After three weeks of data, we implemented today some slight modifications in the Breeders' Cup final handicap weight program. In addition, please read my other post about race conditions and race classifications because the two threads will tie together.
Blue restricted tournaments (which are associated with a horse's birth speed rating) and red restricted tournaments (which is associated with a horse's limitation as to where he can enter based on previous trainer tournament races) will, by July 1, no longer be handicapped final races. I do not have the exact date - it all depends on the classification program we are implementing, which will be discussed in the other thread - but for now, we are estimating a July 1 date. More on that, again, in the other thread.
Handicap weight adjustments have been made based on several observations we have noticed. Though we personally do not believe that a few pounds here and there will really have any detrimental effect on any horse, we have seen in some cases younger horses specifically carrying weight above what they carried in the preliminaries appear to be hindered in the Breeders' Cup finals. Though we're not sure of this, based on the results we've seen, and some other observations, we are making some modifications. The handicap weights in the Breeders' Cup finals are not to try to make all horses equal. That is not the objective, under no circumstances. The handicap weights are just to assist the horses that have a lesser chance of winning. It still depends on them getting a perfect trip and being positioned in the right spot depending on the pace setup.
Looking through 60-something races handicapped by players, the favorites, in most cases the high-weighted horses, are winning at about 36-37%. This is very acceptable to us and in line with industry standards. When we see the number drop off is when the high-weighted horse carries substantially more weight than he did in the preliminary races, especially the younger horses. In this case, the winning percentage drops to about 29%. Though I admit that we still have not gathered a lot of data, we do feel there is something to these results.
With this said, here are the changes that are now in effect for Breeders' Cup final races handicapped by the players.
To summarize, the maximum weight any horse can carry has been lowered. The minimum weight any horse can carry has been slightly increased. Basically, we've closed the gap a little bit between low and high weight. In all 2-year-old tournaments, the maximum weight spread can be 7 pounds and the minimum has to be 4. In 3-year-old only tournaments, the maximum weight spread if 9 pounds, but if the horses are very competitive, we're only requiring a 4-pound spread. The same goes for tournaments for 4-year-olds and up with the exception that if 3-year-olds are in a race (3-year-olds and up), they could receive a potential 2-pound additional advantage against the older horses, creating a maximum spread of a possible 11 pounds under any race scenario in the Breeders' Cup finals. This has now been lowered from the current 14-pound maximum spread.
We believe these changes, though not significant, address the one or two questions we have. It is important that the handicappers play a role, but it's also important that good horses are not penalized for being good. In the early days of our handicap program, we had spreads of up to 30 pounds. Obviously, those days are long gone. Contrary to some idiotic comments we read in the forums, we don't care who wins the tournaments. What we do care about is that our results emulate, as closely as we can, the real world of horse racing. With an approximate 37% win rate for favorites, we're pretty darn close. One other statistic that we find very interesting is that one of the top three handicapped horses in the Breeders' Cup finals is winning the Breeders' Cup finals at about 80%. This tells us that for the most part there is consistency and the handicappers are doing a good job and we're moving in the right direction.