The Hidden Rules of Zed – Series 1: The Spook Chain

By Jack & Zaza
By Jack & Zaza

This article introduces the “Spook Factor” and establishes the chain effect this has on horses.

Introduction:

Hello Zedders! Ever since GBR joined Zed, we have spent over 40 hours a week on the platform or studying the game and various theories (we have lives IRL too, we promise). The goal of this series is to share our findings.

Key Terms to help you understand this article:

Specialist – a horse who pulls odds significantly better at a certain distance or set of 2-3 distances. With Long Distance Specialists, this is typically seen at 2200, 2400, and/or 2600 Meters. With Short Distance Specialists, AKA “Sprinters” this is seen at 1000 and/or 1200 Meters.

Series 1 | The Spook Chain: 

For the first topic in the series, we would like to discuss the “Spook Chain”. Before diving into this, I (Jack) would like to give a shoutout to Stenz31 here. We have both been discussing this topic in discord debates for quite some time, and I believe he may have coined the term “spook”. I have always had other names for it, but to be honest they were never quite as catchy so let’s roll with spook here.

So WTF is the spook chain?

The Spook Chain is probably the single most eye opening concept in Zed, and holds a significant deal of importance in the racing landscape.

Basically, the concept is this: there is only room for one specialist in a race. For example, if there are multiple long distance specialists in a race (i.e. Valkarie, RP, Gun For Hire) the best long distance specialist (RP in this case) will pull his or her typical odds while the other specialists in the race (Valkarie/Gun For Hire) will have their odds pushed out to a number so far out from their true typical odds at said distance. The same concept also applies at short distance. 

Below I have laid out what the spook chain looks like at long distance and short distance. To get the most out of this article, we recommend after reading this to search each of the Horses in the below chains in KYH to see their average odds at their preferred distances. Then search the horse at the bottom of the chain in races vs the horse next above it on the chain, and keep following the chain upwards until you get to the top.

The Spook Chains:

Long Distance Spook Chain:

Moulah Moulah = Rendezvous Peak >>> Genuine Risk = LBJ Goat  >>>  Valkarie >>> BlueFace = Dancing Rendered = Kamiko = Malawi Gold = Silhouette >>> Not Your Business = Gun For Hire > Ecology

For the short distance spook chain, I will give an abbreviated version out of the interest of time. There are many other horses to list:

Short Distance Spook Chain:

The Crimson Chin > Poodl To The Moon > Morning Bane

How To Identify a Member of the Spook-Chain?

How do you identify if a horse is part of the chain? If the horse is a specialist (long or short distance) and is particularly bad at other distances, then it is likely part of the chain.

A good example is Moulah Moulah, a Long Distance Specialist.

Average odds 4.62 (lol) at 2600 meters, 5.44 odds at 2400 meters, and 6.46 odds at 2200 meters

Significant increase of odds at distances of 1800 and shorter as shown in the chart below:

Moulah Moulah Avg Odds Per Distance (Credit: KYH)
Non Chain Members = Non Specialists

Horses like Steph Curry, Vanilla Bean, Barok, or Ducky Mallon are not a part of the spook chain because they are consistent at all distances. Sure they may be a bit better at certain distances, though their odds pull within range of each other at all distances with no significant drop-off. Therefore, regardless of the race that they are in, they will never get pushed out too far in odds. See Barok’s odds chart for a good example of a non-spook member:

Barok Average Odds Per Distance

Now that we can identify which types of horses are subject to the spook chain and which ones aren’t, lets jump into the core of this article:

If a horse that is a member of the spook chain faces a horse that is higher in the chain, the horse’s odds gets pushed out to a degree that is far greater than what you would expect. The best way to understand this is by looking at concrete examples. 

Spook Chain Example #1:

Not Your Business (Long Distance Spook Chain Member)

Vanilla Bean (Non-Specialist, Not Member of Spook Chain)

Rendezvous Peak (Long Distance Spook Chain Member)

Not Your Business Vs. Vanilla Bean

Not Your Business has faced Vanilla Bean one time (as of this writing) at long distance. In that one race, NYB got nearly identical odds as VB (VB pulled 6.52 to NYB’s 6.58)

Vanilla Bean Vs. Rendezvous Peak

As highlighted in the header of this example, VB is not a distance specialist and thus is not a member of the spook chain, whereas RP is. A non spook member vs a spook member is key in understanding this concept.

Vanilla Bean has faced Rendezvous Peak 13 times as of this writing.

Vanilla Bean has never been favored, but she usually is within a point or two in odds (RP 6-8, VB 8-10). If RP pulls 1-2 odds better than Vanilla Bean, and Vanilla Bean pulls the same odds as NYB, shouldn’t NYB pull 1-2 pts worse than RP?

The answer is, yes in theory he should, but lets highlight how the spook factor changes this:

When RP faces NYB, NYB HAD ODDS OVER 20

Spooky aye?

Spook Chain Example #2:

Gun For Hire (Long Distance Specialist, Spook Chain Member)

Steph Curry (Non-Specialist, Non-Spook Member)

Rendezvous Peak (Long Distance Specialist, Spook Chain Member)

GFH has faced Curry 140 times. In those races, Gun For Hire has won the odds battle 64 times while Curry has won 76 times They are about even. HOWEVER, if GFH faces Curry WHILE there is another horse in the race that is higher in the spook chain, then GFH gets pushed out in odds to as far as 20.

