Vince Accardi from Daily Sectionals is back for the second and final instalment of answering questions submitted by ‘Drewfus’. If you missed last week’s show you can listen here or read the full transcript.
Punting Insights You’ll Find
- Leaders vs on-pacers vs midfielders vs backmarkers.
- Whether weight is an under or over-rated factor.
- Why it’s important to keep data ‘pure’.
- How to assess gut-busting runs.
Vince’s Parting Advice:
” You have to be very careful what you take away when there is a discussion about benchmark time.”
Episode 42 : Answering Listener Questions with Vince Accardi
David Duffield: Question number 9. Race leaders race with a few advantages: they control the race pace. They avoid forward interference and minimise lateral interference and in the case of a solo leader, can run on the rail to minimise distance travel. Statistical data shows the following pattern: Midfielders win more than backmarkers. On pacers win more than midfielders but leaders do not win more than on pacers.
Vince Accardi: That’s right.
David: Given the advantages that leaders enjoy, what explains this apparent anomaly?
Vince: Usually I guess it’s a little bit like a competitive athlete. If you can stalk your competitor and you can mould into their race shape and hopefully that race shape is of a softer nature, then that could technically give you an advantage. That also applies in horse racing. But aso what it means is sometimes the horse sitting in second position is actually controlling the race and not the leader.
Because that horse is of a superior quality to the leader, then what happens is the horse that’s sitting in second place can stalk that leader but also keep all its competitors behind it at bay whether it be inside them or outside them and therefore having a level of control because it has superior class in terms of its speed capability to be able to win the event and it can be very apparent very early.
From a leader’s point of view, unfortunately unless you get on to certain tracks where they’re heavily leader biased or on a race-day where that can be a tremendous advantage, yes leaders do not win very often. It’s not because a runner is lacking of ability because we have seen some of the greatest horses of all time be able to do that and that’s horses like Might and Power as an example, who could just lead all the way and compound the competition into the ground through sheer speed. We also see a horse like Vo Rogue which would be another runner that could go to the front and just absolutely compound the competition. There’re many others as well.
They are in the minority and a lot comes to do with the lead speed is it challenges the rider sometimes more than the horse. The ability to be able to manage on-pace is a skill within itself and particularly leading. So I would attribute a lot of it to the rider and then I guess the capacity of the racehorse’s athletic and aerobic capability.
David: Yeah and we touched on aerodynamics before. That has to play a part. I mean if you look at cycling, whether it’s a velodrome, the Olympics, or Tour de France, you can see the ‘suck run’. If they’re getting cover, they can just peel out and come over the top of them. Surely that applies to horse racing.
Vince: It does. We see it in many situations when Moonee Valley a fair bit. They get to the front. They have just tremendous advantage. It’s the contour of the track, camber in track, could all of a sudden given themselves a 2 or 3 lengths advantage. Therefore, the horses behind them have to probably work, instead of working say 0.3 or 0.4 of a second faster, they’ve now got to work like a second quicker to come right over the top. Then we’ve also seen those situations at Randwick when the rail has been out 8 metres it’s almost impossible to get past them.
David: I had a very successful punter on the podcast pretty early on, and he said he was willing to talk about most things but that was actually something that was off the record, the aerodynamics of it all because he thinks it gives him an edge. So he’s obviously studied that in a lot of detail.
Vince: For sure. No doubt.
David: Question number 10. This is a horse specific one so hopefully you’ve got your computer fired up there. Fort Sumter trained by Pat Farrell. This horse has run third, first, and first at its last 3 starts. The 2 wins were at big odds over the 1200 metres at Warwick Farm. Prior to that run, it had been beaten almost 12 lengths over 1200 metres at Rosehill. I’m interested in what sectional data indicates about the pacing of that Rosehill race given the Slow 6 track. Specifically, what does Fort Sumter’s data indicate that might have allowed a consumer of Daily Sectional’s reports to make a reasonable excuse for that horse’s poor performance?
