Probabilistic Forecasting and Horse Racing
Whether you are betting on the Triple Crown winner, or just enjoying a day at the track, there’s no doubt that horse racing is a fascinating sport. However, the industry is losing many of its fans, especially new ones. This may be due to the fact that horse races have long been considered a low-risk gambling activity, and new would-be fans are turned off by stories of injuries, drugs, and slaughter. But the industry is trying to change this image, with the help of a recent technological advance known as probabilistic forecasting. This is the process of analyzing data from multiple polls to more accurately predict the outcome of the race.
Those who follow horse racing are familiar with the concept of speed figures, which determine a horse’s performance in a given race. The higher the speed figure, the better the horse is likely to perform. Speed figures are calculated by measuring a horse’s time and distance in a race, and then comparing that to other horses in the same race. The results of the analysis are then used to place a wager on a horse’s chances of winning.
Researchers are also using data to study the effect of age on a horse’s ability to race. For example, horses tend to improve at a much faster rate as they get older, but how quickly they reach their peak depends on the training methods and genetics of the horse. This information can be used to create a horse’s racing strategy and minimize the risk of injury or death.
A computer model created by mathematicians at EHESS in Paris can tell you which racing strategies are best for a particular horse. Using GPS tracking tools embedded in French racing saddles, the team developed a system that analyzed real-time speed and position. They found that jockeys who hold their horses back early to save energy for a final burst of speed usually have a slower finish than those who unleash their full potential at the beginning of the race.
Other factors that influence a horse’s ability to race include its gender, its weight (especially in the case of females competing against males), and its fitness. The latter can be improved by a regimen of exercise and diet. A condition called laryngeal hemiplegia, a whistling sound that occurs during exercise, is also common in some horses. It is caused by a paralysis of the nerves that control the muscles that raise the arytenoid cartilages in the throat. The condition is more common in larger horses, and can be overcome by adjusting the jockey’s riding style or by surgery to tie the larynx shut.
Behind the romanticized facade of Thoroughbred horse racing lies a world of drug abuse, gruesome breakdowns, and slaughter. While racing industries spend enormous amounts of money on breeding their best horses, little attention is paid to the fate of those who fail. Hundreds of former race horses are slaughtered every year, often for the same reason they were retired: failure.