Attacking The Spa With Negative Stats
By Guest Author: Jim Mazur
Back in the good old days when I first started playing the horses (’72), this used to be an easy game to wager on. After handicapping the race, one simply went to the window and bet the selection to win, place or show. If a player really wanted to get exotic, then he or she could tie up two selections in a daily double.
Easy game. Can of corn. Now fast forward 43 years. The wagering menu has grown leaps and bounds both vertically and horizontally. From a vertical standpoint, there are now exactas, trifectas, superfectas and super5s. Horizontally, the game has evolved first into the Pick 3 and then wider into sequences demanding winners in 4, 5 6 and sometimes 9 consecutive races.
All players have their favorite wagers. Mine is the Pick 4 and Pick 5 with a $0.50 minimum or a Rainbow Pick 6 with a huge carryover with a $0.10 minimum. Attacking those serial wagers can often be daunting especially when the field sizes in the sequence approach 10+ per race.
While most players will utilize my meet-specific trainer statistics to land on high % plays, I find it more beneficial to go in the other direction. I like to eliminate runners in each race BASED ON THEIR NEGATIVE STATS in one or more categories.
Let’s say the first leg of Saratoga Pick 5 is a MSW juvenile sprint with a field of eight. Included in the field are FTS trained by William Mott, Nick Zito, Tom Bush, Bruce Levine and Tom Albertrani. Using my six-meet database, I can immediately pare down that race to three runners.
Too easy! Well, if you believe in the law of averages, the five FTS trained by Mott et al have virtually no chance to win. Despite lofty achievements by this group and especially by Mott and Zito, none of them has had any success winning a Spa race with a maiden FTS. Here are there respective records in this category:
|Bush, Thomas N||23||0||0%||17%|
Some of these negative stats are mind boggling, especially when a top trainer is involved. For example, Bob Baffert just saddled the first Triple Crown winner in years. But, at the past six meets, he hasn’t found the winner’s circle at Saratoga when returning a runner in the 15-to-30 day range (0 for 17).
Besides his woes with FTS, Zito also has encountered trouble in turf routes (2 for 47). Is it because Zito’s owners are mostly into dirt runners? Was he ever good on the green? Who cares? Don’t spend time figuring out the “why” of it all. Just make it easy…toss Zito on the sod.
Now nothing works all the time. In fact, I can remember a Preakness-day seminar a few years back in which I noted that D. Wayne Lukas was something like 0 for his last 50 starters in a graded stakes. He promptly knocked me out of the Pick 4 by winning the Dixie with Skyring and then, to add salt to the wound, he won the Preakness!
The ODDS CATEGORY is another arena that captures some bizarre stats. For example Albertrani is just 1 for 112 with Spa starters off at odds of 11-1 or higher. And that’s NOT a typo!
Lukas tops that stat with a 3 for 201 record in that same ODDS CATEGORY. Woof. George Weaver (4 for 95), Ian Wilkes (1 for 54) and John Hertler (1 for 90) are others that struggle with runners “cold on the board.”
Before wrapping up, let’s take a look at how these negative stats can save you money. Let’s say you have a Pick 4 plays that goes 8x8x4x3. That’s a $384 wager on a $0.50 ticket. But, after using the stats, you eliminate 3, 3, 1, and 1. Now the play whittles down to 5x5x3x3 or $112.50. You just shaved off $272 or 71% off your original wager. Put those saving to good use by either doubling up your wager or including some marginal runners originally left off due to bankroll considerations.
I’m optimist in just about everything I do in life. But when it comes to handicapping a Pick 4 sequence, it pays to be a pessimist!
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A special THANK YOU to Jim from Neal Benoit for providing this informative article! Also, the statistics in this article were compiled before the beginning of the 2015 Saratoga Meet.