Vince: Yeah. Well I guess what I’d probably like to do with that is I’d probably need to spend some time analyzing that and it would be unfair for me to talk about that in great detail unless he was the owner of the horse.
David: I deliberately haven’t given you any of those questions in advance because I just wanted to get your immediate response.
Vince: If he was the owner of the horse, I’d probably be very happy to give some intricate details. I’d probably feel uncomfortable to discuss in detail about the horse because I’m not saying that I would or wouldn’t offend people but I feel that that’s very, very specific singling out one horse and that’s probably not a good thing to do. I’m happy to provide information to that person if he’s the owner of the horse.
David: So in general terms, if you’re talking about a horse that’s been beaten a dozen lengths and then comes out and wins, what would be some of the indicators you’d be looking for? I’m pretty sure you’re going to mention race pace and fitness as a couple of big factors.
Vince: They’ll be very important aspects for sure. There is no doubt about that. That’ll play a very important role. Then also one of the things that we don’t talk about a lot is the mid-race exertion. That particularly for horses that are fresh in their campaign, if there’s a big mid-race surge, that can have a catastrophic impact on their finishing capability.
They are running along, they’re not rock hard in terms of race fit and then they find themselves where they’ve been asked for a massive exertion of speed which sometimes could involve like a 2-second increase in race pace. Actually, if that happens mid-race and there’s still 400 metres, they will be in a situation by the time they got to the 400, they’re on empty. They’ll be full of lactic acid. They’d be crawling for the line and therefore making their run look far inferior than what it really was.
David: There’s another horse specific question here about Intimate Moment trained by Ron Quinton. Says 4 starts ago, it won over the mile at Warwick Farm in a pedestrian time. Subsequently, it has won 2 of 3 starts and the latter was in a Group 3 at a big price. What does sectional data show about the Warwick Farm run that was the 1600 metre win that might indicate the win was stronger than the race time indicates? Alternatively, would a race like that slip through the net in regards to spotting a strong performance.
Vince: Okay. Intimate Moment was the horse that you were referring to, is that right?
David: Yeah, and 4 starts ago, the mile win at Warwick Farm was in a pretty slow time.
Vince: Okay. Well, this is the thing I guess with a lot of horses as well. Race pace also governs to a large extent the capability of where they’re going to finish in a race. Because some horses don’t have fast acceleration when they need to just quickly sprint. They’re a lot more one paced or they have limited capabilities on how fast they can accelerate. That definitely comes down to the quality of the horse.
Then you’ll have other horses where they’ve just got a high cruising speed and they can run at that speed for long distance and that long distance could be for a sustained 600 or 800 metres which is a long, long way in a race where many horses only possess a 200 or 400 metre sprint. They have differing levels of that sprint as well which makes it quite challenging. I guess the genetic breakdown of that would play a big, big role in terms of what would’ve happened to them. As for Intimate Moment and looking at that, do you have the date of that last run?
David: I don’t, sorry. It says 4 runs back.
Vince: 4, yeah. I guess it doesn’t really help me a lot does it?
David: All right we’ll keep moving then. Question number 12 is a 4 parter, and it’s to do with a chat you’ve had with Racetrack Ralphy, the old Weekly Waffle. Part A is weight is all about, this is a quote from you, “Weight is all about threshold as opposed to what they’re carrying.” Drewfus says, “That’s not correct. The effect of increasing weight is linear.
There is no magic number in kilos beyond which a horse just cannot win. That’s one of the myths of Australian racing.” An article, the impact of weight on the performance of a racehorse, explains how weight affects running times. Presumably you would suppose the author of that article is incorrect, and if so, how?
Vince: Well, that’s interesting Drewfus about the word the myth and all that. This is very interesting. I find it fascinating when people say things like that. Threshold of weight is a very important aspect. When we talk about threshold, we need to understand threshold of weight, under what circumstances? If you’re a small horse and you go from 50 kilos to 60 kilos, can you carry it? Of course, you can carry. But as you may already be weighing 400 kilos, so now your weight is 410 kilos.
