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The Best of Thoroughbred Handicapping James Quinn

Excerpts from Chapter 45 -- THE XTRAS

A new voice for the new millennium belongs to Cary Fotias, and he comes in loud and clear. His contribution is both contemporary, one might even say postmodern, and significant. He uses velocity-based pace numbers and energydistribution concepts to identify horses coming to peak condition. The horses can be expected to deliver their best efforts next time, and many do. A number and variety of figure analysts have depended upon numerical patterns to infer improving form, even peaking form, but none has succeeded, with a high degree of reliability, until now. The main problem has been an over-reliance on final figures, and final figures can be influenced by many factors pace, class, trips, distance, bias, track condition that do not reflect variations in the form cycle. In particular, early pace bears directly on final time. As the increasing numbers of users of Quirin-style pace numbers will testify, when the pace figure improves, the final figure declines, and vice versa, at least for the large majority of horses. So its hardly shocking that early pace in relation to final time might be a predictor of peaking form, as Fotias has discovered, but the critical relationships extend beyond the typical speed and pace interplay, notably to prior pace figures and to horses overall patterns of development. Notable too, Fotiass use of speed and pace figures in combination is not devoted to pace analysis, or race shapes, as in the Quirin approach, but to considerations of horses current condition. Fotias wants to know when horses should be in condition to run their best races. In his superb paperback, Blinkers Off, Fotias tells of his considerable playing background, with emphasis on the two latter-day influences that have shaped his current thinking, Len Ragozins The Sheets and the Sartin methodology. Allowing that The Sheets trace overall development but suffer the weaknesses inherent in the reliance on final-time figures, while the Sartin methodology focuses narrowly on a representative pace line that ignores overall development and may be insensitive to the form cycle, Fotias has combined and expanded the methodologies of the two approaches in the quest to predict when horses can be expected to deliver a top performance.

The author refers to the telltale information as The Xtras. The Xtras are numbers, or figures, that give content and meaning to final-time figures, and are intended to help handicappers relate performance to the form cycle. The Xtras include a pace number, a turnback number, and in dirt sprints only, a twofurlong number. At all distances, the pace number occurs at four furlongs, which in figure handicapping is the conventional pace call of sprints, but a radical departure from the conventional pace call of routes, which occurs at six furlongs. All the numbers are velocity-based, crafted by hand, and adjusted for wind, weight, track configurations, and Fotiass proprietary track variants. Users work with conventional numerals, e.g. 69/74+, not with feet per second. As must be true of the important advances in handicapping theory and practice, The Xtras not only extend our understanding of the game as a whole, i.e. how energy-distribution patterns can reflect improving form, but also broaden, strengthen, and alter our comprehension of the interrelationships among the several handicapping factors, in this book among form, pace and final time. Pace as a fundamental of handicapping has been studied extensively and indepth as much or more than any other factor throughout the 1990s, ostensibly as a remedy to counteract the widespread public use of speed figures and the depressing odds that have resulted from the general practice. The resulting guidelines have been many and useful, entirely capable of tossing profits, but pace analysts will be introduced in Blinkers Off to empirical evidence that will challenge them to alter certain established routines. Throughout an adult lifetime, Cary Fotias has exhibited a passion for mathematical games, including poker, bridge, blackjack and currency trading. He played poker full-time for a few years and traded currencies for eight years, and for the past 10 years, he has turned to professional handicapping. His academic credentials include an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Indiana University, and happily his grasp of math and statistics has found a platform in Thoroughbred racing and handicapping. The results should prove beneficial to handicappers everywhere. The formulas that produce The Xtras are proprietary. The information is not available for public consumption and handicappers cannot learn how to construct The Xtras by inhaling Blinkers Off. Instead, the information is distributed through Equiform - a dotcom company that has published Blinkers Off and for which Fotias has been founder and president. A new and important author and book that can enhance handicapping proficiency is always cause for celebration. This one is cause for jubilation.