Thoroughbred Horse Racing at Santa Anita Park
While of no less importance than the Primary or Secondary Factors, we view the Unknown Handicapping Factors as "Entelechy": Potential Existence versus Existing Reality.
"There is no principal difference between natural perception and intellectual knowledge."
(Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz)
The attempt to quantify Unknown Handicapping Factors (Entelechy) is a novel approach in thoroughbred horse race handicapping. Arising from a clear understanding that in the modern day, due to the many complexities involved; whenever thoroughbred horses are racing, there will be Unknown Factors at play.
That which one perceives through one's five senses. More specifically, relating to a horse race, from the handicapper's perception of existing reality; in the terms of all that is perceivable from interpretation of the past performances of a race horse, for the purpose of quantifying its probability of winning in the future.
The handicapper's view of a race, after the handicapping process has been completed, upon which an opinion shall develop as to which horse is the most probable winner in the field - Existing Reality.
In other words, when handicappers evaluate past performance data, they form a view of the race and how each horse is likely to perform. Since the handicapper's view is formed by that which she or he is capable of perceiving during the handicapping process, itself largely influenced by the visible information contained in the past performances; it's in these specific terms we refer to Existing Reality.
At this crucial juncture, whence handicapping has ceased yet as opinion develops, prior to the point when the handicapper turns horse player; it can be useful to consider the force of Entelechy. Simply stated, there will be additional factors at play, which although not visible on the surface of past performance data, may nevertheless prove to exert substantial effect upon the outcome of a race; and should therefore be part of a handicapper's view of Existing Reality.
Entelechy is the force that transforms Existing Reality into Potential Existence. A natural life force, present in continuum throughout the lifetime of every living organism in the universe. From the cellular level, where science has proven that living cells will actually move towards other beneficial cells and move away from toxic cells, to more complex life forms, plants, trees, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, insects, animals - to include thoroughbred race horses and humans; we are all here to seek our Potential Existence, and in fact, whether consciously or not are actively engaged in doing so, during every moment of every day, for as long as we remain living.
By natural process, all living things seek to fulfill their optimum Potential Existence. Entelechy is the force that morphs a seed into a sproutling, into a plant, into a tree; and the same force that should a plant have the misfortune of growing in a shady place, will cause it to grow branches extending outward in search of life giving sunlight, that it may fulfill its Potential Existence of becoming a tree no matter what.
Entelechy causes the birds to fly south for the winter and the whales to migrate oceans, it's the reason why humans learned to manipulate fire; and the same reason why you will never see a horse walk over and stick its hoof into an open flame. It would not be an optimal Potential Existence, therefore a horse will not naturally seek to place its hoof into a fire.
The force which makes a purebred American Pit Bull Terrier invincible by a dog of any other breed, game to fight if necessary to death when faced by an equally game opponent of the same breed, make no mistake; is the same force that makes a thoroughbred race horse run faster than all the others.
For in those brief moments of their respective lives, when the pit bull is fighting against an equally game opponent, and when the thoroughbred runs head and head down the stretch competing for superiority against an equally matched adversary; it's the reason why they came to this earth and they are in the very act of fulfilling their Potential Existence. Entelechia Prima. We all seek Potential Existence.
For this discussion the handicapper's view of a race horse shall be referred to as Existing Reality, and Potential Existence shall refer to the question of whether or not the horse will fulfill its potential of winning.
Additionally in specific handicapping terms, we attempt to measure Potential Existence as a degree of improvement or regression to be expected in the performance of a race horse, either above or below that which is reflected or visible in past performances.
Explained another way, every day handicappers consider and eliminate horses based on the visible information contained in past performance data; all too often they eliminate solid contenders at overlaid odds and the story repeats itself at thoroughbred racetracks throughout America.
Race horses with positive Potential Existence ratings might include second time starters, Maiden Special Weight dropping to Maiden Claiming, a bred for turf maiden touching the stuff for the first time, a three year old with an improving Beyer pattern, a four year old coming back from a layoff of one year or more, a sprinter stretching to a route with strong pace ratings, a horse that has won six out of six times down the hill at Santa Anita, a Grade 1 horse in peak form owning solid Beyers earned at the Grade 1 level; apparently, due to the complex variations present in thoroughbred horse racing, depending upon the day, this list could be infinite.
