Jul 19 2013

Saratoga – The Summer Place To Be, For Trainers


Saratoga is not only the “summer place to be” for racing fans, it’s also the place to be for racing’s best trainers.  According to an article on DRF.COM, 21 of the top 25 trainers in purse money have stalls at Saratoga this summer.  In addition to that, throughout the meet there is a steady influx of trainers less familiar, but equally interested in winning a race at the premier racing meet of the summer.

For the horseplayer this presents a good deal of uncertainty when it comes to handicapping races involving so many trainers in so many different situations.  For that reason I rely on DRF Trainer Statistics more during this meet than probably any other time of the year.  In particular I use the DRF Formulator software to breakdown statistics into much finer categories than the summary statistics at the bottom of each horse’s Past Performances (PPs).  And opening day at the 2013 Saratoga meet presented a good example of why this can be so important.

Let’s look at a horse entered in the 6th race on July 19, 2013 named Uncle Southern.  She is trained by Linda Rice.  The race is an Allowance Race (NW1) for NY Bred fillies, run at 5.5 furlongs on the Turf.

Uncle Southern PPs

Notice that the last time Uncle Southern raced was in October of 2012, almost 9 months prior.  Due to this fact, DRF includes a statistic for Linda Rice on how she has performed when bringing back horses after layoffs of more than 180 days (6 months).  Out of 66 starters, she has won 12% with an ROI of $1.14.  That means if you bet $2 on all 66 horses to win, you would have lost almost 50% of your money.  Not very enticing.

However, DRF Formulator allows you to break down this information into finer detail.  For example, let’s see how Linda has fared when the return race was a Sprint vs. a Route.  And, on the turf vs. on the dirt.  The following table shows the breakdown of these categories (in the last 2 years) when she brings a horse back off a layoff of more than 180 days:

Race Type Starts Wins Place Show ROI
Routes 19 2 2 2 $0.73
Sprints 62 7 9 8 $1.12
Dirt 43 2 4 6 $0.49
Turf 38 7 7 4 $1.63

None of these breakdowns by themselves look very encouraging, especially the routes and dirt races.  However, today’s race is a sprint race, and is on the turf.  So let’s drill down a little further.

Race Type Starts Wins Place Show ROI
Dirt-Route 7 1 0 1 $0.82
Dirt-Sprint 36 1 4 5 $0.42
Turf-Route 12 1 2 1 $0.67
Turf-Sprint 26 6 5 3 $2.08

Now things are getting interesting.  When we drill down to the conditions of the July 19 race (Turf-Sprint) for Linda Rice, we find that she has won 6 out of 26 (23%) and has gotten 14 of those 26 in-the-money, with an ROI that is at least profitable.  Now you might not want to bet your mortgage on an ROI of slightly over $2, but at least it gives you more confidence than the summary statistic printed at the bottom of the PPs.

Just a footnote to the above information, the total number of races in my detail don’t exactly match the total in the summary information at the bottom of the PPs.  That’s because I like to go back a full 2 years in my analysis, so I have 15 more races in my sampling.  Also, fast forward to the results of the July 19 race, Uncle Southern broke well, chased an extremely fast pace, then tired late.  However, she did come back to win her next race, after benefiting from her useful return race.

One more cautionary note entering into the Spa meet.  You will encounter lots of maiden races up here.  DRF will give you summary Trainer statistics on the printed PPs like “1st Start”.  But, just like in the above example, when you break these down (using DRF Formulator) by Age (e.g. 2yr vs. 3up), distance (sprint vs. route), and surface (turf vs. dirt) you will find strengths and weaknesses will appear for many trainers within these subcategories.

Formulator does allow you to save the details for a common search you might use (e.g. one of mine is 2-year old, First Time Starters (FTS = A horse that has never raced before), on dirt, sprint distance).  This allows me to quickly pull up a Trainers statistics for that category.  This is a big time saver when you have a race loaded with FTS entries.

We’ll be continuing to demonstrate the capabilities of Formulator in our Blog and hopefully highlight a few playable trends that you can look for even if you don’t have access to Formulator.  So check back for more throughout the Saratoga meet.

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By Neal Benoit

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