In 2003 American author and journalist Michael Lewis wrote the wonderful MoneyBall. The book is the story of how Billy Beane, the general manager of baseball team the Oakland Athletics, used a sabermetric approach to transform the fortunes of the team, despite lacking the financial muscle of other franchises in major league baseball (MLB).
Even Hollywood has embraced the story and in 2011 Moneyball hit the big screens. The impact of the book has been far reaching. A host of MBL franchises have since changed their player acquisition models with Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals among others, all employing a team of full-time sabermetric analysts.
With this in mind and with the Cheltenham Festival just around the corner, I decided to see if we could successfully apply Moneyball logic to the first handicap of the 2014 Festival, the Baylis and Harding Affordable Luxury Handicap Chase.
This race is the third on Day 1 of the Festival, right between the Arkle and Champion Hurdle, and goes to post at 14.40. As always the race is ultra-competitive and this analysis is by no means water-tight. Hopefully, a Moneyball approach can give us an edge.
To further narrow the search, one can consider past Festivals. 7 of the last 14 winners have been placed at the meeting the year before. Ackertac (2nd) and Buddy Bolero (4th) were both placed in 2013, while Goulanes finished 6th in last year’s Grade 1 RSA Chase.
So take your pick from Ackertac, Buddy Bolero and Goulanes and let’s see if we can apply Moneyball to horses.
For those interested in similar material, radio correspondent John Duggan wrote the insightful Beat the Bookies, published in 2011. The book has an entire chapter dedicated to Cheltenham!