Horses with negative Potential Existence ratings may include, a horse which obviously can't win at the level and needs a drop such as a $20,000 Maiden Claimer on its 11th attempt, a Maiden Special Weight horse with more than eight attempts or an N1X Allowance horse after six or seven tries; a race horse five years or older entered in a Claiming race while returning from a layoff of six months or longer, a Claiming horse entered at the $50,000 level or higher which has never won a race above the $32,000 dollar level, a horse at clear disadvantage in Speed or Pace, a race horse in declining form; again, the complexities and varied conditions of thoroughbred horse racing can make this exercise a never ending one.
Entelechy is always present but circumstances will be the key. The Maiden Special Weight horse dropping into a Maiden Claiming race after dueling for the lead, tiring in the stretch and holding fourth up close - comment: "edged for 3rd"; is much a different wagering proposition than the race horse finishing a dozen lengths back in ninth place - comment: "chased, no rally".
Something's Different Today
Entelechy and the Conditioner of a Thoroughbred Race Horse
Since the trainer of a thoroughbred race horse is an elemental component of its future development, the trainer's actions will be tied directly to the Potential Existence of a race horse by the law of cause and effect.
Moreover, in the process of preparing a race horse for competition and placing it where it can win or be competitive, trainers will often maneuver horses for strategic reasons according to short and long term objectives; thus by observing closely the actions of a trainer, the astute handicapper can gain insight to a horse's Potential Existence today.
Look for signs, possible indicators of an elevated or diminished Potential Existence, examine carefully whenever something's different today. A jump or drop in class, a surface switch, an increase or cut back in distance, an equipment or medication change, a significant weight allowance or any combination thereof.
A change in jockey, better yet, a change back to the last jockey who won on the horse; even better, a leading jockey gets off another horse to ride this one. Better still, the leading jockey of the meet chooses to ride this horse in favor of some other horse which she or he rode to victory in its last race.
There may be early action on the tote board, the jockey might skip the post parade to warm up a horse before the race; depending upon circumstance, the possible signs will be as many as the vast array thoroughbred horse racing has to offer.
Improving Three Year Olds
As concerning the Unknown Handicapping Factors which we call Entelechy, specifically, Existing Reality (that which is visible in the past performances), and Potential Existence (the proverbial horse "sittin' on a race" that may not be visible on the face of past performance data); thoroughbred races for three year olds, as well as three year olds and up, present numerous complexities and thus, can be very lucrative.
These guys walk around all day just oozing Entelechy, with a Potential Existence that increases by virtue of waking up in the morning.
From the ages of two to four years old, a thoroughbred race horse will improve approximately 20-25 points on the Beyer speed scale; often demonstrating continuous improvement throughout its three year old season.
In fact, a healthy and sound three year old race horse, is in a period of rapid physical development, growing stronger and running faster every day; learning the game and gaining valuable experience with each race. Consequently, when handicapping these races, it's important to consider the natural process of maturity taking its course.
During the first half of the year most three year old race horses will run slower than those ages four and up.
In Allowance races, horsemen will be experimenting, owners will be headstrong, as a result many will be ill placed; such that eventual claiming horses may find themselves facing allowance company. Therefore, three year old race horses moving up from Claiming to Allowance class, would possess a diminished Potential Existence.
In Claiming races, other than the restricted N2L and N3L events, three year olds will be generally unreliable, claiming prices will be inflated, expectations should be low; the horses with higher Potential Existence will be dropping in after having demonstrated some level of ability at the allowance level.
Later in the year, the three year olds are able to compete against older horses more effectively, as the age disadvantage begins to evaporate.
In Allowance races, trainers will be out to win, the owners more realistic, as a result, horses will be better placed. The talented, lightly raced horses will catch the eye, as they clear the conditions on their way to stakes level competition.
In Claiming races, barring the aforementioned presence of Allowance droppers, three year olds climbing in class within their own age group will possess the highest Entelechy; but they can be expected to disappoint in the 3 years old and up races, due to a diminished Potential Existence against the older hard knockers.
Also late in the year, three year old Claiming horses may compete in Allowance races and some do win; but their Potential Existence will be in the negative when the talented horses moving through the conditions are present. The improving Allowance horses will win no matter if the Claiming horses own better speed figures. Only when the race lacks genuine Allowance contenders, then, Claiming horses with recent wins at higher claiming class levels will own the highest Potential Existence.
