How horse racing ROI stats are calculated

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

February 9th, 2022

You may have gathered horse racing has a specific way of calculating the return on investment (ROI) generated by different betting angles. But the way it works isn’t necessarily clear at first glance.

Let’s explore horse racing’s ROI stats and define how they’re calculated.

The basics

For decades, $2 has been the standard minimum bet amount for win, place, and show wagers. A hundred years ago, $2 represented a significant investment—a $2 bet in 1922 is equivalent to more than $30 in 2022.

But even though inflation has reduced the significance of a $2 bet, the basic $2 amount remains the standard by which ROI stats are measured. While there are exceptions, when the ROI for a betting angle is listed, it’s usually indicated as the profit or loss generated by $2 wagers.

The math

Let’s say you’re curious about the ROI generated when betting turf horses conditioned by a particular trainer. Many horse racing data sources list such stats when applicable.

Using an example from Brisnet Ultimate Past Performances, the following trainer has saddled 328 turf starters during a designated time period (in this case, the last three years). A lofty 24% of those starters visited the winner’s circle, and 55% finished in the top three.

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The final number is the ROI for the betting angle: a profitable +0.59. This means if you had bet $2 to win on all 328 of those starters, each $2 win bet would have returned an average of $2.59.

In contrast, the listed trainer has won at just a 17% rate from 81 starters running back off 46-90 days of rest, generating a -0.11 ROI. If you had bet $2 to win on all 81 starters, the average return would have been $1.89—a solid number in the scheme of broad betting angles, but not quite profitable.

Another method of indicating ROI

Sometimes, you’ll see betting angles listed as a profit or loss percentage that isn’t tied to a specific dollar amount. For example, a given betting angle might produce a profit of “+24%.” This means betting an equal amount on every starter in the sample would have increased your investment by 24%. Since 24% of $2 is $0.48, the ROI when listed in the $2 format would be $2.48, or +0.48.

Calculating your own ROI

If you wish to put a number on your own handicapping acumen, you can calculate your own $2 ROI. If you bet $5,000 in a year and win $6,000, simply divide your winnings by half of the amount you wagered. In other words, $6,000 divided by $2,500 (half of $5,000) is $2.40, a profit of 40 cents on every $2 wager.

Here’s hoping your own ROI is firmly in the positive this year!