A good example is this race featuring Curry, RP, and GFH

RP and Curry maintain their usual odds whereas GFH has odds of 20.43

Hopefully, now you have a good understanding of the spook chain, which types of horses are subject to the chain, and which ones aren’t.

Conclusion

We felt the need to write this post because often times new users will be ready to throw away horses after a couple races because they pulled bad odds. In reality, it’s very possible that your horse just faced a horse that is higher in the spook chain, making it seem as though your horse is a donkey, but in reality it can have success vs many other horses. For example, if I owned Valkarie and in its first race it happened to face RP, it would pull spooked-odds of 20+, and I’d likely list it on Opensea for cheap because, well, it looks to be a donkey. Meanwhile, Valkarie is an obvious beast, and I would’ve sold without knowing what I really had.

Bottom Line: Be aware of the chain and observe the chain closely.

Note: All that has been written in this article regarding odds only represent the horse’s odds to win the race – It says nothing about the horse’s chances of placing. We have seen numerous instances where horses will get spooked to 20+ odds but still come in second place.

Author’s Spin:

Jack’s Spin: Why does spooking happen? In reality, it’s not because one horse is afraid of another horse. These horses are virtual after all. “Spook” just has a nice ring to it so that’s why I have been using the term. The reason is because there is only room for one long distance horse in a race. This makes sense logically – if two horses specialize at the same thing but one horse is better at their specialty then it makes sense that the second horse would suffer.

Zaza’s Spin: Does it really mean anything? The short answer is yes. The Spook Factor and the Spook Chain are meaningful because, if using the understanding that odds is an indicator of how good your horse is in respect to others, where your distance-specialist horse lies in the spook chain is extremely valuable as a benchmarking tool.

Per the chain listed above, Valkarie often spooks NYB, but Valkarie gets spooked by RP & MM. If I owned a long-distance specialist and saw myself being spooked by NYB, I’d immediately know where along this chain I fall, and which horses to avoid racing. If my horse spooked, say, Valkarie, I’d start to test it against RP/MM and see where exactly my pony lies in this horse-eat-horse chain.

Deeper thought: I challenge members of the community to look deep into the data and see if the spook-results of where the odds pull for the spooked horse (usually 20+) is indicative of the results in the race itself. In the two examples used in this article, RP V NYB and RP V GFH, Both NYB and GFH had odds of 20+ but GFH finished 6th to RPs 11th and NYB finished 5th to RP’s 4th. Of course, 2 examples will not paint the full picture due to performance variance, so drop a comment if you are willing to make the deep dive and give more examples!

Good luck, and please comment your overall thoughts or questions in the comments section below!

24 thoughts on “The Hidden Rules of Zed – Series 1: The Spook Chain

  1. Trail Blazer Racing

    Thank you! I have been pulling my hair out trying to understand why my 1000m Specialist Suddenly Siphoning was pulling high odds against The Crimson Chin or Podl to the Moon. Your theory makes sense and now I can dig deeper in the data to see where on the chain SS sits.

    Reply
  2. Gutters Racing

    This is a really interesting piece and one I can definitely use for my newest addition, ‘Soon to Be Wed’. I’m trying to determine where she fits in the spook chain and knowing that the non-specialists aren’t affecting the odds really helps.

    Reply
  3. Michael

    I’m really interested in hearing what you think of this. Let’s look at the Gun For Hire, Steph Curry, and Rendezvous Peak example. It was said that GFH and SC are roughly even when it comes to who draws better odds. That is true if you just consider the number of times one was higher than the other. But, GFH has never had odds 1.7 or lower than SC. SC has had odds more than 1.7 lower than GFH more than half the time when they faced each other at 2400. SC is just the better horse at that distance. They look close in ability when a stronger horse isn’t in the race. But, when a stronger horse comes into play it forces the reality of how much better SC is than GFH to be reflected in the odds. That is why I think this entire concept of spooking is really just about horses looking similar until a truly great horse enters the race and shows which one is better.

    Reply
  4. Kraks

    This makes so much sense and fall very good in line with the conversations me and Lithium Racing about spooking. Ex. we know that Liberty Arc is spooking Rico Savy, not a +20 spook but more like 4-8%. I’m pretty sure Liberty Arc at one point also spooked Primo Filius but it’s like he doesn’t spook him as much anymore. Which have gotten me thinking totally irrationally maybe a horse’s place in the spook chain can change over time.
    We have also talked about that it’s like all the horses in a spook chain in a race get effected, so even the horse with the good odds are not winning the race. Ex. Moulah Moulah and Primo Filius has met once in a 2400, MM pulled -0.6 better than usual but got Primo to pull 2.8 higher. (It’s not as high as the examples you write about but still noticeable) Moulah Moulah ended 11th and Primo ended 12th. Win went to a non-specialist Acclimate.
    There are lots more to dive into and I think it is very interesting.

    Reply
  5. Pingback: Spook Chain Part 2 - Good Boy Racing

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