It comes down to the rider and the way they use the balance of their weight. Is the rider carrying lead or not carrying a lot more lead? What’s the situation there? Threshold in terms of weight plays a massive role in the exertion of speed for a horse. If they’re in a fast run race or a slow run race has a dramatic impact. So the threshold of weight is extremely important. I’m not certain that that’s not the case. From all my studies that is very, very important and a very specific skill.
If one understands that in a lot of detail, they will have tremendous advantage. I’ve seen many, many horses which I’m not willing to disclose in detail about the threshold of their capabilities. When they have weight changing situations under certain circumstances of race shapes, it dramatically impacts their performance.
David: What about unlucky runs? Part B was if a horse is blocked or checked in a 1200 metre race and you ask, “So what happened to the other 1150 metres,” that was the quote. Drewfus says, “What happened is that the runner ran well enough to finish within a fraction of a length of the winner.” He believes that exaggerating the effect of being blocked or checked isn’t good but neither is ignoring it. Why go from one extreme to the other?
Vince: In the long term, when we look at a long-term philosophy and the measurement of class of a horse because ultimately that’s what it comes back to and understanding their capabilities on any given day, first of all in that race if they had no luck and couldn’t get out and they’ve run second does not mean that they’ll automatically win at their next start? What’s to say that they’re going to not have that same problem with their start? So there’s no relativity to that at all.
Where it is the relativity, is all that distance it’s covered up until that point because let’s say a horse that gets checked at the beginning, is that not more of an impact than is a horse that finishes in or is that just another reason that a rider may give to the trainer about the nonperformance of the horse or not. So we’ve got to be very careful when we look at that situation.
I totally disagree with that particular point in the sense that ultimately, it has no relevance to anything at all other than that’s what’s happened under that circumstances because there is no guarantee that that will be repeated or not repeated when it steps out next and the race circumstance can be very different as well.
David: The market is pretty good at factoring luck or lack of luck into their next race. Last time I looked, I’d been through 5 or 6 years of data. Basically whether the horse had been in the stewards’ report last start or not. There was no difference in just pure profitability. So not doing the form but just stewards’ report yes or stewards’ report no. There was no difference at all as to their market performance next start.
Vince: Correct. You’re so right that makes a lot of sense David because it’s just no different. Here we go, we had Royal Descent on the weekend traveling so much additional ground. Would that be considered to be more disadvantage or less disadvantage to the horse getting checked or blocked in the last 50 metres.
Vince: Yeah. I think that’s the answer.
David: Exactly. So paraphrasing, “A jockey is 50 something kilos, a race horse is 500 something kilos. The jockey isn’t big and strong enough to control the horse.” Instead you claim that natural running style dictates where horses settle in races. Let’s divide races into 3 parts, the ramp phase from the race start to cruising or settling speed. This phase will be of somewhat different duration for each runner on their early race speed. Then the plateau phase, the middle section of the race where the speed of all runners is quite similar. Then the divergence phase when the speed of individual runners starts to significantly diverge from the pack average. If jockeys can’t control their mounts in the ramp phase, in which of the 2 other phases can jockeys control their mounts in a meaningful way or do you see jockeys as being passengers more than drivers?
Vince: Well, in some cases they are passengers when there are young horses. They’re still very inexperienced.
David: I can name a few passengers if you want!
Vince: Yeah. Just know I’ll be happy for you to do that. There are situations, there’s no doubt, where they do become passengers. Sometimes, they become passengers for negative reasons and not positive reasons. This is a situation largely dictated by a horse. Then we have a situation where there could be specific instructions. The specific instructions is: we want this horse to go back to learn how to settle but the horse wants to go forward because it’s still learning its craft and therefore creating a number of problems which could have an impact late.
Then we have the horses where they’re very well mannered and they’re willing to do whatever the rider sort of within reason asks it to do based on its capability. Sometimes when a horse runs out of its capability and it can’t do anymore, well that’s where the horse or the jockey makes errors. I think the jockeys play a massive role in judgment, but the horses also do play a role in terms of their temperament.
