You’ve no doubt seen the ads for TimeformUS and wondered what handicapping using the company’s new site would entail. We wondered that, too, so when handicapper Bobby Zen volunteered to check it out and report back, we were more than happy to take him up on his offer.
by Bobby Zen
Timeform publications began in 1948 in England, providing solid information to the horse racing industry. They were purchased by Betfair in 2006, which also purchased TVG Network in 2009. The move to begin supplying the U.S. with a version of Timeform makes sense.
Whether the product is ripe for public consumption, however, is less certain.
In fact, one of the first challenges with the product is that the company appears to be putting it together a piece at a time. The first how-to videos were dated June 2013, while the race rating information was added in July 2013. The Deluxe past performances are promised in August 2013.
The current version, as of August 12, 2013, includes a Preview and Fast PP’s. I wondered: How does this program work and, more importantly, could I use it in my own handicapping process? I currently use Brisnet Insider Picks and Power Plays and Ultimate Past Performances, and as a Twinspires customer, those products are free if I make wagers.
The program gets away from the gate in good order. The pricing is competitive, with $1.50 per track, or $3.99 for unlimited tracks per day (listed as introductory rate), or $49.95 unlimited monthly use with no contract. The signup to use the site is free, but will not work with Internet Explorer (use Google Chrome or Firefox, I believe).
There are several videos on the site, including one on how to use the site. Other videos include one that explains the pace projector, another which explains the speed figures, while yet another addresses the race ratings. The videos are clear and to the point.
A simple, user-friendly presentation is important, and one nice function that stands out through the entire TimeformUS site is color-coded information. Races (or figures compiled from races) run on dirt are brown, races on turf are green, and races on synthetic are shown in blue. Similarly useful is the presentation of data; a rating in a white box signifies one compiled with sparse data, while a rating in a yellow box suggests a more robust data set.
Once you log into a race, you come to the Preview, which offers a snapshot of the race and includes their top 3 picks. It also includes the Race Rating number, which is “designed to let you easily understand the quality of a race,” the site says. The horse entries are listed in typical program style, with the addition of the “Spotlight” speed figure, which is deemed “most relevant” to today’s race (based off 3 most recent races). The pace projector — a simple graphic estimating the early speed horses (at the quarter in a sprint, at the half in a route) — is also on this page, as are the Smart Stats, which typically include any hot trainers and/or jockeys.
Overall, the preview is useful enough and clearly enough presented but nothing too special. I believe I get a simpler and more informational version of the “Preview” page by using Insider Picks and Power Plays from Brisnet.
My gut is that a lot of users might just come to this Preview page and get the picks; they may also take note of the pace projector and feel good about knowing who might be on the lead early on.
The next tab (page) is the Fast PPs, which are presented in a clear and user-friendly format. But, here is my biggest challenge with TimeformUS: we can’t look at PP’s for an entire race at once (like most other suppliers). Instead, we look at one horse at a time — very cumbersome and time-consuming, indeed.
Some of the features available through the Fast PPs are quite useful, while others, at this point, are less so.
Each race in a horse’s past performances is assigned a race rating and a speed figure. The speed fig, according to the company, combines final time, pace of the horse, and pace of the race — what they call a “state of the art” speed fig. Similarly, the race rating is based on the major contenders’ recent speed figures. Both types of numbers are made on the global Timeform scale of 140+ — but, because the company’s product is so new, we don’t yet know the quality of these numbers in this market.
Each race also includes the long comment from the chart caller — very helpful for assessing trips.
The past performances also include pedigree ratings for each horse- These are on a scale of 1 to 100 based on speed ratings of the horses family going back up to 10 years, and based on this distance and surface. This could be powerful information for maidens, 2YO runners, and horses trying new distances and surfaces.
Of course, there is also trainer and jockey information. The trainer ratings include both various win and in-the-money percentages and a composite number, based on 1 to 100 scale, “which takes a sophisticated look at racing statistics and synthesizes into an easy to use 100 point scale, to accelerate the process of understanding a race,” the site says. This looks to be a useful set of data.
At this point, however, the jockey ratings are only marginally better than what you’ll find in your program.
Over the weekend that I used the TimeformUS product, its top selections tabbed the winner in seven of 18 starts. That’s nothing special, but it’s also far too small a sample size to tell us anything meaningful.
And that really identifies the current TimeformUS conundrum. Its numbers — at least as far as I can tell — are too new to have sufficient data to judge their quality. The product itself is really still in its early stages of development — too early to tell us exactly what the final program will look like. My overall impression is that the marketing department is ahead of the product development people right now.
Returning to the racing analogies, this is a nicely bred horse that looks good standing in the paddock. But I’d like to see it get some training and maybe breeze a time or two before I put my money down on it.
Bobby Zen holds an MBA and is a professional handicapper and author. His books include Trifecta, Bet to Win, and Lucky 13. All three are available at his website, www.bobbyzen.com.
(Featured image by Laurie Asseo.)