When I think back to my earliest memories of betting on horses I recall the an Autumn day when a colt called The Minstrel powered up the Newmarket heath to beat Saros in the Dewhurst Stakes. Somewhat fitting given that we watched Churchill win yesterday’s race of the same name. The other nostalgic memory I have is my fascination with the new language I had to master to understand this conundrum of a sport. What did ‘ro’ mean or ‘nearest finish’ and how did the latter differ from ‘finished well’ or ‘finished fast’.

I would imagine that there are plenty of seasoned observers who even today do not fully understand the meaning of some of them. Given the way I now think about betting the meaning of what each of these peculiar abbreviations and phrases mean is of less importance compared to how the public use them and what effect they have on the odds of horses. In other words their worth is more important than their meaning although perhaps in this video age their worth is perhaps a little less of a currency than it used to be.

One member of the Smartersig forum asked about this topic today in relation to a past article to which I replied that I had done some analysis using both AE values and also a Kth nearest neighbour machine learning approach. The latter had not produced any revelations but the AE values did highlight some interesting observations. I also mentioned that Peter May had tries to formalise Raceform comments when he worked there, something I think should be implemented so as to avoid different race readers using varied comments to mean the same thing. He also responded to a particular example and gave a definition of what the terms actually meant. The extract is copies below.

“Nearest finish” means the horse ran through beaten runners to secure its
best position at the end of the race; “finished well” implies the horse
improved at the end of the race to get the better of horses that were not
necessarily beaten at the time. I’d rather be on a “finished well” next
time out than a “nearest finish” unless the latter was a non-trier and
merely running for a handicap mark.

Now, who wants to do: “stayed on well” and “ran on well”?

My reply to the above was

You would be right to value Finished well higher than nearest finish, the figures below show that it has a far better AE value although both are > 1
Comments from the previous race applied to next race

Comment                                                                           actual wins Expected wins AE
NEAREST FINISH 460 431.4271 1.066229
FINISHED WELL 38 29.68467 1.280122

Sadly combining all AE values for sub comments within a race comment and then using these next time out for a horse does not produce an automatic ticket to wealth. Betting only those below 8/1 for example will lose you around 2% less in the pound for those with an overall AE > 1 compared to those with an AE less than 1. It may be possible however to tease out profitable combinations from the figures and some of the values do highlight the old adage that more likely winners does not always mean better overall results to the pound. There is often a reverse effect to the pocket than the one we expect. For example which would you rather back, ‘stayed on same pace inside final furlong’ or ‘stayed on well’. Below is a list of the top 100 based on expected win numbers.

