LOS ANGELES, CA August 9, 2014--In the aftermath of the State-mandated installation of synthetic surfaces at major California venues, it was posited that more soft-tissue injuries were occurring on these new surfaces.

One way to validate that theory would be to determine the average number of days prior to a horse's next start after a race on each particular surface. If I had had access to a race-results data base, I could have done the research myself.

The best I could do, however, was request that information from a variety of on-line racing forums, but I never did get a response nor did I find any related content via Google.

I guess I'll never know, now that Keeneland, Del Mar and Meydan have decided to give up on synthetic surfaces and, with Hollywood Park long gone, Santa Anita has and, soon, Keeneland, Del Mar and Meydan will racing on dirt once again.

Since the early 1970's, I've longed for affordable access to a data base of thoroughbred race results similar to that maintained by the Jockey Club.

By 2010, it appeared possible to build and maintain such a data base on one's personal computer, analyzing the next day's races via either a JCapper program or other proprietary third-party data for under $90 per month. I longed for that hope to become reality.

However, considering the cost per month to acquire archival data was about the same and, unless one had the time and skills to keep the hardware and software resources functioning and the data current, the cost of technical support could exceed that of the data itself.

And that doesn't take into account the learning curve required to master complicated application programs that would yield useful results. What to do?

My lack of technical proficiency, combined with start-up costs, still prevents me from realizing my objective. What I would love would be to have on-line access to a data base someone else has built and maintains.

Given that, I could run voluminous queries that have nothing to do with the handicapping process, making the fee for such a service reasonable. Wishful thinking would have the Jockey Club or the Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) becoming such a resource.

Indeed, HANA provides a very significant data subset at no charge to the public; takeout rates for each parimutuel pool category for every North American racetrack. Player advocates at the HANA-supported playersboycott.org have accumulated individual pool and cumulative handle figures from each pool at racetracks that have come under scrutiny by the organization after the tracks raised takeout.

It is in HANA's interest to provide this data as part of its mission to influence the industry while also trying to determine and implement optimal takeout rates. Common sense dictates that bettors increase their chances of profitability with lower takeout rates.

Some HANA board members have publicly acknowledged having access to the JCapper system. This reasonably assumes that there is a data base available to perform pari-mutuel pool research.

The most common utilization for Machine Readable Data (MRD) has been to: find relationships among the data that isolates potentially profitable pari-mutuel play; apply those relationships to races already run to test their potential profitability and further apply tested relationships to races yet-to-be run to further locate potentially positive outcomes.

Computer speed enables some players to handicap all races to be run on any given day and isolate races likely to produce profits in less time than it takes to peruse a Racing Form.

It makes sense that users of this data should be individually licensed to gain access to it. Indeed, a monthly fee to use the data is a reasonable expectation for those who would access it specifically for wagering purposes.

Computerized betting teams probably generate the most money from automated data usage but it is their ability to also access pool data in real-time prior to the running of a race that is the key to their success.

The next phase of money-generated computer processing of racing data appears to be in producing derivatives of raw data such as speed, pace, class and power ratings, then presenting it in a variety of formats for purchase by bettors.

Viewable past performance data vendors including Daily Racing Form, BRIS, Ragozin, Thorograph and now TimeformUS still cater to seldom-overlapping markets.

It is worth noting that all those vendors agree that automation alone cannot guarantee the unique predictiveness they claim for their products.
The above, as well as MRD vendors such as Handicapper's Data Warehouse (HDW), purchase the raw data from Equibase which is owned by the Jockey Club.

Surely, Equibase/Jockey Club could offer individually-licensed, less-expensive access to a limited, short term on-line data base that does not threaten the success of existing partnerships with major past-performance and data providers.

I still handicap the "old-fashioned" way, i.e., eyeballing traditional PPs, generally focusing on top class races. It's a very enjoyable process but the preparation time seriously limits what I'm willing to watch and wager on.

By extending this "joy of handicapping" by isolating new relationships among data I deem relevant to me, not only would I become even more enthusiastic about racing but very likely bet more races and introduce potential new players to the process.

That’s the real point of all this.

If more and affordable data became available, the more people would access to it, the more likely they are to discover creative ways to use it, it follows that more new people could become involved in racing to play the races on-line--the 21st Century way.

When racetracks finally understand that their future depends as much on the on-line player as the live gate, they finally might find a way to fuel wagering by making new, cutting edge data available, whatever the cost.

Unless they don’t believe that the business they have chosen is worth an investment in their future that just might help them survive in the short term, too.

What’s that famous line from Jerry Maguire? No, not that one, the other one, the one that goes: “Help me… help you.”