7234
Avg Mut 10.51 5.41 3.69

By: PctE Rank            
Rank Gain Bet Roi Wins Plays Pct
1 -289.00 498.00 0.4197 28 249 .1124
2 -111.20 500.00 0.7776 37 250 .1480
3 -56.00 500.00 0.8880 37 250 .1480
4 -112.00 500.00 0.7760 44 250 .1760
5 -122.20 528.00 0.7686 40 264 .1515
6 20.20 458.00 1.0441 38 229 .1659
7 -210.80 348.00 0.3943 13 174 .0747
8 -160.20 210.00 0.2371 5 105 .0476
9 -65.60 130.00 0.4954 6 65 .0923
10 -58.80 78.00 0.2462 2 39 .0513
11 18.20 42.00 1.4333 2 21 .0952
12 0.00 14.00 1.0000 1 7 .1429

By: CPace Rank            
Rank Gain Bet Roi Wins Plays Pct
1 -115.00 498.00 0.7691 55 249 .2209
2 -150.40 498.00 0.6980 33 249 .1325
3 -26.80 498.00 0.9462 45 249 .1807
4 -144.20 498.00 0.7104 35 249 .1406
5 -108.40 492.00 0.7797 31 246 .1260
6 -178.60 454.00 0.6066 25 227 .1101
7 -132.40 346.00 0.6173 17 173 .0983
8 -177.40 232.00 0.2353 2 116 .0172
9 -45.80 140.00 0.6729 6 70 .0857
10 -14.40 82.00 0.8244 3 41 .0732
11 -50.00 50.00 0.0000 0 25 .0000
12 -4.00 18.00 0.7778 1 9 .1111

Comparing statistics for the past two days vs YTD shows a marked increase in win percent and roi for both PctE and Cpace rank. This very clearly indicates the presence of a speed bias. In fact, I would say that this qualifies as a textbook example of a speed bias.

Tuesday 04-05-2005
One of the things going through my head before the Tuesday card began was that HAW had been speed favoring for the past two days. Horses coming from off the pace were having real trouble getting there. This point had been driven home for me the day before where I missed catching a nice winner in R2 when Liz Morris aboard the top CPace horse #7 CALL HER BLUFF tried to rate too far behind the pace set by the second ranked CPace horse #2 MS PUFFENSTUTCH and "closed" from second to just miss by a head on the wire at 14-1. This had stuck in my craw a little bit. I had thought at the time that a more forwardly placed ride might have resulted in an easy win. But that's racing. Luck is involved. And sometimes it goes against me. But, without a doubt, the speed favoring state of the HAW oval was definitely getting my attention as I looked the card over that morning.

I had yet to make any of the extra bets talked about earlier. I decided before the Tuesday races began that it was time to "up the ante" so to speak. My strategy would be to test the waters a bit. I would wheel the top 3 CPace horses in pick-threes until I lost a race and try and use CPace intelligently in the pick-four. I would also make win bets on any of the top three CPace horses going off at overlaid odds and would increase the size of any of my standard UDM plays provided that they were ranked first, second, or third in CPace. I would also cut back on any of my standard UDM plays that were not ranked 1,2, or 3 in CPace.

My opening foray into playing the HAW speed bias was well rewarded when R1 was won by #3 MERIMAC LIGHT (3rd in CPace/tops in Form/tops in Workout Brilliance/4th in JRating) while being forwardly placed and paying $55.20 to win.

The HTML Report for R2 is all about #7 LADY DANIELLE. This filly was tops in CPace, tops in JRating, tops in Form and off the 12-1 morning line was highlighted on the report in bright yellow. At five minutes to post she was hovering between 12-1 and 14-1. Flush from my score in R1, I made a large win bet, and began another pick-three wheel, and singled LADY DANIELLE to start off the pick-four. There was a delay at the start when number 3 Fleur de Frost was scratched at the gate. During this delay, the odds on #7 LADY DANIELLE climbed to about 25-1. The race ran about as expected with LADY DANIELLE racing second into the turn and then wearing down the leader through the lane to win going away. Then I looked at the odds board and was amazed to see 35-1!!! She payed $79.60 to win!!! Amazingly, the double paid $744.00. Much to my chagrin, I realized that I had concentrated so much on the pick-three that I had forgotten about the double! If the bias suddenly changed I was going to have to "settle" for the added win money I had put up at 35-1. I groaned inwardly. Maybe I wasn't quite yet in the mental state where I thought I was.

I needn't have worried. R3 was won in wire to wire fashion at 9-1 by #1 BRIGHTSTAR HIGH (3rd in CPace, ridden by Shane Laviolette who had a dirt route + in my own pet rider rating schema.) Amazingly, the $2.00 pick-three paid $6,800.60!!! And Whether or not the bias continued was suddenly irrelevant to me. I had the score that I wanted and was still alive in my CPace pick-three wheels and had two more races to go in the pick-four.

R4 was won by COACH JIMI LEE at 6-5 (2nd in CPace, 2nd in JRating.) The outcome of the race was never really in doubt. COACH JIMI LEE finished three legnths ahead of the runner up SILVER BID (tops in CPace, tops in Form, tops in Workout Brilliance, 3rd in JRating.) SILVER BID finished 10 lengths clear of the third place finisher DEER LAKE (4th in CPace, 1st in JRating.) The $2.00 pick-three involving LADY DANIELLE, BRIGHTSTAR HIGH, and COACH JIMI LEE paid a very nice $2,283.20.

R5 was won at even money in near wire to wire fashion by #6 DARE TO CROSS (2nd in CPace, tops in Form, tops in Workout Brilliance, and tops in JRating.) The $2.00 pick-four involving LADY DANIELLE, BRIGHTSTAR HIGH, COACH JIMI LEE, and DARE TO CROSS paid $4,433.60.

This was, to say the least, a very nice series of scores. And they were made possible for me because I was able to identify and play into a speed bias.

Final Notes
Speed biases such as this are temporary. My experience is that they seldom last for more than three or four days. Recognizing their presence begins with being ever alert to them. Periodically, check the winners at each card against the HTML Report. When CPace seems to be sweeping the card, and this continues on into the next day, chances are that you've discovered a temporary speed bias.

I would also be remiss if I didn't point out that every now and then I manage to mis-identify a speed bias. As a player, this can be a costly mistake. Notice how I played this one. I began by making a foray into it. That foray began with one additional win bet and CPace pick-three wheel. If a low ranked CPace horse had won any of those foray races, my mindset, based on the ever present question "What should I be doing next?" would have immediately changed with regard to presence of the bias. Had I lost any of those foray races, I would have ceased making pick-three wheels and would have ceased making non-UDM win bets on CPace horses until such time as I had reason to believe that I had found another speed bias. As a general rule, I never, repeat, never force CPace pick-three wheels into my day after making a foray and losing to a low ranked CPace horse. If I make a foray thinking there's a speed bias and lose, the reality is that the bias is probably no longer present. Best to wait until one comes along again.

I have seen temporary speed biases at most ovals where I have played. They can be caused by weather, track maintenance, and even wind. I have had days where my CPace pick-three wheels have swept an entire card. I have also had days where, instead of a speed bias, I played into a strong inside or outside positional bias (discovered using rail position) and had my pick-three wheels sweep the entire card as well. I suppose that it would also be possible to do the same thing with a strong closing bias- although this is something that I have not yet tried. My guess would be that PAL and Late Pace (best of last 3) might work very well as factors for identifying and playing into these kinds of biases.

As you can see, I'm biased when it comes to track biases.

Until Next Time,

Happy Hunting,


Copyright 2005 JCapper Software