Sunday, May 3, 2009

Kentucky derby

Posted by Danny Tarlow
I watched the Kentucky Derby yesterday, which was quite the show. Not only was the winning horse -- Mine That Bird -- the biggest underdog to win since 1913, the way that the winning jockey (and horse) snuck between the other racers and hugged the rail to get through was pretty amazing. Steven Levitt (the Freakonomics guy) has a model for predicting horse race outcomes, and he's been kind enough to publish his analysis of the Kentucky Derby the last couple years. It's incredibly unfair to make fun of him when we know the outcomes, but I couldn't help but chuckle reading his commentary on a couple recent races:
If I had to pick a last-place finisher (a bet they would never actually offer at the track because people involved with horse racing understand better than most that people respond to incentives), it would be Mine That Bird.
Then from 2006, where Street Sense won:
The two likely favorites are Street Sense and Curlin (both about 4-1). I wouldn’t touch them.
So I think somebody needs to ask: Steven Levitt -- are you sure you don't accidentally have an errant minus sign somewhere in your model?

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