One Hat to Rule Them All

Posted by Jess Lin

05.05.2014 05:30 PM

Kentucky Derby California ChromeThe first jewel of the Triple Crown of thoroughbred horse racing took place this past Saturday, at the 140th Kentucky Derby. While California Chrome was the heavy favorite leading up to this year’s Derby, the race is never over till it’s over, and standings for the rest of the field could have gone in any direction. Without any prior knowledge of horse racing lore, Eureqa® and‘s handicapping data helped us complete beginners predict 4 of the first 5 horses across the finish line.

The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports

While the lavish hats and the $2,000 mint juleps always deserve attention at America’s most popular horse race, the real stars of the show are the 3 year old colts. California Chrome’s cinderella story, combined with Wicked Strong’s connection to Boston and New England, drew the second-largest crowd the Kentucky Derby has ever seen. Thousands of experienced and amateur handicappers have been following these 19 colts throughout their racing careers, discovering intimate details about their quirks and characteristics, but were there hidden relationships that no one had accounted for yet?

Once we started running‘s unique handicapping data through Nutonian’s cognitive computing engine, the answer was clear. I can’t deny that my eyes glazed over after looking through 62 different variables and 265 horses, but Eureqa®‘s autonomous insights ran into no such obstacle. By uncovering a deep relationship between just 4 key variables, Eureqa® helped us predict the finish of the race.

The Nutonian Difference

There are hundreds of people who can tell you detailed information on each and every horse that ran the Kentucky Derby this weekend, from race records, to their sire’s history, all the way to their behavior on different track types. Believe me, I am not one of them. But what I do have available is the tireless power of Eureqa® to drive for discovering causal relationships from concise representations of complex data. What did Eureqa® have to tell me on the Kentucky Derby?

Horse Score = 5.614695362 + 2.634162332*(Racing Style_Early) + 0.5869793526*(Trainer Meet %)*Speed - 0.06186576034*Speed - 57.63578215*(Trainer Meet %) - 1.000054353*exp(1.027235778*(Starting Price Implied Probability Standardized))

If that formula doesn’t make any sense to you, keep reading on and all will be revealed. For the 19 horses that ran this past Saturday, 4 variables were key in determining their finish position. Most importantly – horses with an early running style were at a distinct disadvantage. Following that, the higher the horse’s BRIS speed rating, the better, with the same holding true for the standardized starting price probability. Interestingly, the trainer’s record seems to have a mixed effect. On its own, the better the trainer’s record, the better the horse should place. However, it has less of an effect when the horse’s BRIS speed rating is high – suggesting that good trainers are more important for slower horses.

  Predicted Actual
1 California Chrome California Chrome
2 Wicked Strong Commanding Curve
3 Danza Danza
4 Vicars in Trouble Wicked Strong
5 Samraat Samraat


Using this formula, we were able to not only predict the winner, but also 4 out of the top 5 horses, with exact predictions in place for #1, #3, and #5. There are many other sources of data that we did not tap into, which all could have improved the final predictions. However, we trusted the data we did have to Eureqa®, with no background horse racing knowledge of our own, and were repaid handsomely for our trust. While the world celebrates California Chrome’s unlikely success, Nutonian is able to celebrate knowing why he deserved to win.

Will a Triple Crown Winner be Crowned in 2014?

No horse has won the Triple Crown in the last 36 years. Will California Chrome become just the 12th horse to win that honor in the past century? While nothing in life is a guarantee, you can be sure that using Eureqa® to expose meaningful variables within a framework of context and understanding will be the key to winning it big – not just for the Kentucky Derby, but for use cases across retail, telecommunications, financial services, life sciences, and utilities.

See you at the Preakness in 2 weeks to see if California Chrome can continue his journey towards the Triple Crown!


Topics: Eureqa, Kentucky Derby, Triple Crown

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