This week we welcome regular guest Vince Accardi from Daily Sectionals back on to the show. This is the first of a two-part series in which Vince is going to be answering some great questions submitted by ‘Drewfus’.
Punting Insights You’ll Find
- What the daily summary is and who can benefit from that information.
- What explains the discrepancies between Timeform and Daily Sectionals.
- Why acceleration and deceleration are so reliant on race pace.
- What the study of sectional time date indicates about horses that love or loathe wet tracks.
- Using benchmark standards to assess performance.
Vince’s Parting Advice:
” You have to be very careful what you take away when there is a discussion about benchmark time.”
Episode 41 : Answering Listener Questions with Vince Accardi
Welcome to Betting 360, your number one source for horse racing and sports betting insights. Coming around the bend is your host David Duffield, with another expert view to give you the winning edge.
David Duffield: Good day Vince and welcome back to the show.
Vince Accardi: Fantastic. I’m always happy to be on the show, Dave.
David: This one’s a little bit different. Most of our listeners will have heard of Drewfus. He was a very prolific and thorough contributor to the blog and had a bunch of questions for Rick that we covered in an earlier episode. He’s done the same for you. So if you don’t mind, we’re going to run through those today.
Vince: Yeah. Happy to run through it. Let’s hope that we can answer all the questions.
David: All right. Question number 1. On your website, the sample IVR report contains sectional times for the winner and leader for each race of the meeting in question. Explicit velocities, so speeds are not listed nor is anything I would call a rating. It is understood that velocity and rating data is probably stated elsewhere in a report.
However, for the sake of clarity and completeness, could you please give the official definition of the copyright term ‘incremental velocity rating’ and describe how the term refers to the data in a daily sectionals report.
Vince: Well, I think the first thing is what I believe Drewfus is talking about is talking about the daily summary sheet. This is what by and large the majority of people use. That’s the raw sectionals that are incorporated to be used in conjunction with people that from a serious form student point of view like to use it in comparison with their video analysis work. It also then extends itself to that second line which is that they can use that as a par table process which every individual has their own strategies in terms of how they like to collect data to create pars and also the last part of it is to give them a completeness in terms of what the official time was versus what the digitally internal time was or as I state the IVR time.
That’s what the daily summary is. There is nothing to do with velocity ratings or anything like that. It is a service that goes to the industry. People like the RVL like to use it through their stewards in terms of, as you are aware, we’ve provided audit service for their final times. If they’re out by more than a certain point, they get adjusted. Also, it assists them in getting a gauge on various speed analysis that happens from a raw sectional point of view.
I know that many people build their own tables. That’s what they do with it. Further to that, it assists them in terms of whether they’re going to upgrade or downgrade tracks as well. Their internal point of view on what they have. Not only that, the last 600 metres that are presented in those daily summaries are also posted on all the RVL non-metropolitan tracks. That’s what that is. There’s nothing to do with ratings or anything like that.
David: Yep. What you mentioned explicit velocities (speeds are not listed) nor is anything I would call a rating …
Vince: That’s correct. It’s a daily summary.
David: The speeds are in the other reports that you offer to people and then the rating would be the benchmark which we will talk about a bit later.
Vince: Yeah. I’ll just answer specificially his question. He was talking about the daily summary sheets and that’s what that is.
David: Question 2 was in the episode 37 with Rick, he was asked whether his ratings were convertible to relative lengths and vice versa, so the scenario was a 2-horse race where he’s rated one runner exactly one length stronger than the other. The question was what price would he require in a 100% market to regard the weaker runner as good value, the one that’s one length worse. He said, “Yes.” That they were convertible and that he’d want around $3.50 to back that weaker runner. Is that question applicable to your form analysis methods and if yes, what answers would you give?
Vince: I don’t think that has anything to do with sectional times. It’s totally irrelevant.