Comment Actual Wins Expected Wins AE
CHASED LEADERS 2671 2587.35969 1.03232651
HELD UP 2231 2265.561685 0.984744761
TRACKED LEADERS 1873 1871.609995 1.000742679
RIDDEN OVER 2F OUT 1785 1820.174781 0.980675053
TOOK KEEN HOLD 1481 1361.466088 1.087797936
RIDDEN OVER 1F OUT 1356 1354.724618 1.000941433
LED 1182 1243.74324 0.950356924
WEAKENED INSIDE FINAL FURLONG 1050 1026.676437 1.02271754
IN TOUCH 979 1011.940749 0.967447947
SLOWLY INTO STRIDE 933 974.9412843 0.956980708
PROMINENT 1008 945.7114615 1.06586421
HELD UP IN REAR 856 920.3450153 0.930085985
MIDFIELD 849 891.8348109 0.951970017
HEADWAY OVER 2F OUT 824 837.1442708 0.984298679
DWELT 782 772.8943664 1.011781214
KEPT ON 702 726.5056188 0.966269196
WEAKENED OVER 1F OUT 683 700.8964292 0.974466371
HELD UP IN TOUCH 725 700.8810366 1.03441235
MADE ALL 639 650.0103887 0.983061211
RIDDEN 2F OUT 631 637.7561372 0.989406394
RAN ON 624 637.5882859 0.978687993
IN REAR 633 632.1035041 1.001418274
SOON RIDDEN 607 632.0653357 0.960343758
TRACKED LEADER 643 626.1577366 1.026897797
SOON WEAKENED 576 598.9307325 0.961713882
HELD UP TOWARDS REAR 576 567.435946 1.015092548
HEADWAY OVER 1F OUT 532 564.6852995 0.942117672
CLOSE UP 574 560.7940987 1.023548574
STAYED ON 569 548.0675889 1.03819312
STEADIED START 467 527.8751126 0.884678949
HELD UP IN MIDFIELD 460 490.6925151 0.937450615
CHASED LEADER 518 470.069006 1.101965868
NEAREST FINISH 460 431.4270504 1.066228925
LED OVER 1F OUT 431 420.5246004 1.024910313
KEPT ON SAME PACE 403 409.498403 0.984130822
HEADWAY 2F OUT 368 389.0303672 0.945941579
KEPT ON FINAL FURLONG 369 382.5430579 0.964597298
ALWAYS TOWARDS REAR 346 377.4591406 0.916655507
ALWAYS PROMINENT 382 373.7864294 1.021973967
HEADWAY 3F OUT 371 372.4799733 0.996026704
RIDDEN WELL OVER 1F OUT 374 371.5040007 1.006718634
RIDDEN OVER 3F OUT 350 369.287482 0.947771092
TOWARDS REAR 373 368.4816783 1.012261998
IN TOUCH IN MIDFIELD 374 362.3074659 1.032272407
RIDDEN 3F OUT 379 356.4176777 1.063359153
HEADWAY OVER 3F OUT 343 333.6436157 1.028043049
EFFORT OVER 2F OUT 326 329.1876265 0.990316688
TRACKED LEADING PAIR 353 313.414136 1.126305292
LED OVER 2F OUT 326 310.5600987 1.049716307
RIDDEN OUT 333 301.1864019 1.105627605
KEPT ON INSIDE FINAL FURLONG 284 290.6621099 0.977079538
ONE PACE 284 284.4649458 0.998365543
RAN ON WELL 300 282.0159815 1.063769501
RIDDEN TO LEAD OVER 1F OUT 293 268.7380356 1.090281096
STAYED ON WELL 260 268.7236763 0.967536629
STAYED ON SAME PACE INSIDE FINAL FURLONG 282 268.1975814 1.051463621
HELD UP IN LAST PAIR 250 261.3892469 0.95642802
LED INSIDE FINAL FURLONG 272 260.428051 1.044434342
NOT REACH LEADERS 289 260.0312104 1.111405049
NO IMPRESSION 270 256.222184 1.053772924
SOON LED 287 253.9916809 1.129958269
READILY 260 242.4380556 1.072438893
DRIVEN OUT 212 237.5200836 0.892556102
HEADED INSIDE FINAL FURLONG 230 236.4138702 0.972870161
HEADED OVER 1F OUT 232 233.9553457 0.991642227
RACED KEENLY 234 229.4599047 1.019786007
RIDDEN ALONG OVER 2F OUT 208 228.9571069 0.908467105
COMFORTABLY 234 224.0209046 1.044545376
STAYED ON SAME PACE 226 221.8574082 1.018672317
BEHIND 225 221.6497903 1.015114879
DRIVEN OVER 1F OUT 231 220.145094 1.049307962
NEVER TROUBLED LEADERS 210 215.2400129 0.975655024
NO EXTRA INSIDE FINAL FURLONG 239 213.8537856 1.117586015
SOON BEATEN 213 212.5922548 1.001917968
KEPT ON SAME PACE FINAL FURLONG 210 211.0349585 0.995095796
RIDDEN ALONG 2F OUT 198 203.6188192 0.972405207
RIDDEN AND HEADED OVER 1F OUT 190 200.915252 0.945672358
HELD UP IN LAST TRIO 188 198.4807439 0.94719516
PUSHED ALONG OVER 2F OUT 213 197.7588924 1.077069139
LED 2F OUT 208 196.9414763 1.056151319
DRIVEN OVER 2F OUT 192 195.4939592 0.982127534
KEPT ON WELL 190 190.0810739 0.999573477
STAYED ON FINAL FURLONG 193 182.1342079 1.059658162
EFFORT 2F OUT 171 180.8516812 0.945526184
STAYED ON INSIDE FINAL FURLONG 161 179.4288736 0.897291483
NEVER DANGEROUS 178 178.4931228 0.997237301
TAILED OFF 164 171.4225248 0.956700412
NEVER ON TERMS 154 170.1821368 0.904912836
NEVER ABLE TO CHALLENGE 173 168.309055 1.02787102
STAYED ON SAME PACE FINAL FURLONG 149 165.9114395 0.898069479
SOON CLEAR 164 163.855825 1.00087989
NO CHANCE WITH WINNER 149 160.0478459 0.930971605
RIDDEN ALONG 3F OUT 171 158.544772 1.078559689
TOOK KEEN HOLD EARLY 148 157.3422748 0.940624509
WEAKENED OVER 2F OUT 140 156.5396692 0.894341995
HELD UP IN LAST PLACE 134 156.2194758 0.857767569
PULLED HARD 168 155.8111567 1.078228309
RIDDEN HALFWAY 148 153.9541078 0.961325437
PUSHED ALONG OVER 3F OUT 165 151.0215281 1.092559466

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