On a day in, day out basis, horse racing is contested among cheap, not particularly fast horses in front of hundreds of degenerates in sometimes less that optimal conditions. For six weeks each summer that changes. Del Mar in southern California and Saratoga in upstate New York offer boutique meets featuring the best of the best. The events draw huge crowds and top-tier horses, showcasing how great the “sport of kings” can be when it is well cared for.
Del Mar opened last week and Saratoga begins racing on Friday. Triple Crown-winner American Pharoah is set to run in the Haskell Invitational at Saratoga a week from Sunday and, assuming things go well, will also run in the Travers Stakes at “the Spa” on August 29.
Before we get our next look at the super horse, let’s look at some Spa trends that will help you wager in the coming days and weeks.
Saratoga Betting Trends:
*Unfairly known as the “Graveyard of Favorites” for years now, Saratoga produces no more long shot winners than any other track. Favorites claim almost exactly one-third of the races.
*In sprints, avoiding an outside post position is a must. Over the last two years, horses in the 10 post or further out are just two for 66.
*In one mile races on the inner turf, it is a huge advantage to be positioned near the rail. Last year, the three inside posts won 23 of 46 races.
*While trainer Todd Pletcher wins more than anyone at the Spa (and almost everywhere else), he usually scores with favorites. Pletcher was 24/53 as the chalk in 2014 and 4/78 otherwise.
*Pletcher does his best work with two year olds. He has won 49/161 races with debuting juveniles over the last five years; he’s also won 19 of his last 24 races with two-year-old favorites debuting in dirt sprints.
*Trainer Chad Brown has fewer total wins but a higher percentage than Pletcher at the Spa. Brown is particularly good on the turf. Of his last 47 winners, forty have triumphed on the grass, and he went 7/11 last year with two year olds on the turf in distance races.
*Trainer Bill Mott has won a race on his birthday, July 29, each year (that there’s been racing on that date) since 2006. Betting every Mott horse on his birthday has yielded a net gain over that span.
*The takeout percentages, the amount the track takes off the top, are a reasonable 15-percent on the Pick 5 and Pick 6 (unless there is a carryover, in which case it’s higher but there is free money in the pool), and 16-percent on Win, Place and Show wagering. Exactas and Daily Doubles are 18.5-percent. Everything else is a ridiculous and unplayable 24-percent (Trifectas, Superfectas, Pick 3s, and Pick 4s).
*For a $2 wager, the average Pick 5 paid over $32,000 last year and the Pick 6 averaged almost $25,000.
*On August 29 last year, the Pick 5 paid a shade under $600,000.
Hope those help, race fans! Best of luck this weekend.
(Photo credit: bobistraveling [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)