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The Dark Horse

It's All In Black and White (and Red) – Part III

Like many three-part series (see Back to the Future, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, etc.) I have decided to put the finishing touches on an exhaustive and thorough wagering analysis.

This is the third and final part in my series regarding calculating ROI. If you remember the first part of the series (CLICK HERE), I discussed an in-depth analysis of three years’ worth of races to see if I was actually making money and in which categories. In that analysis I learned that only 9% of my impulse bets turned a profit, that impulse (non-handicapped) bets cost me a lot of money over the years, and that I suck at straight wagers and perform much better with exotics. That analysis also provided a look at how I performed at certain tracks and with certain types of bets at certain tracks. The second part of the series (CLICK HERE) took a deeper dive into other categories looking for specific situations which scored large ROI. Here in Part III of my series of blogs, I revisit previous categories, break everything down year by year, and add a wealth of other categories, some of which are downright ridiculous! Would you expect anything less?

As I’ve said before, my wife would say I never do anything half-assed, so I decided to take an even deeper dive with the stats. I again poured through chart after chart, hour after hour, to see how my wagers performed in many other categories such as month, age, sex, and odds: all broken down by year.

Here we go with round 3.

In explaining the charts a little, the return on investment (ROI) is represented as a percentage.
  • -100% would be a total loss
  • 0% would be break-even
  • +100% would be doubling my money

Also in this analysis I again did NOT include my impulse wagers, tips, or going after bridgejumpers. What you see here are only my handicapped wagers (which will obviously make my numbers look better!) And as I have mentioned before, horizontal wagers span many different classes, surfaces, and distances. I haven’t found a good way to break those up and represent ROI by the different categories. So actually, for example, my ROI on turf would be better than indicated. 

Here in the first slice of data I revisit the types of bets made and also group them into categories.


When comparing just straight bets to exotic wagers, we obviously see where the money is being made. There is a 100% difference between the two! All these years I thought win bets was where it’s at, and obviously I was wrong. Is my handicapping getting worse? Am I just being lazy and not working enough to single on one horse to win?  Without revealing the number of wagers made, exactas are where my highest ‘N’ is over the years. It truly looks like I should focus most efforts there. Yes, the ROI on Pick 4’s is quite high, but the actual win percentage is about 10%!  So here’s the question: live and die by big Pick 4 scores, or have a steady and growing ROI through exactas.  Discuss.

Here is a view again where I break down the amount wagered (total stake for any one wager) by group. The results are stunning:

As I’ve increased the amount wagered over the years, the ROI has increased quite a bit. The lower-stake wagers have gotten much worse. In fact, anything between $1 and $10 wagered has been in a downward spiral! I’m interested in knowing why this is the case. Strange!

This third slice of data looks at ROI by year, month, and day. 


So yes, I am having an excellent 2013 which has more than made up for 2010-2012. As a side note, my dad and I were quite successful in the 80’s into the early 90’s. Then I stepped away for a few years and apparently it took me a while to get back into it again. But I digress. As you can tell, over the years Friday and Saturday have been my best days of the week. However, before you get excited and think “I should see who Dark Horse picks for the Breeders’ Cup, look at the analysis by month. Wow. I stink in November! Yes, historically the Breeders’ Cup has not been kind to me and I’m hoping to turn it around this year!

And here in revisiting the state-bred races, you can see I’m consistently decent with the Illinois-breds! That makes sense with my Chicago connections and all…


This next slice is quite interesting to me as this is the breakdown by race condition.

Whoa! My performance in claiming races of ANY kind is, and has been, awful! 2010’s figures seem to be the outlier in this data!




With the ROI in stakes and allowance races being much higher, I think it’s safe to say I should avoid any and all claiming races at all costs! And maiden claimers? As my friend E would say… “puh!”

Now speaking of race conditions, I have a breakdown of ROI by allowance conditions…

…and claiming conditions…


Whoa. Apparently I like the N3X condition a lot! I really ought to just stick with what works!

Now let’s take another look at ROI by surface.











Again I know the turf stats say ROI is negative, however if I were to add the Pick 4 I hit at CNL this summer (all turf races), it would be a positive ROI. I sure do like the “off” tracks though, both dirt and turf!  And I’m not as bad on the polytrack as I had thought!

Now here’s a look at races by distance.











Much, much better at routes and not so much at sprints. Should I just target 9 ½ and 10 furlong races? No…. well maybe….I’ll be sure to check with Derek Simon again to discuss the back-testing fallacy. 

Again, it’s no secret to those who know me well that I perform better with higher-quality and stakes-graded horses. The numbers don’t lie! Who would I play a cheap claiming race on purpose?

And the breakdown by tracks shows, again, that I perform well at Keeneland, Colonial, Churchill, and the now defunct Hollywood Park. I’m very close to break-even at Hawthorne, Fair Grounds, Dubai, and Monmouth and not too far off at Arlington and Canterbury as you can see below.

