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Understanding Racing Characteristics
Base ability, variance, distance preference and YOU!
Hello from Novus Earth! We’ve seen the recent roll out of a breeding update in Zed Run that promises a more strategic experience with breeding. In the week or two since the update, the evidence seems to indicate that it will be extremely important to understand the characteristics of your horses and match them up carefully before breeding.
If you are fairly new to Zed, you may not understand the traits and characteristics of your horse at all.
The first thing you should do if you are completely new to this topic, is check out what Zed has to say on horse characteristics in the Zed Run Guide. The first 3 traits are most important to understand the dynamics of racing.
Ok, did you make it through that one sentence in the guide on each trait? Great. Let’s break them down together:
Let’s start by imagining that there is a 100-sided die assigned to each horse in Zed and the 12 dice assigned to the 12 horses of each race get rolled to determine the placements of each horse in the race. Highest number wins, second highest finishes second and so on.
Base ability is going to be the average dice roll a horse will get.
In general, base ability will be closely tied to the bloodline, Z number and breed type of your horse. If we consider genesis horses, a Z1 may have an average dice roll of 75, while a Z10 may have an average roll of 60. A Z100 Buterin cross may have an average roll of 20.
If all 100 sides of the die were the same number, then the Z1 would beat the Z10 every time, while the Z10 would beat the Z50 every time.
So base ability is the starting point for how good a horse is, but base ability alone will not create a winning horse. Let’s look at some other traits that can create a winner.
Zed’s guide refers to “stability” as how consistent are the horse’s results. The Zed community often refers to a horse’s “variance”, which is basically the opposite way of looking at the same trait. Variance is the range of how good to how bad a horse can run in any given race.
Let’s build on our dice example. Let’s say that the Z1, with an average roll of 75, has no variance at all (or maximum “stability”). Every single side of it’s 100 sided die is 75.
But our Z10 has different numbers on it’s die. The Z10 may average 60, but the numbers on the die range from 35 to 85.
On any given roll, there are 50 different outcomes the Z10 could get and 10 of those outcomes would be better than the Z1, so 20% of the time, this Z10 would beat the Z1.
This is certainly not the case for all Z1s and Z10s – some Z1s have lots of variance and the combo of a high base ability plus high variance can make a monster.
Some Z10s have very little variance and that combo of low base ability plus low variance can make a donkey. That could make the “A shape” horse, which has a large distribution of finishes in the middle of the pack.
Some horses have variance like above that is not always immediately evident. Other horses have variance that smack you in the face.
You’ve probably heard of a U shape horse? A natural U shape is caused by variance. Sometimes a horse can run extremely fast, sometimes it can run extremely slow.
This is Vanilla Bean, he is a classic U shape example.
At any distance he is capable of finishing first or last. If we applied our dice analogy to Vanilla Bean, may have a die that counts by 2s and ranges from -50 to 150.
So sometimes Vanilla Bean does come in 2nd through 11th, but his range is so wide that his rolls will often come in well ahead or well behind the other 11 horses in his field, leading to a large number of 1sts or 12ths.
This type of horse will have a very high win equity (% of races won vs. races entered) and because of the nature of the payouts in a typical paid Zed race, where first earns you 7.5x your entry fee, this type of horse can be very profitable. However, they can also have long losing streaks.
Whether we are talking about extreme variance or smaller amounts, variance is extremely important to helping horses win races over fields of 11 other horses, especially if it is a field with horses at a higher base ability.
First, a quick history lesson. Originally, Zed had race distances that ranged from 1000 to 2200. Horses were programmed with these distances in mind. 1600 was the midpoint, then sprint distances ran down to 14, 12 and 1000, while marathons went up to 18, 20, 2200. Later they added two more marathon distances, 2400 and 2600.
So when we consider distance preference as a horse characteristic, a 1600 race is actually the race where no distance preference is applied.
Now, how does distance preference affect our horses? Let’s keep our dice example rolling.
First, let’s consider that our Z1 with the 75 on every side of his die not only has not variance, but he has no distance preference either. He loves 1000, 1600 and 2600 all equally.
But our nice little Z10, (average roll of 60 and variance that takes us from 35 to 85) is a marathoner.
He loves marathons so much, that when he is entered in an 1800 he gets a 5% boost on his roll. So now his average roll in an 1800 is a 63.
He might get a 10% boost in a 2000, a 15% boost in a 2200, a 20% boost in a 2400 and a 25% boost in a 2600.
So now if we run our Z10 marathoner in a 2600, his average roll has gone from a 60 to a 75! Using his distance preference, he is going to beat the Z1 50% of the time in a 2600.
He still has his variance, so his rolls will still have a high and low range, but he is in a much better position to win races the further out we go on the distance spectrum.
Some marathoners have more distance preference than others. Some may only get a 1% boost, others may get a 10% boost for each distance away from the midpoint. Some horses may seem to perform at their peak at 1800, 2000, 2200 or 2400. This is often more a matter of competition, as the best distance horses will often be running at the longer distances.
Also, not all horses are marathoners. If you have a sprinter, you will have these boosts applied on the opposite end of the spectrum.
HERE’S THE CATCH:
What happens if we put our Z10 marathoner in a sprint??? He has the OPPOSITE distance multipliers applied to his die. While he got a 5% boost in 1800, he is going to get a 5% deduction in 1400. 10% in 1200, 15% in 1000.
So our Z10s average roll in a 1000 now falls from 60 down to 51. He is much more likely to lose in a 1000.
Ah man, that would suck IF we couldn’t control what distance races we put our horses in. But fortunately, that is controlled by the stable owner.
Ever been on Zed Discord or Twitter? If so, you’ve definitely heard of downclassing or sandbagging. Horses with strong distance preference can purposely run in their least favorite distance to lose and drop class points, allowing them to race against easier competition in their strong distances.
LBJ Goat is the classic example of a strong distance preference horse who has been run overtime with a strategy of downclassing.
Here is LBJ Goat in marathons:
Here is LBJ Goat in sprints:
Distance preference is usually one of the first things you’ll want to try to discover in a new horse, by running it in different distances to see where it does well and where it does poorly.
Stamina limits the number of races your horse can run at full strength in any given 12-hour period. For most horses, they start to lose ability after 7-10 races in this period, but fortunately there is a meter on the Zed UI when you enter races or view your stable that indicates your stamina level.
Zed does a nice job of describing stamina in much more detail here: https://guide.zed.run/zed-run-guide/racing/race-performance-indicators/stamina
Breeding Talent and Breeding Decay are covered on the Zed Run Guide as well. We’ll save a more detailed review of these for another day. Essentially Breeding Talent means some horses will pass on traits to their offspring better than others, while Breeding Decay sets a limit on how many offspring a bred horse can have before it is less effective in passing on racing traits.
If you can approach Zed with a strong understanding of your horses from the perspective of base ability, variance and distance preference, you are well on your way to having more success and deepening your Zed addiction!
See you around Novus Earth,