10 must-know stats to use in horse racing betting

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

October 26th, 2020

Statistics are a big part of any sport, and horse racing is no exception. Horseplayers can choose from a wealth of data to make educated decisions on which horse(s) to bet.

Want to give horse racing a try, but not sure which statistics to favor in your wagering? Here are 10 must-know stats to consider when handicapping.

Win percentage of betting favorites

Unlike team sports, where each match is theoretically a 50-50 proposition, horse races are considerably less predictable. Betting favorites prevail in just more than one-third of races, which means more than 60% of outcomes can be considered upsets.

Jockey win percentage

In 2019, North America’s top 20 jockeys by earnings compiled an average win percentage of 18.7%. Any jockey winning past 20% is worth following, but some jockeys surpass 25% or even 30% during hot streaks. These jockeys are consistently assigned to ride quality horses, so their mounts are worth considering almost automatically.

Keep in mind some jockeys perform best under specific circumstances. For example, a jockey with a 15% overall win rate might score at 20% when they ride on turf.

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Jockey in-the-money percentage

Finishing first is ideal, but second and third place are just as significant for exotic wagers, like the exacta and trifecta. In 2019, North America’s top 20 jockeys by earnings finished “in the money” (first, second, or third) 48.2% of the time. The top five riders all exceeded 50%, while some on small racing circuits cracked the 60% barrier.

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Trainer win percentage

Since trainers can carefully choose the best spots to enter their horses, they tend to compile higher win percentages than jockeys. North America’s top 20 trainers by 2019 earnings averaged a 21.3% win rate, with several high-profile conditioners exceeding the 25% mark.

As with jockeys, some trainers perform better under certain conditions. A trainer who typically wins at a 20% rate might win just 8% of the time with first-time starters, which suggests their runners are rarely cranked for peak efforts on debut.

Trainer in-the-money percentage

In 2019, North America’s top 20 trainers by earnings saw their starters finish first, second, or third 52.7% of the time. Exceeding 60% is the mark of a very successful trainer.

Jockey/trainer combo statistics

Some trainers repeatedly enlist one or two jockeys to ride all their best horses. Brisnet Ultimate Past Performances outline how various jockey/trainer combinations have performed over the previous 60 days, and it’s not uncommon to see win percentages exceed 25% when a team is hot.

When a trainer has multiple horses entered in a race, checking to see which jockey/trainer combo has been hotter can help guide you toward the stable’s top contenders.

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Return on investment (ROI) statistics

A trainer might win at a 30% rate, but can you gain a steady profit from betting their horses? Brisnet Ultimate Past Performances publish return on investment (ROI) statistics based on the payoffs for $2 win bets.

A jockey or trainer angle that boasts a +0.74 ROI returns $2.74 for every $2 win bet. An angle generating a -0.92 ROI triggers a $1.08 payoff for every $2 win bet, or a loss of $0.92.

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Average winning distance statistics

When a horse tackles new distance, it’s helpful to know if they’re bred to handle the conditions. Brisnet Ultimate Past Performances list the sire and dam sire of each horse, along with the average winning distance (AWD) of their progeny.

A stallion whose foals boast an AWD shorter than 7 furlongs is likely to sire sprinters and milers. The progeny of a stallion with an AWD between 7 and 7.4 typically excel over a variety of distances, while an AWD of 7.5 or higher indicates a stallion imparting stamina to his progeny.

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Post-position statistics

It’s common to see handicappers reference post position statistics — “the rail is winning at a 20% rate” or “post 12 wins just 5% of the time.” Such numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, since they’re influenced by many factors. Sample sizes are often small, and the numbers slant in favor of inside posts, because of varying field sizes.

In a race with 12 starters, each post has an 8.3% chance to produce the winner. But in a race with five horses, each post has a 20% chance. Thus, inside posts are generally expected to produce higher win percentages than outside posts. If you find that the opposite is true for a particularly track and distance, you have an angle worth pursuing.

Brisnet Speed and Pace rating pars

Brisnet Speed and Pace ratings can help you identify which horses are fast enough to win a race, particularly if you keep the par ratings for each class level and distance in mind. Par numbers for Brisnet E1, E2, Late, and Speed ratings can be found in Brisnet Ultimate Past Performances.

If every horse in a race has failed to reach the par Speed rating, you could be looking at a below-average race ripe for an upset.

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Good luck with your handicapping!