All this time I was thinking I was decent at Gulfstream and Woodbine. I couldn’t be more wrong! I then wanted to look to see maybe if it was a specific surface at a specific track. Here were the results.


As you can see in some cases there is a difference at a single track between the surfaces, at least for me. Next, as I went back through all of these charts for a third time, I wanted to see how I fared in certain categories like age, sex, odds, and even, yes, WEATHER!  Here is the analysis of ROI by age and sex.

I’m much better at 2-year-old races than I had originally thought, and I’m also quite decent at races for just 3-year-olds. However when they add the “and up” condition, my performance is not as good. 

Now here’s the category that I think is most telling. I wondered (based on past conversation) what my ROI truly is depending on who won the race. So I calculated returns based on the odds of the winner of the race. I didn’t calculate the ROI of my wagers based on the odds of my selections for one main reason: it was too difficult.  Sure on a straight bet that would have been easy. But what about an exacta box or a daily double? Not as easy. However I digress. Here are the stats.


Now this has to make sense, right? ROI increases as the odds of the winner increases.  Wouldn’t that be the case for everybody? I’m interested in your take on this.  When the favorite or low odds horses win however my ROI is toast. Is this because I’m chasing larger prices way too often? Does anyone, besides Big E, win when the chalk wins? 

And here’s my favorite category of them all!


Showery versus Rainy. Discuss. (And snowing for you Garnet!)

Finally I leave you with this. A plethora of meaningful(less) categories to help you determine whether or not to trust my picks when I post them publicly. Use them wisely, and try not to use my selections in the Breeders’ Cup. Kentucky Derby, yes.  Breeders’ Cup, no.










































































































































Well there you have it!  I hope you enjoyed this three-part series.  I’m interested in hearing your feedback, advice, stories, and calculations! 


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Older Comments about It's All In Black and White (and Red) – Part III...

I'd love to see others' stats as well.
Thanks so much guys, it was fun to do and I learned a lot!
Every comment is appropriate...except Travel_Vic's...who shall from this point forth be known as HRN_Troll. Chris, this is an amazingly dedicated piece of work. Like Andy, I congratulate you for having the dedication to put it all togather. It can only make you a better player. (Dude)
Cpsoren121, very nice data, I enjoyed your three part trilogy. It is very good to keep track of your bets.. Every single one of my professional colleagues at Laurel keep track of their wagers, and so do I. I would keep doing the tracking, as it helps you know your strengths and weaknesses. Best of luck with your future wagers.
I just copy and paste formulas. In some cases the results are null. It's really not that big of a deal.
why do you waste your time with null vaues..Could easily come up with a category "How many Whooly Mamoth had you run into, or Norwals and it would accomplish the same thing NOTHING
I'll go ahead and start guessing 3 to 1.
Actually, I rarely bet to show at all. I focused on win bets, but found I'm better at excatas, pick 4's and doubles after I did this analysis!!
I notice that you have wagered on muchos categories of races. Anyway, what is the ratio of your win-show bets? How much more do you bet to show than to win, if you do that? Interesting to me because I used to talk with a guy who said he always bet win- show and not place. He had some good reason for doing this, but I didn't really understand his explanation at the time.
this is some amazingly detailed research. All new (and maybe some of us seasoned) 'cappers should try keeping track of their bets for at least a few months to see where their strengths/weaknesses lie. I'm sure you'll turn more of a profit now that you know what your strengths are. Great job!
Showery v Rainy. Discuss.
Wow, Chris, that is an amazingly detailed analysis. You are a better person than I, keeping track of every bet you make!

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 (Whoa - it's me - the DARK HORSE)
Greetings and welcome to my "dark" blog!  I have been a fan of horse racing since I was about 12 years old.  Growing up in Minnesota, my dad would take me and my brothers to Canterbury Downs and I would practically beg to go every weekend!!  I made my first "big" score there hitting the win, place, and exacta in the same race at age 14 (pulled in $84 with horses named Railroad Red and Racers Dream!).  I even had a poster in my bedroom of Lost Code winning the 1987 St. Paul Derby!
While finishing school in Chicago, I spent every possible moment at Arlington Park with my dad.  We took the time to develop computer programs (on the ever popular Lotus 1-2-3 for DOS) to try to find patterns and handicap races more accurately.  My dad taught me a lot about handicapping races, paying particular attention to class moves!

Since then, I have become more involved with horse racing each passing year through a variety of different media-based roles. Once deemed the "second best racing ambassador in Chicago" (hey I've been called worse), 
I now reside in the Mid-Atlantic Region of the USA and will be covering many different aspects of racing - in my unpredictable DARK HORSE STYLE!  
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Kentucky Downs

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