This is such a wide variance that one must profile every single horse in its own elements and understand the characteristics and nuances to have an exact answer. This would not be one that you could just sort of answer with any clarity without going into horse by horse. This is what profiling a horse is. It is critically important.
David: So the second last question is, re gut busting or tough runs. What exactly does this refer to? Does 3 wide without cover in a race with a single turn count as a gut buster? What about 2 wide racing outside the leader? All horses must undergo a recovery period after a race and most of this is normally within 1 to 3 days of racing regardless of how fatigued the horse became during the race and assuming that it wasn’t injured by the run due to being well below race fitness.
There is no third category that might be referred to as ‘flattened’ where the horse is in a limbo state between extreme but short-term fatigue on one hand to being injured after running with an inadequate-for-racing fitness level on the other. Please explain how a run couldn’t fit into either of those categories but still result in a horse performing well below its best for the remainder of its preparation.
Vince: Yes. Well, that’s a good question. The reality is when we sort of sit down and think about this, gut busting runs, I don’t sit there and say because it’s 3 wide all race and this is what racing has looked at for years when people studied videos so it was cut dry with no cover. I guess Royal Descent would have been another perfect example of that on the weekend. It was extremely wide for the majority of the race with no cover and still ran second. Now would that run be a gut buster or not, that’s the question.
Then whether that would have an impact in their future race starts for the rest of the campaign or not. The terminology for me for gut busting is we can probably bring it back down to the human element and bring some relevance to it. If we’re at a situation where we’re going to go out and train and perhaps we’ve just sort of done some very, very light building work for a period of 3 months, 4 months just to get back to skeletal condition into a place where we can handle some pressure and then we go out and we have a moderate run. Let’s call that the barrier trial where we’re doing some pre-training work.
We’re just asked to run 800 metres of the circuit just within yourself. No sort of hard paced work. If you can go 1 minute per 400 metres, that’s the race pace we’d like you to go even though your capability might be 50 seconds. So if you do that and you have that performance, and then you come out and you run that circuit. Now if you run let’s say that circuit of 1 minute for 400 metres or 2 laps in 2 minutes and now all of a sudden what we’re going to do is we’re going to ask you to come out and we’re going to put a pacemaker in place.
All of a sudden, you’re going to run that first lap in 48 seconds, which is actually reaching your absolute maximum capability of your 50 seconds per each lap. That means you’re now asked to run probably 2 seconds faster than what your pace is for 2 laps on 1 lap. What exertion would that have on you on the second lap other than deteriorating time? Secondly, how would you pull up in terms of the stress in terms of your muscles and your body fatigue once that happens? Generally speaking, it would take many, many days to recover from that.
If you have a quick backup into another run so in other words, that was my first real race that I went into and I’ve had to exert that much energy. Then if I was asked to come back a week later and run again, not at that same brutal speed, I would most likely feel a lot more lethargic than I would under different circumstances. Now depending on the extremity, I think there was a situation with Overreach when it came out and won the Blue Diamond then went to 1400 metres. I don’t have the figures right at the top of my mind right now but that was amazing speed it went to. It’s yet to come back to the races.
That’s extreme pressure, gut busting. Not only was it was well above the benchmark but it might have been a level that was so far above that sometimes horses never come back. I’m not saying Overreach will never come back, but it may take a lot longer than what it normally did because they can also be gutted and not want to race anymore, to push themselves to that extreme.
David: All right, just to finish up then. By dismissing or downplaying the impact of weight carried, jockeys and detrimental race events, I’m going to suggest you’re too interested in keeping your data pristine, a word that you’ve used yourself in Champion Picks webinars and not interested enough in tweaking the data to reflect significant real world variables. Compare your purist philosophy to an example from athletics. Usain Bolt’s 100 metre raw time in the London Olympic final was 9.64 seconds.
His official time is 9.63 because the raw time was adjusted to account for wind speed and direction. There is no belief in leaving the raw time data untouched in the athletics world. Why don’t you take the same approach with racing?