David: Okay. Question 3. In one of the Champion Picks webinars, you stated that when asked to compare Frankel and Black Caviar, you found that Frankel didn’t have the sectional data to match her. Is that equivalent to saying you rate Black Caviar the superior race horse and if yes, consider that Timeform gave Frankel the highest rating of any horse in their history…
Vince: I guess that’s an interesting question. Firstly, whilst I might understand some things about how Timeform go about their assessment, I know it’s not purely based on times, so I can’t derive why they may or may not have a horse superior to another. I think that’s a question meant to be asked to Timeform. From my perspective, if I was to have made that comment in terms of superior, it most likely would have been superior in a number of sections but at what distance? If we’re talking purely sprint, I’m very confident that Black Caviar would’ve been able to match or exceed Frankel’s capability. If we’re talking middle distance or longer, that’s a completely different question.
David: Yeah. What about … I think you’ve already touched on this but it says, given that both Timeform and Daily Sectionals obviously do time-based analysis, what explains the discrepancy between the two opinions? You’ve mentioned that although they’re called Timeform that they’re probably not as focused on that as you are.
Vince: That’s correct. They only use partial times. They use the official times and many times as we know through the history of the last 50 years. It doesn’t matter what country it is, times are very inaccurate. I’ve got lots of proof from lots of places around the world that that is the case. So I guess there’s always a little bit of a question about the accuracy where they put their time incorporation. From what I understand, they use a lot of other methodologies in terms of their standings and winnings of races, whether they’d be good class races or certain handicapping scales that help create a final figure. So it is not a product that’s purely based on time. Perhaps the word Timeform may not be a true reflection of what they are.
David: Yeah. It’s somewhat of a misnomer.
David: The fourth question and this is a lengthy one so bear with me. Referring to a research paper entitled Speed, pacing strategy and aerodynamic drafting in thoroughbred horse racing, it shows the average divergence in speed of runners finishing first through fifteenth. The chart indicates that the speed of all runners is declining in the final sectionals including that of the winner.
The paper says the divergence of competitor speed at the end of the race emphasizes the head-to-head rather than the time trial nature of horse racing as in the horse that slows down the least wins. In an attempt to keep abreast of faster competitors, less capable individuals reach a point of extreme fatigue before the end of the race and show a dramatic falloff in speed. Do you agree with this conclusion? The phrase ‘the horse that slows down the least wins’ is hinted out in your sample IVR summary. The last 100 time is more than 50% of the last 200 time in each case. Presumably last 50 times would be more than 50% of last 100 times.
Vince: That’s a very complex question that probably I don’t believe there’s any simple answers. First of all I haven’t done any studies about the aerodynamics in terms of understanding the efficiency of various things in terms of their shape. What I do know is race speed, the acceleration is all based on race pace. I’ve seen horses that can be known as hurdlers. They can go very slow early and have brilliant finishes late. Then we can have situations where horses go very fast early and are decelerating late. In many cases, it all comes down to the energy exertion through the race from start to end that determines the outcome of the speed like there is no set answer to this.
I wouldn’t be one that would sit down and do a study to understand how many races would decelerate or accelerate. I believe everything is a very unique race. Each race has their own characteristics. Whilst it may form some sort of a pattern to the past subject to the track layout, wind conditions, blade of the grass in terms of its high density, low density, many, many things that play a role in the outcome of the fatigue of speed. There is no one simple answer.
David: Do you know in percentage terms, say if you’re talking about the last 200 of a race versus, I don’t know, maybe not the first 200 because it’s a standing start, another 200 metre section of the race, how that compares to the last 200? Is he right in saying that that is the slowest part of the race when the fatigue sets in?
Vince: Generally speaking, that’s what happens. It depends on at what point. If it’s a full 100, like if we talk about a barrier trial, in many cases, the last 200 metres is their most explosive part. I’ve seen it many times. I’ll give you a prime example. A horse like Pierro for instance, he would just sort of jog along in his barrier trials and give you no indication of how well he is traveling until he hits the last 200 metres. Then all of a sudden, he’ll go from running 11.5 seconds as an example to 10.4. That would be a very sharp increase in acceleration and obviously not fatiguing out. So I guess that question needs to be thought out a bit more.
