Aug 10 2015

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:

Trainer Starts Wins Win% Itm%
Albertrani, Thomas 59 0 0% 25%
Bush, Thomas N 23 0 0% 17%
Levine, Bruce 28 1 4% 29%
McPeek, Ken 57 3 5% 33%
Mott, William 106 2 2% 20%
Zito, Nick 68 1 1% 15%

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!

By Jim Mazur (of Progressive Handicapping)

Kentucky Downs 2015
Modeled after European style turf courses, come visit the only one of its kind in North America. The author had a truly enjoyable visit to this unique race course the past two years. Click here to read more about last year’s adventure.


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.

8 comments on “Attacking The Spa With Negative Stats

  1. WOW getting Jim Mazur is a big score!! I would have thought he would have given out a bit more of his statistics though. I have been a follower of his books for years, and is always quick with a response when I thank him for a score (wich has not been happening at all this meet)

  2. I used to love it when Monmouth Park in the early 90s would give away Jim’s books. He was a public relations success and because it was a success, Monmouth Park decided to stop it. Naturally. It’s a race track. Run by idiots, buffoons, and functional morons. Woodbine offers his data, but that’s because they charge such obscene takeouts, they can afford it! I don’t mean to sound negative about Jim’s work because it’s fantastic, and worth the money.

    Rivegauche610 on
    • The last I knew Monmouth still gives away one of his books free if you attend a seminar that he puts on annually during Memorial Day weekend. I got one two years ago there. I’ll check with Jim to see if that’s still the case.

      UPDATE: Jim contacted me and said that he was not contracted by Monmouth to return, and the last one he did was in fact the one I attended two years ago.

  3. Jim Mazur. One of the really nice guys in the business. Down to earth, puts out quality material, and very entertaining speaker. Good example here, chipping in to help Neal out when he’s down on his luck. Good man.

  4. I am glad that you added the ‘Footnote” of stats before the Spa Opening Day – Billy Mott had turned the tables a lot with his FTS.

    Phil Cassidy on
  5. Yes, Mott scored with 2 firsters in the opening week for $44 and $25, and ran second with another at (12-1).
    Love Mazur’s books, and use negative angles myself, but not the best example.

    • It would seem that something has changed in Bill Mott’s approach to preparing 2-year olds for their first start, at least at the beginning of the 2015 Spa meet. His record with six starters from 7/24-8/13 is 6 starts, 2 wins, 2 place, and 0 show … for an ROI of $11.56. And the four horses that finished 1st or 2nd were with four different owners. Very interesting! It will be even more interesting to see if this trend continues throughout the rest of the meet.

  6. Haven’t read any of Jims books ,guess I should .He makes a lot of sence .Been handicapping since the early eighties myself.

    Clifton carter on

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