David Aragona is what you might call a numbers and rhythm guy.
As a double major in computer science and music at New York University, Aragona found a way to work in both music – Carnegie Hall, in particular – and horse racing before settling in the horse races.
“I use one or the other very little these days,” Aragona said, laughing, of his two majors.
He currently works for the Daily Racing Form as an analyst for TimeformUS, where he basically analyzes races to suggest horses and things for the public to watch. He is also the lineman for New York Racing Association tracks.
This has Aragona wearing two hats. On the one hand, it tries to assume public favor for every horse in every race. For the other, he tries to help the audience see things they might have overlooked. He said he was always careful not to spill one into the other.
Recently, Aragona discussed his career and life with The Daily Gazette.
Question: Can you tell me a bit about your background? It didn’t start in horse racing, did it?
Answer: Horse racing has always been a hobby for me. I grew up going to races with my dad and uncle as a kid. I’ve been coming here since the late 90’s when I was 11 or 12. I’ve always loved the handicapping side of sports, and once out of college I did other jobs, but always handicapping as a hobby. And I didn’t know many people my age who were interested in racing, so I started a blog doing basically what I do now, writing about racing. I kept it for a few years, got a bit of a readership, and eventually some people in the industry noticed what I was doing and got an opportunity. I guess that snowballed into where I am now.
Q: How do you handicap a race now, and has that changed over the years?
A: The process has changed a bit now that I have to do the morning lines. The first step for me these days is to watch a race from other people’s point of view to try to understand how they are going to bet because the purpose of the morning line is to try to understand what the public is going to bet , not necessarily what I like. It’s a two-step process these days, so before going a little later in the process to see what my opinions would be, how I could beat the audience or the chalk, that sort of thing. I still love doing this, but it’s a bit later in the handicapping process.
Q: Is the morning line supposed to match a certain number?
A: Yeah, I try to be pretty disciplined with it. People call it the points you add up. It is based on takeout and sum of odds. I try to stick to it and stay within five or six points of the target. I’m trying to make all rows add up to this. When you start to move away from that you get to a point where the real time odds can never match your line so I always try to make my lines match what the public is betting – that’s is hard to do.
Q: How often do you watch this and do you criticize yourself?
A: I started doing morning lines in 2018, and that summer I was pretty diligent in keeping records, just to make sure I was doing a pretty decent job. I had a whole spreadsheet set up where I would have real-time odds for each race, the morning line, and correlate to see how well they lined up. It took a lot of record keeping back then. I liked the results enough that I kind of quit because it takes time. I try to stay on top to make sure they are strong enough.
Q: How do you choose the races that you put on your blog or in the program?
A: My handicapping philosophy is trying to find those horses that I think are going to go a bit under the radar or have an angle, or I feel like their chances of winning are going to be better than what the public perceives. It doesn’t always end that way; sometimes I land on a horse that everyone ends up loving. It’s not ideal. I try to pick horses that I think will fly under the radar and offer some value.
Q: How did the Carnegie Hall job go?
A: I had a little experience in computer programming. I ended up doing web development later, [and] I have always loved music; still studied at university. Not that I’m a great pianist or anything like that, but I studied piano a bit and just wanted to do something in that area, so I found the opportunity at Carnegie Hall. I mostly worked on their website while I was there. It was pretty cool. I have to go to concerts and just be in that environment. It was cool for a while. Crazy time for the four years I was there because I was doing this and blogging about the races every night trying to maintain those two passions. But I finally had to choose one.
Q: When there’s a dark day, how do you spend it?
A: I try to go out, of course, because I spend so much time behind a computer screen that I have to get away from it for a few days. I like going out to eat, sometimes going for a little hike.
Q: Is TimeformUS all about last race pacing?
A: The temporal form [past performances] basically started as this idea of a more modern product that had a different orientation display. If you look at it, it’s much more colorful and less focused on raw stats, but tries to make it more digestible for newbies. An important part of this is new ways of thinking about speed numbers by considering not just the final time of a race but the speed of the inner fractions and integrating that into a number at the end and then to subtract or add to the number at the end depending on how the horse ran, versus the form of the run. It tries to watch a race from different factors than conventional products.
Q: With your musical background, what do you like to listen to?
A: A huge variety. I really like classical music and opera so it really ticked the box for me [working] at Carnegie, I was able to see a lot of them. I like to go to the Met operas in town sometimes. All sorts of things. I like old rock, folk music – Joni Mitchell, I love it – Radiohead, I could go on and on.
Q: You’ve seen so many races, do you have any favorite horses or are you just trying to stay performance oriented?
A: I used to let myself be a big fan of horses before I had to do this for a living, because you have to stay a little more nimble when writing about this stuff. You don’t want to constantly pick the same horse over and over again because the audience will get tired of it. There are some that I’m a big fan of. Can’t wait to see Jackie’s warrior run [in the A.G. Vanderbilt]. You get attached to some of them, but on the disability side, I have to put those biases aside and figure out who is the right one to choose based on today’s factors.
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: On the track, Sports