David: This is a followup to that. It says, in contrast to sectional data, there is instantaneous speed data like the data produced by a speed camera. Subtracting each runner’s finish line speed from their 400 metre point speed would give a fatigue figure. For example, a runner going at 17 m/sec at the 400 declining to 14 m/sec at the finish has a fatigue figure of -3 m/sec. How useful would you suppose data like that would be for form analysis.
Vince: I can’t see how that would help in the sense that it’s all determined by the race shape and the track nuances and the collection of data for that track. Because every track has its own set of the characteristics. If we were just talking about a straight line and every race was always run in that same track and under the same circumstance like it was under cover and we had a straight line they were all running on and if it was artificial turf that can never waver, can never be affected by wind, rain, or any other, or weight. Then there would be a relevance.
One has to be very careful when you study that. It is unfortunate that you can’t just use that as a point that would assist because it’s very scientific what’s going in. Unfortunately, racing is a very inexact science because we’re an outdoor sport which revolves around many, many factors other than any one single factor.
David: Definitely. There’s some talk of weather conditions later on so we’ll leave that one for the moment. Question 6 is another long one. Human sports like athletics and swimming focus heavily on sectional data or more specifically on split times data. A split time is the time it takes an athlete or race leader to cover a meaningful fraction of a race. The halfway split is commonly used because it indicates how evenly the athlete consumed energy over each half of the race distance.
Racing nirvana for me would include three one-hundredth of a second accurate times for each runner in the race covering reaction time, time it takes a runner to cross the starting line after the race, clock commences, split time, the elapsed time for each runner at the halfway mark, and the final time being the race time for each runner. Obviously, we’re a long way from this. However, suppose we did live in this nirvana, how does sectional data improve on my definition of racing nirvana and breaking races down into smaller sectionals than the first and second halves? Is that overkill or at least would result in diminishing returns? What am I missing?
Vince: That’s an interesting question. That’s one that I’ve done a lot of study over the last 25-30 years of human movement and athletics in particular, study of training. A lot of points can be sort of reanalyzed into thoroughbred racing to give you insight and views on performances of race horses. In terms of the actual times, the lap times, split times… that is very, very difficult to be able to transfer that in terms of advantage for horse racing. With the humans, when you talk about distance racing, if we talking 5000 metre race times, are we talking 10,000, are we talking marathons, or are we talking 400 metres or 200 metre sprints, are we talking 100 metre sprints?
I feel that what Drewfus needs to think about here is we only need to get down specifically when we talk about that contrast of comparisons. What distance are we talking about because there are so many variables. Once you start moving into middle distance athletics of running, there’s a completely different scenario in terms of tacticals, maneuvers that happen versus the sprints. The sprints, it’s all about explosion, getting that perfect reaction time, and getting out of those gates very, very fast or out of the blocks. A perfect example would have been let’s say on the weekend people would’ve watched Lankan Rupee.
One of the great assets that happened for Lankan Rupee on the weekend from that inside barrier was the fact that he just jumped so impressively out of the gates. It actually had a length head start as soon as they jumped. So in athletic terms, from a sprinting point of view, that’s a tremendous advantage. Then when we talk about 400 metre racing and we’re trying to get some comparison on times, everybody have got their lanes. It’s very interesting. Some individuals handle certain acuity of bends better than others in terms of their efficiency, their body structure. That also has complications. I’m not sure how the times would be of relevance in the way Drewfus has presented it to be of assistance in horse racing.
David: You just mentioned the handling of a bend. Have you looked closely at the exertion point and just how horses respond to whether they cuddled around a bend versus really being asked for an effort?
Vince: Horses have a lot of challenges for bends. Some handle them better than others. Again, it comes down to the circuit that they race on. We are in a situation where, I’m not sure exactly, but I do feel we have around 400 tracks in Australia. At one stage, we could have had more than 500 tracks in Australia. There’s a lot of race tracks. We typically run on more than 44 tracks a week. So it comes back down to some horses will handle some bends better than others depending on the acuity of the turns, how sharp the angle of movement is. If there’s a hill rise in it or not.
David: Question number 7 is a short one. What does the study of sectional time data indicate about horses that either love or loathe wet tracks?
