Jun 18 2014

Know Your Trainers – Todd Pletcher vs. Bill Mott

A frequent question asked by new fans trying to learn more about horse racing is, “Where do I begin?”  My immediate response is generally, “Get to know your trainers.”  While learning about topics like distance, class, and pace are important … in my opinion, none are as important as learning about the tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses of trainers.  With that thought in mind, we are starting a new series of articles called “Know Your Trainers.”

In this series we will dig into the statistics of some head trainers and try to make sense of the numbers we find.  We thought it might be fun to present the numbers in a “competitive” manner by pairing trainers.  With that said, we are not trying to judge the trainers or claim that one is better than another.  Our intention is to pair trainers who have statistics in comparable categories and present some plausible reasons why they might differ.

So let’s start with two of the big names in the business, Todd Pletcher and Bill Mott.   Our focus will be on two main areas; Graded Stakes and First Time Starters (FTS).  The statistics presented were gathered with Daily Racing Form’s online software Formulator.  We limited the data to the past two years, but you can go back five years if you want a larger sample of data.

Before we start, here is an explanation of each column in the charts below:

  • STR = Number of starts
  • 1st = Number of wins.
  • 2nd = Number of place finishes.
  • 3rd = Number of show finishes.
  • WIN% = Overall percentage of wins based on number of starts.
  • ITM% = Percentage of times the horse finished In-The-Money (1st, 2nd, or 3rd).
  • ROI = Return on Investment, based on a $2 flat Win bet for every starter.  Over $2 is profitable.  For example, if there were 100 starters, and the ROI was $3 … The total wagered would equal $200 ($2 x 100).  The return would be $300 ($3 x 100).  If the ROI were $0.50, then the return would be $50 (50-cents x 100) … resulting in a loss of $150.

For Graded Stakes we’ll limit the races to Routes only, meaning 1 mile or greater.  We’re doing this because Bill Mott participates in very few Graded Stakes Sprint races, leaving little to contrast.  Below is a chart showing the Graded Stakes results in Dirt Route races for each trainer, separated by Grade 1, 2, 3.

Mott Pletcher Grd Stk Dirt Route2

For Grade-1 races, you can see that Bill Mott has a higher Win%, ITM%, and ROI.  With that said, both trainers possess a very healthy ROI of $3.34 and $3.74.  These are very respectable numbers considering they were achieved against the highest level of competition in the sport.  Let’s put these numbers in investment world context.  If you wagered $100 to Win on every Grade-1 Dirt Route starter for Bill Mott and Todd Pletcher combined over the past two years, your total investment would have been $13,700.   Your return $23,699.  Tell your Edward Jones or Smith Barney adviser that you want this kind of return for 2-years.  Then tell me what he/she says!

As you can see from the chart, the Grade-2 results aren’t as impressive.  Bill Mott’s win percentage drops to 16%.  And while Todd Pletcher’s win rate increases to 28%, his ROI actually drops to $1.87.  Moving down to Grade-3, once again his ROI decreases to $1.69 despite a solid win rate of 25%.  This suggests that while you might cash tickets on Mr. Pletcher at good prices in Grade-1 dirt races, your chances diminish in G2/G3 dirt races.  Put simply, his win chances are being overbet in G2/G3 and underbet in G1 races.

Now let’s look at their Graded Stakes results in Turf Route races.

Mott Pletcher Grd Stk Turf Route

Talk about a contrast. Their Grade-1 results on turf are directly opposite to the dirt. Combined they have won only two G1 turf routes out of 43 starts. If you focus on Todd Pletcher G1-G2 races combined, you see that he has only 4 wins out of 51 starts and 13 horses in the money. That’s 38 starters that did not hit the board. Does that mean Todd Pletcher doesn’t know how to train horses to run on the turf?

If you consider his results in Grade-3 turf races, 19% win, 57% ITM, and $2.09 … I think he knows what he is doing just fine, thank you. The more plausible explanation is that the G1/G2 stock in his stable is predominantly dirt-intended horses.  The good news for Pletcher fans is that he obviously has capable G3 turf horses. So fire away in G3, but be cautious when considering one of his turf horses in G1/G2 races, especially if it’s a short price.

Next we’ll review First Time Starters in two broad categories, dirt sprints and turf routes. Utilizing another feature in Formulator we’ll separate the results even further by age, 2-year old only and 3-year old and upward. Below are their First Time Starters in Dirt Sprints races.

Mott Pletcher FTS Dirt Sprint

The 2-year old only results show the greatest contrast between Bill Mott and Todd Pletcher. Mott wins 4%, 30% hit the board, and he has an ROI of only $0.67.  Pletcher on the other hand wins 38% of the time, 72% in-the-money, and has an ROI of $2.26.  This is as stark a contrast as you will find in any category between these top trainers.  Obviously there is a fundamental difference in their approach with 2-year old horses and/or the type of horses they train are dramatically different at this age.  Maybe Todd Pletcher trains more precocious 2-year old horses or maybe his training regimen is entirely different.  Whatever the reason, a horseplayer should be aware of these differences.

The 3-year old and upward results paint an entirely different story. Mott has a Win% and ITM% that match Pletcher, and his ROI of $2.66 is far better than Pletcher’s of $1.10. Pletcher’s winning percentage of 24% would be good for any other trainer, but his ROI of only $1.10 suggests that the betting public is still betting on his older horses with the expectation of him winning at the same rate as he does with his 2-year old horses.  A faulty assumption if you look at the numbers.

Finally, let’s review the statistics for our trainer’s First Time Starters in Turf Route races. Again we will separate the results by age.

Mott Pletcher FTS Turf Route

For the 2-year old races, similar patterns emerge for Bill Mott,  having only 1 winner from 35 starters. His ROI of $2.64 is the result of the lone winner going off at 45-1 odds. Todd Pletcher has a higher win percentage, but at 19%, it’s half of what he had with 2-year old dirt sprinters. His lower Win% combined with an ROI of $2.00 suggests that the betting public doesn’t wager as heavily on his turf first time starters, potentially offering more opportunities for value plays.

The debut turf routers for 3-year old and upward is quite low (6% and 4%) for both trainers.  Overall, their WIN% and ITM% is far less than what the average fan might expect from these top trainers. It seems pretty clear from these numbers – an older horse making his/her debut in a turf route race is probably not one of the better horses in their stable. Yet the betting public is more times than not still backing them. This should and does create opportunities for value on other horses in these races – horses trained by someone not named Bill Mott or Todd Pletcher.

Adirondack Beverages

This Article Sponsored By Adirondack Beverages


Neal Headshot2
By Neal Benoit

4 comments on “Know Your Trainers – Todd Pletcher vs. Bill Mott

  1. My financial advisor told me that his takeout rate is a lot lower than in horse racing. I’m not convinced. Thanks for the good information shown here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *