Since 2005, 15 long years ago, when i first discovered HRP there has been many theories on how to be successful. From putting a large deposit so the ‘dial’ can be turned up, to the frequency of working and the way you place your horses.
There have been people that have suggested that the game is little more than a random number picker that can be biased towards the big spenders. There have been people that have boasted its realism and compared that same trait to the real life game where big money and luck play a huge part.
I have read and listened to them all so i thought it was about time, (as time seems to be something that Coronavirus lockdown gives us), that i took a serious look at the game from a point of view of someone that hasnt been a big investor or a big loser, giving me a unique viewpoint.
So, as a new player we have a steep learning curve which can feel insurmountable at the beginning but as time goes on moving meters and timing works becomes pretty easy. Once this is mastered we start to look at the racing itself and learn where to place our horses so they can be most competitive. Next we start to look at buying and breeding and this may be the first clues as to how success can be gained at HRP.
Now i have seen plenty of good horses pass from some of the most successful stables in the game and become more successful for a lesser known stable. I have seen plenty move the other way and been turned into superstars by bigger more successful stables after spending their time in allowances with smaller ones. So the basic training of these horses, once mastered, doesnt seem to have a particular ‘secret’. There are of course a few other things which we will look at later but generally the ground level basics of the game are the same for everyone.
So why does a horse become more successful for a different trainer and how do you know when that success is going to happen. Well the answer to that is its an odds game. Its as simple as making a couple of columns on a piece of paper and then counting the plus’s against minus’s and then coming up with a possible success factor.
Now due to the nature of the game and its secrecy around an individual horse i can only use one of my own horses as an example. Accurate data around work times and adds can only be seen by the owner so sadly i cant use a horse from another stable i have to use one of my own.
So for this i am going to use a horse called War Chant, a horse i claimed for ten dollars that went on to finish second in the BC Mile and win over 1.3K in prize money.
The first thing on my tick list is pedigree, now this was back in the day when there was only HRP sires to check out so that part has moved on but the overall tick list criteria remains the same. I am not looking for a blue blooded pedigree, i am just looking for reasons to put a tick in the negative or positive column. In War Chants case he was strong on the dams side but weak on the sires side so there were no ticks in either box.
The next on the list is conformation, again i am not looking for perfection just a reason to place a tick in one column or the other. War Chants conformation was very good, he had speed and stamina and was sound and nicely proportioned. The first tick goes in the positive column.
The next thing is the tricky one and one where i certainly often trip over. Form, form is difficult to read at HRP but its important to realize that form is less important than improvement and consistency at certain levels.
In War Chants case he had run two times, a bad defeat on dirt on debut at the free track followed by a fourth in a $7 turf maiden sprint at TUP after being gelded. He was running in a one mile turf maiden claimer for a tag of $10 with just those two runs behind him when i claimed him. So his form wasnt very good but he had shown marked improvement between his debut and his second run and the manner in which he finished strongly over 5 furlongs suggested that a longer trip may suit, add to that he was being ridden by a low percentage jockey and he hadnt run too badly. So he got a cross in the form column but a tick in the improvement column.
The next column was works. Now i didnt know the farm works at the time so i only had public works to go on. His first public work was a 1.05 for 5 H furlongs on the dirt and then worked a 1.03H for 5 furlongs a month later both as a three year old, the second one after his debut run. His next work was a 1.01H but significantly this was on turf and was 2 seconds faster than his dirt work just a week before. He had three more works before his next start none of which were amazing but there were OK at the time. The next big improvement came after he was gelded and after his second race. Now he worked a 1.12 and 2 for six furlongs on the turf and then worked in the 1.24’s over seven furlongs showing further improvement. So the important factor in works are improvement and the speed of the actual work. At the time 1.12 and 2 was only average for a six furlong turf work but it certainly wasnt bad so whilst it didnt get a tick in the positive column it didnt get one in the negative column either. It did however get a tick in the significant improvement of works column especially considering it had zero public works at two.
So this is the point where it ran in that Ten buck claimer and i made the decision to put in the claim. It had enough ticks in the positive column and no significant ticks in the negative columns. I was expecting it to run much better over the mile and judged that whatever the result i could make my ten bucks back over time.
War Chant won that maiden claimer by an easy three lengths and eight races later was winning the grade two San Francisco Mile.
Now that was an example of a success, good judgement coupled with evidence and a bit of luck. I can give you ten examples of the same thing that ended in limited success but for each of those examples the same formula was used. The problem with using this method is being able to keep it fluid. Work times change, they have generally improved over the years, the class of races change, the speed of races change. Slow development was changed, the race engine was changed, the effect of the AI was changed and in all those changes the parameters for each column has to change. You can use the same formula from one year to the next and have vastly different results so its important to keep weighing up what a good work is, why a horse was beaten and how a race measured up in the class system.
So after saying all that maybe you ask yourself why hasnt old Threshold been more successful?
Well that is where investment comes in. Its the same reason a small stable can be successful in real life but they can’t compete with the huge successful stables with owners that can pay any price for the best horses.
If someone with deep pockets had spotted the same things i saw today they could’ve offered $100 for the horse well before its maiden win and i would never have had the chance to claim him. Also if that same stable wanted to pay $100 to me after i claimed him for $10 i may well have taken it.
So just like real life money can buy success but it can also buy failure just like i can. The difference being how much failure you can afford to lose.
If i bought the top 1000 horses in the game right now i would have success but i would only have success for a short while because the nature of the game and the nature of racing dictate that new horses will come along to beat that top 1000 and all of that top 1000 will eventually degenerate.
So money can buy short term success but what works for long term success? Well i am sure that each of the stables that have spent lots of money at HRP have employed a similar buying strategy to me the only difference being the amount of money we have invested. Probably the single biggest difference between successful stables these days apart from the ability to spend freely is breeding.
The ability to own the best of a generation through spending improves the ability to breed the best of the next generation and of course at $12 a time you also have to spend thousands of dollars a year to actually create horses. The same success rate enjoyed by my theories detailed above can be compared to breeding, however the fact that the best horses are already owned by the biggest stables makes it much harder to find that diamond in the rough through small time breeding.
So going back to the start of this rambling piece of Thresh’s under active mind what is the secret to success at HRP?
And the answer to that like so many other things in life is wise investment.
Oh and before i am inundated by letters with examples of bad form, bad looks and zero improvement equaling success i do realize that there are exceptions to ever rule.
Stay safe people, this is Thresh’s Covid 19 ramblings over till next time.