The Human Factor

Way back when Ed first published his Layoff and Claim information in booklet form he included this statement in the preface:

I track the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th race after a layoff, separated by sprint, 7 furlongs and under and route races 7 and 1/2 furlongs and greater and I have the same 4-step procedure for claiming trainers. So I handicap the Human Factor and not the horse.

A very powerful statement included in a brief synopsis of how Ed actually looked for potential wagers to make. Rather than viewing the horses history to predict the outcome in today’s race, Ed looked for the improvement in the place that makes sense, in the place that all other sports look for improvement too, through the manager and our sports equivalent is through the trainer. Yet even as against the grain that this approach is, Ed soon discovered an even more deep rooted human element that had to be added in and these include the jockey who rides their horse and the most important of all, the owner, because this is the person that pays the bills.

To us handicappers the owner is almost completely invisible unless they come into the spotlight by owning a Stakes Grade winner, which essentially gives us a false impression of how potent this entity actually is towards the outcome of todays race.

Yet Ed viewed this aspect realistically because every horse that runs a race has an owner and each owner is responsible for the food their horse eats, the veterinarian fees to treat normal athletic injuries, and all the expenses in getting every runner ready to race, that includes paying jockey’s to ride and to workout their horses, the silks, the outrider ponies, etcetera in the form of a day rate which averages upwards of $100 a day per horse so owners in horseracing are no different than owners of any other business. They want to make money and if they are the dominate financier because they pay all the bills, they want to have all the say so of what happens with their horse as well as when it happens.

This may sound minimal but when viewed through the brain of Ed Bain who witnessed such things first hand by placing wagers on statistics of such, it’s the owner who says my horse belongs in an Allowance Race with a purse of $50K because he’s my horse and he has superior pedigree, when in fact the trainer knows good and well that their horse actually belongs in a $10K claiming race because their pedigree isn’t as stellar as the owner likes to believe.

At one point in Ed’s life he was in real estate and can’t tell you how many times he met with home owners who want to sell their home that state they have the most beautiful home on the block if not in the entire neighborhood and because of this, their home should be put on the market for a higher value than any home similar and they list their home with an agent who agrees to the listing only to sit on their asking price too long until they accept the reality and move their asking price way down……… and horse racing owners are no different. And the great news is our statistics take all this into account and much more, especially when the trainer is also the owner of the horse.

Ed used to say that the really good trainers know where to place their horse and place them in the class, distance and surface that best suits them which they come to know through their charge. Then behind the scenes he added the really good trainers know how to handle their owners and the really fortunate ones are the trainers who own their horse because they don’t have to listen to an outsider who knows nothing about training horses tell them where they should run.

Not all trainers are owners voluntarily, many self train because they haven’t been able to hire their services out to an owner however the ones that are owners by choice know that when they win, they collect the entire 60% of the purse verses the 10% allotted to the trainer otherwise. And to see how much of an impact this actually has, I’ll ask you to take notice when a trainer has multiple entries in a race, particularly ones that are not coupled and one horse is owned by ABCXYZ Owner and the other is owned by the trainer, more often than not you’ll see the trainer owned horse win in this scenario while their ABCXYZ Owner horse usually tries but comes in just short of the winning results. Though I realize making this observation is not the trainer admitting to making this as a conscious move, and is quite the reverse actually because it’s a financial subconscious one. The trainer that seems to make this move more than the rest is Steve Asmussen so if you notice him in a race, see if he has another runner in the same, one that he owns and trains and another for someone else and note how often he wins verses the ones he doesn’t own. He does this move so often that I actually find him unplayable because I zig when I’m supposed to zag and so on however once all the upcoming algorithms are in place by the end of this month, I’m happy to say that we’ll know exactly when we should pounce on this very move.