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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, July 29, 2013 at 12:00 AM

SARATOGA TRACK TALK

EVALUATING SPA JOCKEYS...IT TAKES MORE THAN JUST READING THE NUMBERS!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

If you are a bettor who considers the jockey as an integral part of your handicapping process...and I am not arguing that you shouldn’t, although like most bettors you probably over-estimate their contributions...you likely check the standings posted on any number of websites.

Listed directly below are the TOP 6 JOCKEYS at Saratoga as of the close of racing on Sunday. July 28.

Rank

Jockey Name

Starts

1st

2nd

3rd

Earnings

Win %

Top 3

Top 3%
1 Joel Rosario 77 15 14 11 $1,370,191 19% 40 52%
2 Javier Castellano 73 13 12 12 $1,111,436 18% 37 51%
3 John R. Velazquez 53 9 5 8 $788,436 17% 22 42%
4 Cornelio H. Velasquez 44 6 3 5 $354,119 14% 14 32%
5 Rosie Napravnik 53 5 9 7 $462,198 9% 21 40%
5 Jose Lezcano 57 5 4 7 $726,373 9% 16 28%

The statistics are pretty much consistent in regard to across-the-board evaluation. There are no surprises when it comes to the names. They are all recognizable and highly regarded by pundits and amateur players alike.

For the more careful handicapper, there are more precise statistics available. The Daily Racing Form and BRIS regularly include trainer/jockey collaborative numbers in their past performances and a few diligent handicappers even take it upon themselves to track how a jockey’s numbers break down based on sprints, routes, turf, etc.

All that being said, as one looks at the standings above it would appear that Joel Rosario is not only Number One in Wins, but wins with the highest percentage of his mounts and is also on the board at the highest percentage. Reading left to right you can see that in order (with the exception of Rosie Napravnik being on the board at a higher percentage than Cornelio Velasquez) the jockeys all stand first through sixth in all the categories.

So as a handicapping tool, the numbers are pretty convincing; which should make them a helpful guide, right?

Well, maybe not SO CONVINCING...

After all, if the idea is to make money, then we should probably lean more towards that OLD STANDBY...RETURN ON INVESTMENT. And when we do that, we get a bit clearer and somewhat more helpful overview.

Keeping in mind RETURN ON INVESTMENT (R.O.I.), let’s take another look at the Top 6 Jockeys from above.

JOEL ROSARIO
Races 77
Wins 15 (1)
Average Mutuel Payoff - $9.07 (4)
R.O.I. (Per $2 Wager) - $1.77 (2)
Beaten Favorites - 12 (5)

JAVIER CASTELLANO
Races 73
Wins 13 (2)
Average Mutuel Payoff - $7.87 (5)
R.O.I. (Per $2 Wager) - $1.40 (3)
Beaten Favorites - 12 (5)

JOHN VELAZQUEZ
Races 53
Wins 9 (3)
Average Mutuel Payoff - $7.68 (6)
R.O.I. (Per $2 Wager) - $1.30* (4)
Beaten Favorites - 7 (4)

*Because he almost exclusively rides Todd Pletcher’s successful 2-year olds at Saratoga he adds to his win total but suffers from an R.O.I. Five of his nine winners paid between $2.80 and $3.80. If not for a $24.80 winner his R.O.I. would have been under $1.00.

CORNELIO VELASQUEZ
Races 44
Wins 6 (4)
Average Mutuel Payoff - $16.37 (1)
R.O.I. (Per $2 Wager) - $2.23 (1)
Beaten Favorites - 3 (2)

ROSIE NAPRAVNIK
Races 53
Wins 5 (5)
Average Mutuel Payoff - $11.30 (3)
R.O.I. (Per $2 Wager) - $1.07 (6)
Beaten Favorites - 2 (1)

JOSE LEZCANO
Races 57
Wins 5 (5)
Average Mutuel Payoff - $13.18 (2)
R.O.I. (Per $2 Wager) $1.16* (5)
Beaten Favorites - 3 (2)

*In one of the introductory paragraphs above I mentioned that a diligent handicapper will break down jockey stats into factors such as performance in sprints, routes, turf, etc. Here is where that becomes ultra important. Jose Lezcano’s 5 wins were all on grass. I won’t make it so simple for you that you don’t do any homework, but I will tell you this. Less than half his mounts were in Turf races.

Given those numbers above, how does one evaluate who among the six are the most productive? One way might be to ascribe a points system of "1" through "6" for each of the categories...with "1" being the best and "6" the least. The Wins/Average Mutuel Payoff/R.O.I. numbers are all positives and the Beaten Favorite numbers are a negative. You will notice that I have already done that (in parentheses next to the category stat.

Adding those numbers...with the lowest number being the best...we get a slightly different evaluation.

First - Cornelio Velasquez - 8
Second - Joel Rosario - 12
Third - Jose Lezcano - 14
Tied Fourth - Jose Castellano & Rosie Napravnik - 15
Sixth - John Velazquez - 17

Like any other overview, this approach only presents part of the process. But it gets you a lot closer to true evaluation and should get you to thinking about how deep you need to go in order to break down this game.

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