JC / Railbird

Tools of the Trade

Bill Christine’s search for a Kelco put me in mind of my favorite piece of handicapping ephemera, a volvelle for assessing value called the Raceometer:

The 1940 Race-o-Meter

“The more green the better the bet!” Handy, but at 10 cents a race, pricey.

The 1940 Race-o-Meter

I’ve been on the lookout for more Raceometers, but all I’ve found so far is a similarly named wheel chart, the Race-o’Meter (note the odd apostrophe), produced by the Southern California Research Company in 1948:

The 1948 Race-o-Meter

Unlike the Raceometer, a tool for betting, the Race-o’Meter considers eight factors to create individual horse ratings. “Be sure you have a racing form before you when use you the Race-o’Meter,” advises the instructions:

The 1948 Race-o-Meter

It’s science! Beginning in the 1930s and continuing into the 1970s, “scientific” and “scientifically” were favored adjectives of marketers hawking handicapping systems and methods. In 1933, as defined in “Systology: The Science of Wagering Upon Horse Races,” a compendium of eight chart-heavy betting systems, “scientific” meant the complete eradication of individual judgment. “By the use of ‘Systology,’ the human equation is removed from wagering,” wrote the authors. “It leaves nothing to the imagination.” (How dull.) In 1961, “Science in Betting” assured its readers that it would tout no “miraculous betting-system,” instead, it would teach bettors how to use “scientifically collected” data, “which if applied intelligently can work consistently and accurately.” Just like the Race-o’Meter claimed, and most likely, the Kelco.


Totally awesome.

Posted by Teresa on April 13, 2011 @ 7:04 am

I love the wheels.

Left out above is that the Race-o’Meter pictured was one of a dozen paper dials that arrived in a small battered carrying case, accompanied by a heavy painted-wood roundel with a lever on the side and metal disc inside, on which the factors are typed or written in ink, showing corrections and refinements. A typed label on the bottom reads, “The Original Race-o’Meter.” I suspect it was the inventor’s sample case.

Posted by Jessica on April 13, 2011 @ 8:44 am

But, can it pick winners on polytack?

Great find!! I’ll look forward to your Derby picks!

Posted by Keith-TDH on April 13, 2011 @ 9:44 am

I was going to provide a Race o’meter for the Breeder’s Cup Distaff, but couldn’t fit on the directions for where to turn the wheel “when the favorite’s jockey says ‘this horse can’t freaking run’ but the trainer runs the horse anyway.”

Next year, maybe. (oh and yes, I’m still bitter about Life At Ten…..can ya tell?)

Posted by Goberry on April 13, 2011 @ 12:45 pm

I pulled the chart for the eighth race on July 20, 1946, at Suffolk Downs.

Unfortunately, only nine horses ran in the race, meaning there was a scratch since the wheel above lists 10 entrants. The old-time chart doesn’t list program numbers–even for the winner, so there’s no way of knowing how this race turned out for the raceometer.

I’ll keep digging, though!

Posted by EJXD2 on April 13, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

Goberry: Life At Ten wasn’t the favorite.

Posted by EJXD2 on April 13, 2011 @ 12:58 pm

Ed, thank you! I’ve been curious about that race — wondering who was entered, why the three is scribbled out (was the horse scratched? or was it the Raceometer player’s pick?), what the odds were and who won.

The Kentucky Derby is a perfect experiment for the Race-o’Meter, Keith. I’m going to post the ratings for this year’s field. Thanks for the inspiration.

Posted by Jessica on April 13, 2011 @ 1:01 pm

EJX, touche.

Was it Blind Luck? I just watched the race on YouTube and couldn’t find a horse listed better than 5-1, though they took the first four graphics down before Blind Luck got into the picture.

Posted by Goberry on April 13, 2011 @ 2:31 pm

Blind Luck was the 3-to-2 favorite.

Posted by EJXD2 on April 13, 2011 @ 2:34 pm