Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Statistics and Information Are Two Different Things

Winning at the Track with Eb Netr..........
I've written before about how statistics can help us handicap. The more we know about a dog, the better we can evaluate its chances of hitting the board in any given race. Thanks to the internet, statistics are easy to find nowadays. Programs are free and most tracks publish kennel, post position and other helpful statistics.
But where this all breaks down is when handicappers mistake statistics for information that can help them pick winners. Statistics are facts. Data. Raw figures that tell us, for instance, that the #1 dog's kennel has a 12% win average, which is good. It might even tell us, when we compare kennels stats, that the #1's kennel has the top win percentage at that track. This is good to know, but it's not really information until we use it.

Useful information is what stats become after we read them, process them and apply them to the current handicapping situation. For instance, knowing that the 1 is from a top kennel, tells us that it's likely to be in good form and trained well. We can keep that information in mind as we sift the other factors such as Class, Speed, Post Position and Running Style.
Am I being picky by saying that the two things - statistics and information - are two different things? Maybe, but I think it's important that handicappers learn to distinguish between the two. Data can help us handicap, but only if we evaluate it and apply it to the situation of today's race. In other words, you wouldn't bet on the 1 dog, just because it's out of the top kennel. You'd look at the rest of its stats, put them together, compare it to the other dogs in the race and then decide if it's worth putting money on.
Statistics are wonderful things, but not in isolation. Handicapping is a subjective kind of thing where judgment, experience and even intuition come into play. Data is factual. It's static. It's like a snapshot in time, but often it's a time that has past. Knowing that a dog has been winning at a rate of 15% doesn't tell us whether it will win today. Stats that show that a kennel wins a higher percentage of its starts than any other kennel, don't tell us that it will win every race. And, most importantly, stats that applied this morning, don't tell us who will win this afternoon.
To figure out what will happen today, we can only use data based on the races that came before today with a big dose of information based on the stats and our interpretation of them.
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