Vince: That’s an interesting question. A very wide one because what we have to sort of understand here is when we talk about wet tracks, what type of track are we talking about? Are we talking about a track that’s just got marginal give in it or are we talking about one that’s very, very heavy in its grass. So we really need a very specific question for that to get absolute clarity because there’s a wide variance in terms of horses’ capabilities in handling the ground. Mainly it comes down to the stretch in the stride. One horse that we could again use as a perfect example if we want to look at what took place at Randwick on Saturday, see I only just studied the figures of Messene yesterday in a lot of detail and what I noticed is that its sectional splits against the benchmark in 4 sections of the race, 3 of the 4 sections were very even in terms of its speed.
What that showed me was the horse was not extending to its full acceleration when compared to other performance of this particular horse has and then compare it relative to that race and on that day. There was a lot of horses which were either decelerating enormously or accelerating with improvement. This particular horse maintained the same speed all the way through which gave me insight that this horse was not stretching out. That’s one way of looking and getting assessment through sectional times. You do get a level of insight on a horse’s ability or inability to handle the ground.
David: Okay. You mentioned the state of the track and whether you’re talking about a…
Vince: Well this is the big question here. This is what I mean about the wet tracks. The perfect example like Randwick. Around the back of the circuit right up until you approach the 800 metres, that was a genuine Heavy 9. From the situation, there was a point there between the 600 and 400, we had a Dead track. That’s one instance about the variance in the ground. It’s not even. It’s not the same all the way around the circumference. What we have happen in these situations, we have faster and slower parts of the track. If it is very, very heavy early, it’s going to have a lot more fatigue potentially on a horse late if they’re working in terms of if they go a lot quicker than what they would normally go in a high-pressure competitive race.
There’s a little bit of misjudgment about that ground. They will internally start to shorten their stride a lot quicker because of the work they’ve had to do through the first half or if that part of the ground is quicker and then it becomes slower, that also has a massive impact. Racing has a lot of dynamic challenges. Just because they put up a track, Dead 4 or Slow 7 or Heavy 8, does not mean that that’s how it is around the entire circumference the horse is running at.
David: Yeah I think up until not so long ago people would just assume that if it’s a Heavy 8, that it’s like that throughout. You’ve clearly shown that that’s not the case. I just had a question about energy exertion. So if there’s a track that has parts of it that are Dead, Slow, and Heavy, do you … I mean you’re not so much on the form side you’re producing the data that the form analysts use but how do you handle a horse or how should people handle a horse where say they’ve been really asked for an effort in the Heavy part of a track whereas say the winner of the race made up a lot of ground in the Dead part?
Vince: Yeah well, this is a big advantage. If one studies this close enough and has the relevant data to look into this area, one can get enormous benefit in terms of this understanding. I look at a lot of horses and when they exert themselves in a quicker part of the ground, they can have massive advantages. The perfect example would be Lucia Valentina at its last start victory. There was a section of the track which was probably about 4 lengths quicker than most of the other course and it was just so ironic in that particular race.
I don’t know whether it was Hugh Bowman’s ability to just have that feel or not. He was going very, very gentle speed through the worst part of the ground. In other words, getting maximum conserving of energy. Right at the point, whether we call this luck or that sense of knowing that he could feel the difference in the ground, Lucia Valentina actually accelerated in the best part of the ground and made tremendous ground up in a section of the course where it was actually superior in terms of ground conditions. This gave this runner enormous advantage.
Now other horses in that race they worked a lot harder through the heavier part and were disadvantaged. If you had that insight, that would be tremendous knowledge in terms of taking that form into future races. Particularly, we’ve seen a lot of racing in Sydney in recent times where, Randwick in particular, they have fast lanes and slow lanes. Knowing if you can watch a horse very carefully and time their runs or have the data that clearly demonstrates that they have taken a particular lane where we could have a 3-, 4-, or 5-length advantage. Again, that will all come back down to what sort of exertion they’ve used earlier. That’s a big insight and a massive advantage to the form students that look into this. This would give them a major, major advantage.
David: Rick’s all over it. Don’t worry about that.
