It's Getting Hot in Here!!

By Ryan Trost

Setting the Stage

It’s finally here! A day of reckoning! The removal of odds has for many turned the ZED ecosystem upside down. While this update is months in the making and the details have been announced, discussed and widely circulated there is still much to discuss now that we get a glimpse into the historical heat performance of well-known horses and start to see some interesting relationships. For those of you new to the game, I’ll first outline the old system and explain the shortcomings and how the move into a post-odds world is beneficial for the discovery process, the class system and the game as a whole.

When a race event fills, the 12 horse field is placed into 1000 simulations where each horse's genetic ability is evaluated by the racing algorithm to determine the result of each simulation. The final numbers were boiled down in a pseudo-representative way that came to be known as Odds. This number would be spit out on the Play With Zest platform and scraped by all of the public facing data sites. The odds, we have been told, were only representative of the number of races that individual horse WON out of the 1000. However, it provided little to no information about a horse's ability to hit the podium and be in-the-money. Theoretically the relationship was represented by taking 1000 simulations and dividing by the odds number, but we started to see discrepancies that led many to believe these numbers needed to be weighted in order to represent “real odds”. Calculations and multipliers were added far and wide by different parties to attempt to explain phenomena like the spook chain and the fact that no horse over 33 odds had ever won a race. Further, some horses who were 4th or worse in odds rankings in a single race found themselves consistently hitting the podium at a race much higher than those deemed “less fit” by the odds representation. Examples include Terms of Engagement and Saber Trust. So the fact of the matter was, things didn’t make sense. Odds did a great job of describing U-shaped individuals (those with a proclivity to get either 1st or last, see: Ability Deviation but a terrible job of explaining the aforementioned horses.  It set the stage for users to race once and panic when odds were favorable, changed market dynamics drastically to favor U-shaped individuals perfectly described by odds, but negatively impacted the idea of a “discovery process”.

The discovery process describes the time it takes to truly understand your horse's maximum ability, it’s deviation and it’s distance preference. Maximum ability basically describes which class your horse belongs in and what buy-ins it is competitive in while deviation determines how often your horse reaches its maximum potential compared to when it performs its worst. This is most commonly seen in speed data as well as the horses placement distribution chart over time. Uncovering the quirks of your horse and how it fits into your stable is the most important part of ZED. It is what keeps you playing and is what can lead you to immense profitability. 

The removal of odds intuitively opens up this process. We move from a quantitative method of evaluation to a qualitative one. When a horse is Hot in a race, we no longer know how it compares to other horses who are Hot in terms of hierarchy. Sure we can make assumptions based on historical data from a pre-heat world and many matchups have been highly studied; but the fact remains. New horses who conquer the lower classes and race against the best horses alive will now be measured strictly by their performance and “heat” against others. From the Griffin onwards, a stable owner will have to be diligent about the way they enter races.

What Do Flames Represent?

Similar to how odds were a function of the number of races your horse won out of all the simulations, the Hot trait is a function of the number of races your horse placed 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the simulations. This is an extremely important difference to pay attention to. A horse who with an inability to win previously described by higher odds, can still be hot in the race if it is most likely to get 2nd and 3rd! This brings me back to the point that odds described U-shape and extremely strong horses very well, but did not describe extremely consistent placers and showers at all! This presents relationships that have many asking clarifying questions.

Here’s an example:
Here you see the hierarchy of odds being:
  1. Crosshair - 9.43
  2. Phenom - 9.57
  3. Suzuki - 9.71 (HOT)
  4. Snow Piercer - 10.13
  5. Rua Augusta - 10.17 (HOT)
  6. Code Share - 10.87
  7. Frantic Devotion - 11.69 (HOT)
  8. Redeem My Heart - 13.84
  9. Obama - 14.5
  10. Queen Bri - 14.7
  11. Light and Fancy - 17.89
  12. Miracle Whip’ - 21.39

However, the heat check for this race doesn’t remotely resemble that odds hierarchy! The Hot horses are #3, #5 and #7 in odds! Now how does this make sense? Let me explain. Crosshair, Phenom and Snow Piercer, those horses who “won” in odds but did not receive a hot symbol, are all U-shaped at 1600m. This means that while they have a high chance of winning the race, they do NOT have a high chance of placing 2nd or 3rd compared to the other horses in the field who received a Hot rating. The three horses who did receive hot symbols are much stronger 1600m runners comparatively to the field. This results in them being favored to hit the podium, and likely describes how their ability deviates in that distance. Is it clear how much more powerful Hot can be compared to Odds? We get a more intuitive glimpse at what distance preference means. Distance preference and ability deviation seem to be more closely related than we may have thought. Oftentimes those deep in stats considered distance preference to represent maximum ability only, but that does not seem so cut and dry anymore! We may be getting a closer glimpse into a horse's AVERAGE ability, which could hold the secret to more successful breeding. 

How To Better Approach the Discovery Process: Starting from Race 1

Many weeks ago, I wrote a series about thinking and racing like a professional risk taker that was a product of the original announcement that odds would be phased out. It starts with Part 1, which outlines how to put yourself in a position to survive spending money to learn about a new horse. The fact of the matter is that it will now take 20+ races to really get a solid glimpse at what you have, where before it could take as little as 5! After a griffin, you could smack into different races all along the class system and instantly see where you fall in the hierarchy of tons of different ability spectrums. However, now that that information is qualitative and there is no discernible hierarchy in a single race, you need MORE INFO. You must be thoughtful with what buy-ins you enter, which distances you choose, and must stick to the class you are in for the best results. If you find a distance that your horse consistently can or cannot get hot, that is telling information! If you find that your horse wins at a certain distance more often than it gets hot at that distance, that may tell you your horse is a U-shaper (high deviation) at that distance! Of course this is speculative and no one has gone full discovery with just Heat yet, but this is a strong hypothesis. I highly recommend checking out that two part series for how to manage your racing funds appropriately while gaining the most info you can about your horse. Keep in mind I wrote that pre-heat so you will have even more information that I describe. There are many more data-related topics to dive into in the future. How win rates change based on Hot or Not, the global heat spectrum, heat by bloodline/class/genotype and MORE! Further, we have no idea how FATIGUE factors into all of this! Since the update racing has been mostly spotty and we really haven’t had a chance to dive into how this works live. Keep on your toes for an article describing our findings on fatigue and more on Heat in the coming days/weeks. Check out the Heat Check for your horse if you haven’t already (found on the left side menu for every horse) and the Thermometer page within the My Stable View. It’s a great way to get a glimpse into how your stable compares across all distances and classes. As always, find us in the discord, or on twitter @knowyourhorses to discuss further. I hope this helped give a glimpse into how to think about Heat and how to unlock the discovery process!