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History of Hor$ense

UPDATED as of October 2019

The history of Hor$ense has its roots in my fascination with numbers. I’ve been a "stats freak" for as far back as I can remember. At the tender age of twelve, my dad introduced me to horse racing. For those willing to admit their age, the first handicapping "tool" that I used was the original "Kelco Class Calculator", which was the equivalent of a "slide rule" wheel to take a wild stab at class; I have the updated (straight line, not round) version in my office. When I turned eighteen, I was allowed to legally wager, but I didn't go very often... because I didn't know enough about the horses AND I didn't have the money!

After five years away, I returned with a purpose... but I wasn't exactly sure what that purpose was. As a Computer Science major, I knew that I could put a computer to good use, but a personal computer – at least as we know them – wasn’t available yet. So, I broke down and bought a programmable calculator. It worked pretty well, but it wasn’t powerful enough to suit my needs. Along came the "Horse Race Analyzer" – a crude computerized tool (which I also have in my office) – and it nearly made handicapping fun. There was one big drawback, and that was that there was no "back" button. Make one mistake near the end of your data entry, and you got to start all over. Well, since I couldn’t put my fat fingers on a diet, I gave up on that method of handicapping and pursued something better.

I dove deeply into making myself a better handicapper.  I learned to analyze video replays and chart the value of many trouble calls. I developed a method of determining the expected positioning of each horse in a race. I devised a crude formula to convert times from other tracks. I analyzed workouts – both times and patterns – in order to assign ratings to them. I got pretty good at evaluating past and current class. I even figured out how to determine in-the-money ratios. There was only one slight problem… it took nearly an hour to go through all of these gyrations for ONE race.

I really had two problems. One, it took WAY too long to handicap a race. And two, I didn’t know which races to skip. Not races full of first-time starters, the field full of horses making their first turf run or the race with most of the field stretching out for the first time. My issues were around the "marginal" races that always tripped me up. These two problems combined to create all-night handicapping sessions. Sometimes it worked out great, but other times a few scratches would send me for something stronger than chocolate milk.

It wasn’t until 1986 that I got tired of being so tired from handicapping that I couldn’t enjoy myself at the races. Besides, I still wasn’t winning enough of the time to be happy. I was at a crossroads… did I give up on horse racing or did I do something about it? Well, I don’t usually give up… it’s much more rewarding to try and fail than it is to give up. So, I broke down and bought a personal computer... and back then a hard drive was optional, so I paid the extra money for it! Having worked as a programmer for three years, I was finally ready to put it to use for something I loved to do.

Of course, keeping my day job and programming at night and on weekends was pretty exhausting. I introduced Hor$ense on Breeders’ Cup Day in 1989… and the response was underwhelming. It wasn’t until December of 1990 when things really took off! A timely review by the Phillips Racing Newsletter catapulted Hor$ense into respectability… a place where it still stands today.

Over the years, Hor$ense has undergone many subtle changes, but the basic premise of solid handicapping principles blended with forward-thinking handicapping techniques has allowed Hor$ense to stand the test of time. My first forward-thinking technique happened in 1990, when I first introduced (in Version 2!) the concept of marking up the Daily Racing Form. Because this version of Hor$ense required manual data entry, eliminating PPs was very important. Later on -- in 1992 -- I saw the nearly identical feature appear in the Daily Racing Form. I'm proud of the fact that I developed something before the staff at the Daily Racing Form developed it on their own. I took great pride in knowing that Hor$ense customers had the feature available to them almost TWO YEARS earlier!!!

Here's another example of forward-thinking. In the early 1990s, I recognized the trend moving away from hand entering the information. So, I immediately went work on using data files to do the work… with amazing results! With the same quality, a race could be handicapped in 10 minutes, instead of the 30 minutes it took to enter the data by hand. The first Windows version of Hor$ense (released in 2001) handicapped a race in less than FIVE minutes!  With the latest version of Hor$ense, you can handicap a race in about ONE minute!!!

In the mid-1990's, I added heuristics (aka Artificial Intelligence or AI) to Hor$ense -- by then I had a Master’s degree in Computer Science... with my specialty in AI -- and I have continued to refine this area of the program. I have always strived to make Hor$ense the best tool possible -- since I use it in my own handicapping -- and I have always been willing to share these new ideas with my customers. Now that I have reached the "holy grail" of retirement from my day job in early 2017, I am able to spend even more time working to keep Hor$ense at the top of the handicapping hill.

I also spend more time wagering on races and watching them from the comfort of my home office and at local casinos here in the Vegas valley. I also plan vacations with open race tracks in mind, having been to tracks in Australia, New Zealand and many US tracks. Starting in 2015, I made the commitment to participate in at least one handicapping tournament a year, as a way of testing myself against the full-time professionals.  The results so far have been excellent, having cashed in three of my last seven tournaments: in 2015 Expert (V8) helped me to a 22nd place finish in the Summer Classic tournament held in Las Vegas, in 2016 I moved up in class and finished in 14th place… and in the 2019 Fall Classic in Las Vegas I finished in 16th place!

Check out the rest of the on-line home of Hor$ense, and see why it is STILL the PRICE-PERFORMANCE LEADER in thoroughbred handicapping software!!!