1938: Newfangled “mechanical handicapper” picks winners at Hollywood and Santa Anita

AD - Mechanical-precision handicapper (LAT 1938.06.14)

Los Angeles Times, 06/14/1938

“Did you ever hear of the precision handicapper? Well, I have. In our little circle we call it “The Mechanical Monster.” It’s a machine which handicaps the horses. Simple as sin, you merely turn a few wheels and come out with horses that can’t lose.

The gadget is the brain child of two young men of Los Angeles who are represented by John Anderson. More than a week ago my attention was called to the contraption. Just to prove that they had something, the inventors twisted the dials and came up with eight horses. I went to Santa Anita full of hope. Six of the horses were in the money. Two of them won and two were second. A few days later the boys bobbed up with twelve selections. Once more six of them were in the money. Red Ensign a winner at a nice price and Happy Bolivar nosed out for first in a photo finish at good odds. Thursday only two horses were picked. They were Daybreak and Miss Bam. Daybreak won and Miss Bam was third. Nice work, if you can get it. Another three-star special was Our Reigh, where all the handicappers were picking Supremador.

The machine is the outgrowth of more than three years’ work with various handicapping systems. One of these considers time for the distance and then deducts for weight. Another well-known system adds lengths behind the winner in four races and plays the lowest figure. Another goes on average claiming price for the last five races, and still another is based on winning percentage of starts.

AD - Mechanical-precision handicapper (LAT 1938.06.25)

Los Angeles Times, 06/25/1938

The inventors decided that each of these systems had some merit, but none alone was good enough to show a profit, due to the fact that speed horses would be outclassed, class horses were off form, sharp horses were stepping up, and horses with high win percentages often were stepping up too far in class. So they set out to devise a formula giving each of these factors its correct evaluation.

Trial and error was the only possible method of procedure, and they applied it to the results of about five thousand races, over a period of years. Finally they began to show consistent profits.

Then they set out to find what kind of a calculator they could make that would simplify the mathematics involved, so they could play all tracks without spending so much time with pencil and paper. They discovered that after the experimental work on the model had been done, subsequent machines could be built for a fraction of the first cost, and because they knew it had enough merit to sell itself, they are now making arrangements to put it on the market.”
(Braven Dyer / Los Angeles Times, 02/13/1938)


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