Moreover in fall, Potential Existence goes through the roof for the up and coming three year olds which have cleared their basic conditions. These horses can be considered legitimate stakes contenders when they fulfill the requirements in terms of Class, Speed, Pace and Current Form; of their rivals in stakes races for three years old and up.
Lightly Raced Four Year Olds
Any discussion regarding the Unknown Handicapping Factors (Entelechy) and thoroughbred race horses which, for whatever reason may not have their full capability on display within the handicapper's view; must include the lightly raced four year old race horse.
A thoroughbred race horse will reach the peak of its physical development, somewhere around the age of four and a half years old.
When analyzing the past performances of a race horse, handicappers want to know how fast the horse has run, the class of horses it has defeated, the level of pace it can comfortably sustain; and which part of its form cycle the horse is in currently.
In more specific handicapping terms, when examining the past performances of a four year old running in a $32,000 Claimer, with 15 races under its belt; perhaps boasting recent wins at the $40,000 and $50,000 Claiming levels, while having posted a string of consecutive losses at the N1X Allowance level. Chances are this horse has found its friends.
However, the situation changes when a four year old, having run just three races, shows up in an N1X Allowance race, after winning against straight Maidens on the third attempt last year.
In the case of such a horse, which continues to develop, having yet to express its Potential Existence; careful review of its past performances will merely reveal answers to the fundamental handicapping questions, in terms of its accomplishments as a three year old.
In other cases, observant handicappers will recognize patterns, often when these lightly raced horses achieve a lifetime best Beyer speed figure, they will run back to the figure in the next race; thus displaying the paired Beyer pattern in the past performances. When this occurs it can be a signal that significant improvement may be forthcoming and Potential Existence for the next race would therefore improve accordingly.
Moreover, since the trainers of mature thoroughbred race horses frequently maneuver them up, down and around the class ladder; entering horses in races which they do not intend to try and win, or in which they cannot win. Often will be the case, when the lightly raced four year old thoroughbred offers the attractive upside of a horse ready to fulfill its Potential Existence.
"La Paciencia es una ciencia"
(Patience is a science, Inocente Montes de Oca).
Indeed, a common virtue to all winning horse players is the ability to wait for the right opportunities to cash well paid wagers. Trainers are no different, thoroughbred horse racing is a business in which horsemen are paid a percentage of the purse moneys which their horses earn; but many have been known to garner a healthy sum, cashing a winning wager on a fit, sharp race horse that was finally ready to win.
Since horses have different strengths and weaknesses, in order to achieve the ultimate goal, that is, to take down 60% of available purse monies; in training and racing thoroughbreds, conditioners employ varied methods and procedures.
Thus an authentic thoroughbred horse race handicapping angle will be closely tied to a trainers methods and more importantly timing. At times, a horses performances leading up to a winning effort can reveal the handicapping angle; sometimes a trainer's procedure will be designed to increase the future odds of a fit and sharp race horse.
As referred to in the context of Entelechy (The Unknown Handicapping Factors), or in more sepecific handicapping terms, Potential Existence as a means of quantifying a thoroughbred horse race handicapping angle.
Whereupon evaluation of the Class, Breeding, Speed, Pace and Current Form of an entry in relation to the surface, distance, impost and level of competition (visible information in the past performances); the angle suggests a specific "unknown" advantage and is therefore quantified as a boost in Win Probability or True Class Today.
Therefore, since most legitimate handicapping angles will be based on knowledge of thoroughbred race horse training methods, as well as on a given conditioner's specific habbits, procedures and record of performance; at times they can be used effectively to reveal fit, sharp, well meant horses which may be displaying poor form or dull running lines in their recent past performances by design.
So engineered, not necessarily to decieve or defraud, but rather, as a matter of the natural unfolding course of the particular training and racing regimen; which the trainer is in the process of implementing, based upon the individual strengths, weaknesses and preferences of the specific race horse in question.
"There is enough natural inconsistency in horse racing without having it forced upon the public by unscrupulous men, yet there is not one-tenth of one per cent, as much crookedness on the turf as it is given credit for. The less one thinks of crookedness and trickery in racing the more successful will be his handicapping. Look for defect in your own calculating rather than cheating of others. Learn to finance your money to advantage. Know when to put a good bet down and when not to."
The Racing Maxims and Methods of Pittsburgh Phil, by George E. Smith: