Saratoga Betting Stats and Trends

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D.S. Williamson

July 24th, 2015

I'm not an expert on Saratoga. Although I've been betting races run at the Saratoga Summer Meet since the early 1990's, I've never stepped foot onto the Saratoga grounds. I've never worn a suit and tie to any race track and I still have trouble figuring out why some horses can negotiate what looks to me like incredibly tight turns at Saratoga while others consistently blow the turns.

After studying the stats for the 2014 Saratoga Racecourse Meet, I am comfortable in writing about some things that should happen in this year's Saratoga Meet. The trends are fairly consistent from year to year.  Sticking with the stats should lead to profits at Saratoga.

1. Often times, breaking from post-position one isn't all that bad - The rail at Saratoga in 2014 hit at a healthy 18% in routes and 16% in sprints. Whenever betting a horse breaking from post 1, stick to the handicapping rule that tells us the horse from post 1 has to have the speed to get into good position as soon as they break from the gate. Post-position 1 could be hitting at 25% at the meet, but if the horse from post 1 is a closer, it might not matter. Also, don't confuse a golden rail, which is a speed bias angle on a particular day, with a decent winning percentage from pot-position 1. The two are completely different things.

2. Weaver and Levine, Castellano and Ortiz Jr. - This Facts and Figures at Saratoga PDF is eye-opening. The stat that jumps out at me is the Average Winning Payoff stat line for Irad Ortiz Jr. $12 is fantastic. Don't expect to get $12 betting on horses Irad rides this summer. But, since both Javier Castellano and John Velasquez will continue to pick up great mounts, Irad's payoff average could still be in double-figures. When it comes to trainers, take a look at George Weaver's and Bruce Levine's Average Winning Payoff compared to their win percentage. $9.70 for Weaver and $9.00 for Levine. Weaver hit at 20% last summer. Levine hit at 23%. Will history repeat itself?  Maybe. Kiaran McLaughlin was fantastic with a 20% win percentage and a $13.60 Average Winning Payoff with only 46 starts. Make sure to use the rest of the stats on the pdf to key on particular races.

3. Understand what "Graveyard of Favorites" means - Graveyard of Favorites is a name given to Saratoga because it's exactly that, the Graveyard of Favorites.  There's nothing magical about it. It's difficult for favorites to win at Saratoga because the races are so deep. Huge purses lead to big, quality, fields. Big fields with quality horses invariably lead to favorites losing more than winning. Take the 2014 Travers Stakes where Bayern went off at 2/1, Tonalist went off at 5/2 and Wicked Strong went off at 5/2. Bayern was the favorite at 2/1, but he wasn't a huge favorite over Tonalist and Wicked Strong. 10 horses were in that race. V.E. Day nipped Wicked Strong at the wire. V.E. Day may have been difficult to pick to win, but the meet's leading rider, Javier Castellano, was on V.E. Day. Any other rider besides Javier may have not gotten V.E. Day to the wire ahead of Wicked Strong. The best thing to remember is to consider using favorites in exotics, but not betting favorites on top. Look for price horses for your win wagers and look for horses that have a shot at big odds, like Castellano on V.E. Day, to use in Pick 3 and Pick 4 wagers.

4. Following the money  isn't always a bad strategy - Give it a week, but following the money might not be such a bad strategy. Following the money doesn't always mean betting on the favorite to win. Following the money can also mean paying attention to the exacta pool and understanding where the real key horses are in the exacta pool. What most of us have to remember is that many professional horseplayers key in on the Saratoga Summer Meet every year. They know Saratoga much better than we do. They're in New York betting on the races at Saratoga on a daily basis. Their information is going to be much better than ours. Wait a while before employing some follow the money aspects and never, ever use the strategy as your lone way of betting (always trust your own instincts first). Employed smartly, following the money could lead to profits at the Saratoga Summer Meet.