DEL MAR, Calif. - The festive opening week of the Del Mar summer
meet may seem an unlikely occasion to address the cold reality
of handicapping by computer. After all, the best action is out
on the racecourse, not buried on some anonymous hard drive.
Blame it 77-year-old retired engineer Rubin Boxer. He is the
creator of CompuTrak, a software program that handicaps an
entire card in only seconds. It does not sound like much fun.
How could it? Just download past performances from the Internet,
hit a few computer keys, press the "print" button, and presto -
the day's selections.
The whole process takes about a minute, and most
self-respecting horseplayers might be reluctant to use a program
as fast and mechanical as CompuTrak. Chances are, the
quick-and-easy process would provide ordinary results. But in a
five-week study during the 2005 spring-summer meet at Hollywood
Park, the results were anything but ordinary.
From late April through the middle of June, in a survey over
22 racing days, CompuTrak produced results that would be the
envy of any flesh-and-blood handicapper. Using Daily Racing Form
past performances, the program selected 54 winners from 168
races (32 percent) at an average win payoff of $7.30. A $2 win
bet on each selection ($336 total) produced total return of
$394.40, a $2.34 return on investment for each $2 bet.
Are the short-term results a fluke? Boxer admits "my
knowledge of statistics says it would be more meaningful if
there were many, many more races."
In March 1992, Phillips Racing Newsletter reviewed CompuTrak
over 17 days at Santa Anita. The program produced 36 percent
winners and a $3.93 ROI that is almost too high to believe.
CompuTrak is not the brainwork of a mad scientist or
degenerate horseplayer. It was created by a respected family man
who had never been to the races until the late 1980's. Although
engineering is based on black-and-white mathematical
computations, Boxer had an idea that "you could use engineering
for living things."
Boxer created a software program that predicted what a
person's weight would be on a week-to-week basis. The program,
called "Cut the Baloney," was distributed to relatives and
friends who proclaimed that it worked. The idea did not catch on
commercially, but it gave Boxer confidence that engineering
principles had biological applications.
A chance outing to an offtrack wagering facility piqued
Boxer's interest in racing. He wondered if it was possible to
apply principles of engineering to Thoroughbreds. He recognized
his shortfall going in: "We're not horse racing handicappers."
For nine months, Boxer worked on a research paper using
mathematical principles as they related to the performance of a
horse. As Boxer said, the idea was to determine "whether an
engineering approach would be useful for analyzing Thoroughbred
horses." Boxer's intention was merely to publish a research
paper. Marketing a software program was the farthest thing from
The paper - "Engineering Analysis of Thoroughbred Racing" -
was not published in the trade publication for which Boxer
originally intended. But he said the method worked, even in the
archaic days before CompuTrak became Windows-compatible. "The
original paper, you'd have the Daily Racing Form on the table
with you, hand-enter all the times, weights, and variant, and
then the program would run."
Boxer used "Ainslie's Encyclopedia of Thoroughbred Racing" as
his racing reference while writing the original CompuTrak
program. One premise of the program is the concept of "friction"
between a horse and the ground it travels over, based, among
other things, on the weight the horse is carrying. The program
also considers energy reserves, rate of deceleration, and track
CompuTrak works on any track in North America, and was
designed to appeal to a wide spectrum of horseplayers - from
those who buy selections of published handicappers to
sophisticated bettors who make their own selections. Reports
generated by the program vary from a simple odds summary that
includes an entire card on two pages, to extensive multi-page
reports with detailed examination of individual races.
Most bettors do not believe handicapping can be pigeonholed
into a computer-generated selection. And there is doubt that any
program can consistently hit winners at 30 percent. But for 22
days at Hollywood, CompuTrak illustrated the value in
considering ideas such as those "engineered" by Boxer.
The program picked at least one winner each day of the study,
and achieved profitability on the third day (May 5) by picking
five winners in seven selections on the card. The one race it
did not handicap was a race in which half the field was
Early this year, Boxer went worldwide with his website,
www.revelationprofits.com. CompuTrak currently has about 1,300
users. If the program continues to have success and catches on
with more bettors, is it possible that the law of diminishing
returns will kick in?
Boxer chuckled at the idea.
"I'm wishing for that day," he said, observing that that
bettors "are so widespread, over so many tracks," the scenario
Yet who knows? CompuTrak already has proven an unexpected
source of high-odds winners. The study at Hollywood ended June
16. A month later, CompuTrak picked up where it left off. On
July 17 closing day, the program picked only one winner, in race
She was Bright Design. The top choice by CompuTrak, Bright
Design paid $93.80.