Vince: That’s a good question. On a personal level, of course I would adjust the figures but I’m not going to do that for others because everyone has their own philosophy and interpretation of what that adjustment should be. Therefore, I like to leave it in pristine nature and its raw format so each individual can use his own brain capacity and capabilities and skill and not rely on others to provide that for them.
This will have a lot more intellect in the game and that doesn’t bring you to subjectivity of individual’s situations where they can attack it. So I agree with that point. I would’ve only made the adjustment by half a length and not one length. So why did you make it one length? I wouldn’t even want to enter that element of context. I like to keep in the pristine raw nature so each individual can use and exercise their own skill and their brains that they were given. It’s up to their intellect to determine what they should be. Of course, as an individual I have many different ways of interpreting but that’s my skill.
David: Yeah. Regarding Usain Bolt, I haven’t researched this but my understanding was the wind, they have a threshold for wind.
Vince: That’s right.
David: They’ve adjusted the time, that would just be … instead of like a raw time, they’ve got the real time because they’re working with such small amounts. I didn’t think they adjusted the time for wind. They won’t recognize a world record if there’s a significant …
Vince: That’s correct. That’s very important because world records shouldn’t be that easily broken. If they are, they’ll want to make sure it wasn’t because there was a tremendous wind assistance which happens from time to time. It can be significant over a short course particularly if the wind is right behind them, it can make a very big impact of 0.2 or 0.3 in some cases.
David: Yes. I’m pretty sure I suppose it’s binary as in it’s either they’ll recognize the time yeah or if the threshold of the wind is too strong, they’ll say no. I don’t think they adjust it by 0.02 or 0.03 depending on the strength of the wind, but I’ll be corrected there if I’m wrong.
Vince: No. That’s a fair point, David. What we do with the IVR’s was actually one of the things that we want to see right at the beginning. He wanted to see an adjusted IVR figure for the daily track average and we do provide that. Ultimately, again, because I like to give it out in their raw nature because there are just so many variables and he is the variable. If I feel that the track between the 1000 metre mark to the 600 metre mark is 5 lengths slow, what should the adjustment be?
Now my interpretation of that could be very different from the next because he might say, “Well, hang on. On the fence it was only 2 lengths disadvantage and the horse that was 5 wide he was only 4 lengths disadvantage and the horse in the middle he was actually 5. Seriously, this opens up various serious interpretation. That’s why profiling of every individual horse and making the fine tuning gives you the ultimate insight to give you that advantage on race day. Mind you, every race has its own unique characteristics and it is irrelevant in many cases to what happened the start before.
David: And really your job is about giving the best, the most accurate and most insightful data around. It’s up to the user to then work out how they’re going to attack an upcoming race with that data.
Vince: It’s very important. The last thing that I want to do is, first of all, of course, I’m always happy to give my views and opinion if that can help. Certainly don’t feel that it’s necessary to get involved in debates. I have a lot of respect for all form students of racing or any other sport that they may study. I pay a lot of respect to them because it takes time, effort, and work and the last thing I’m going to do is try and insult their intelligence and say, “No. This is what it should be.” That’s what it is because people can too quickly get themselves in that framework. I’d rather say, “Here’s the real data. Look at the videos. You interpret the best way you can. You actually may end up having a better judgment than me.” That’s the great part of this game.
David: Most definitely. Well. That’s the end of the cross-examination. Drewfus had said that he is a fan of your work but he wanted to play the devil’s advocate, and I think he’s done that well.
Vince: He has. He’s asked some very, very skilled questions. Perhaps in a number of ways, I wasn’t able to answer some of those points perhaps in the way he would’ve liked. This is unfortunately, I guess if I was a really private guy that no one knew and no one ever spoke to, sometimes you can come out and say things a little bit more easily than the other times. It’s just amazing how the world works and how human behavior may be.
David: No. I think you’ve covered it well and he’s exceptionally keen and he’s desperate to learn, so there should be more of it. We’ll leave it there for this week, Vince. I’m sure we’ll get you back on again soon enough. All the very best. Thanks everyone for listening in.
Vince: As always, David, thank you so much and the team of Champion Picks, I loved my time.
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