Vince: I have no doubt. That’s one of the things about Rick I really enjoy. I recall Rick when I first spoke to him. He has absolutely immersed himself in understanding all facets of the game. Not just handicapping and rating. He has taken a very serious interest in understanding sectional times and the types of information that can be derived from it to give I guess himself and all the subscribers of Champion Picks an advantage.
David: Yeah very true. Question number 8 is when using the term benchmark standard, you’re referring to average sectional times for a given track and distance on Good or Dead going. Is that correct? And if correct …
Vince: No. That’s not correct. Everybody has their own philosophy about what a benchmark standard is. The typical benchmark standard that I believe is used and I will not say that everybody uses this because everybody has their own philosophy I guess, but in the main, people will use a benchmark standard based on the final time, at the 600 metre point. The 600 metre point would also create an early time and a late time.
Then they would base it if it’s on a Good track, they would start to build a benchmark for average times. Then you are either below or above that to give you the insight on the horses’ performance. That is subject to whether you are aware if that time is accurate or not. In the main, I would say there’s a small number of people that would have accurate figures and the majority of people wouldn’t. So one has to be very careful when there’s the discussion of benchmark time. So no I don’t use that philosophy in terms of benchmarking. I use that only from a ground point of view.
I’ll take a lead time through each section so I can get clarity around how good the condition of the ground is at various points because I typically take the time from the 1200 metre home in 200 or 400 metre increments. That gives me insight of the lead speed and what the assessment of the ground is. From that point of view, I would have a lead speed, which is purely based on good tracks to give me insight about what the ground condition is. As for benchmarking for individual runners and giving you assessment on class and their performance, I use a completely different method.
David: Do you want to talk about that? The first 4 across the line?
Vince: That’s correct. Basically, what I work on is I work on the philosophy of the first 4 runners across the line to give a bit more balance and structure in terms of having a more robust feel. In the beginning, a horse may win by 6 lengths and then the second and the third horse they could be another 3 or 4 lengths apart. So that’s a pretty big gap. Generally speaking, the margins are reasonably tight.
By putting the first 4 horses across the line, what it does is it gives me assessment of what the philosophy is of horses that are in the money. Because our betting and process of when we like to punt, it’s all based on typically the first 4 horses across the line. That is a fourth horse plays a role as well for people who are playing exotics and various other forms of betting.
Just like the third position is just as important as the first position in terms of whether they could be playing trifectas or standout type betting. I felt that for me to have a robust process moving forward and get a better equilibrium on the class of a runner, because that’s what we try to identify, I learnt very early in the game that if I was to work on the first 4 horses across the line, I have a much more robust process moving forward. That’s been the case. On very few occasions, I would say that I’ve been left hanging in the wrong description of what I felt the horse’s ability was.
David: Part B of the benchmark question was a couple of recent New South Wales stewards’ inquiries in the performance of jockeys have not only drawn on your expertise and data but have adopted your terminology and definitions in assessing the case against rides where runners had early sectionals way above, much faster than the average for that track and distance on tracks rated 3 through 5. Please comment on the suggestion that Racing New South Wales stewards’ adoption of the term ‘benchmark standard’, I’m not sure about this but, is likely to be confused with ‘benchmark handicapping’. When charging a jockey with excessive pace in the early sections of a race, the definition of excessive should be based on data that more closely matches the official benchmark of the race, track condition, and time of the race.
Vince: Not that I want to be answering this question for the stewards but I do have some insight for Racing New South Wales. They have their own benchmark and that they have been doing for well over 20 years. Yes, because Daily Sectionals does provide to the ATC Race Club’s data which can be available on their website. They obviously have the insight and there have been situations from time to time where they would ask for specific information to assist them in having more clarity.
In past, they might have overstated a situation or understated a situation. So they use that I guess as a separate reference to it. They do have their own standards. I have no doubt that they would use it relative to the conditions that apply to that track on the day. I’m pretty certain that’s what they would do. Really the times they’ve used the information and the various reports that I may have provided them is to give them further clarity or I guess confirm what they may have already thought.
David: Yep. Drewfus asked about benchmark standard as a term versus benchmark handicapping but that’s more of an issue for New South Wales rather than yourself.
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