Man vs. Machine – E-ponies is top handicapper in Chicago

I don’t often use this blog to self-promote. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever done it. At least not as directly as I’m about to.

But something needs to be said. computer picks are very tough to beat in Chicago.

The Arlington Park meet is a very long meet, running from May through the end of September. Arguably this is a long enough meet that whichever handicapper finished with the best results could claim that the number of races in the meet was a representative sample.

In other words, the results would not be cyclical or just a fluke. And in that meet, finished ahead of five human handicappers in the Chicago area in total wins and total dollars returned. Joe Kristofek at the Daily Herald keeps the score and publishes the results daily.

The final results for the Arlington meet are tabled below:

Handicapper Paper Wins Total return
Kristufek Herald 216 $1,381.20
Uchman Sun Times 269 $1,539.20
E-ponies computer Tribune 278 $1,543.20
McMannis Arlington Web 262 $1,424.60
Daily Racing Form Daily Racing Form 221 $1,525.20
Handicapper Paper Wins Total return
Kristufek Herald 109 $770.40
Uchman Sun Times 94 $697.60
E-ponies computer Tribune 126 $846.80
Miller Hawthorne 101 $743.60
McMannis Arlington Web 117 $838.80
Daily Racing Form Daily Racing Form 88 $814.80

These results are not at all atypical. Since E-ponies computer picks have been available in the Sun-Times (originally) and then the Tribune (today) the computer has consistently performed at the top of the rankings.

The shorter Hawthorne meet concluded in early January. And again, the computer outperformed all five human handicappers! Results are tabled below:

Though I wrote the program, it still amazes me that it performs so well against humans, including me. I don’t honestly believe that if I were a public handicapper, using just my human intuition and handicapping experience, that I could beat these other local handicappers consistently.

This suggestion leaves me searching for answers. Why is it that my computer program can be so consistently competitive against humans? The disadvantages to my computer program against a human handicapper are substantial:

  • Cannot evaluate track conditions
  • Is not familiar with local horse connections and their trends
  • Has no human network of insider information
  • Horses with no previous starts or limited racing history are a big challenge for the computer.
  • There must be some offsetting advantages to the computer as a handicapping expert. A couple of possible handicapping advantages come to mind:

  • Treats each race as a unique moment in time, as opposed to being swayed by information about the horse or his connections from previous experience.
  • Conducts a dispassionate analysis for each race.
  • Those are all of the advantages that I can think of, which tells me that some of the things listed as advantages to human handicappers are actually probably not as advantageous as my human intuition leads me to believe.

    Perhaps our human opinions are actually biases that run counter to successful handicapping!

    Perhaps a dispassionate analysis is a better approach after all!

    In case anyone is wondering why I am not reporting results for other racing circuits, the answer is that there is no one keeping the score there like the Daily Herald does in the Chicago circuit. I do know that the first year computer picks were carried in the LA Times, they were profitable for the entire meet. In other words, anyone who had played a $2 win bet on every one of E-ponies top choices would have made money over the course of the entire meet. I have not bothered to keep such close account since the opening meet. But if I find another situation of a newspaper or reputable source keeping the score in one of the circuits where E-ponies picks are available, I will report the results here or on the handicapping forum.

    Keep in mind that E-ponies picks for Chicago are free every day online. We will keep you posted on results of future meets in the Chicago circuit, or anywhere we can find someone willing to keep the score.

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