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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, August 26, 2013 at 12:00 AM



Isolating the Best Of The Best From Top Trainers Todd Pletcher And Chad Brown

Monday, August 26

As I have reminded you time and time again, the producers of Past Performances (DRF, BRIS, Equibase, etc.) as well as individual race Track web sites are diligent in producing "useful" trainer statistics that provide a "quick grid evaluation" point. But as I would also remind you, in order to fine tune your handicapping you must also dig below those statics in order to find true value.

For the purposes of this observation I am using the top two trainers at the current Saratoga Meet (as of close of racing Saturday 8/24)...Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown.

The NYRA web site lists Pletcher with 98 runners and 32 winners for a 33% win percentage and Brown with 73 runners and 21 winners for a 28% success rate. DRF and BRIS PP’s are even more useful as in each individual race they will further extrapolate info regarding each trainer’s entrant(s). If it is a turf race for instance you’ll get a R.O.I. for dirt to turf or perhaps the R.O.I. if the horse is coming off a layoff or even if it is the first or second off a claim. These statistics are very helpful and can of course be used in creating your short list of contenders in the race. But I would like to use some generated research to show you where you might take a pair of successful trainers such as Pletcher and Brown and micro-manage the available evidence to a point where you maximize your value.

Given that both trainers have had good meets it isn’t a surprise that they are the focus of many bettors. In fact, evidence points to each being over bet, which in itself is a lessening of value. For instance, with Pletcher’s success comes deflation. Of his 98 runners as of close of racing Saturday, 32 of them (33%) were sent off as the favorite.

Note: While the statistics below are drawn from the current Saratoga Meet, the approach and observations regarding handicapping methodology are applicable to any trainers at any race meet.

(Todd Pletcher...Lower Percentage Bets Yield Higher Returns)

I mentioned above that the public is locked into clearly over betting Todd Pletcher. His success speaks for itself, so that heavy backing is logical. But as a handicapper who eschews money management as importantly as I do handicapping analytics there is a necessity to break down someone like Pletcher so as to maximize his success. In other words, we know that Pletcher can win races, but we also know that in order to get a fair return we have to get beyond just a blanket wager with a trainer whose runners have gone off as the favorite 32 times with his 98 runners (33%, although there have been a few times when the entry he sent out was favored so the percentage is actually a few ticks higher.)

I said that given the underlay nature of the public’s betting patterns regarding Pletcher it is necessary to isolate better value opportunities. On its face that is an obvious statement so let me give you a basic example by separating his two-year old runners from his older runners.

It is almost obligatory commentary for the on-air personalities at TVG, HRTV and on track feeds regarding Pletcher’s atmospheric success with juvenile runners. And once again in 2013 he is dominating the juvenile scene at the Spa. 

(Two-Year Olds Runners)
31 Starters
12 Winners...38.7%
Average Off Odds - 3.02-1
Average Win Mutuel - $5.18
Average R.O.I. - $2.01 for a $2 Wager
Beaten Favorites - 5
Winning Favorites - 9
(2-Year Olds made the favorite 45.1% of the time)
The results are an absolute wash betting his two-year olds.

Now let’s take a look at the 67 three-year old and up starters.
(Older Runners)
67 Starters
20 Winners...29.9%
Average Off Odds - 4.23-1
Average Win Mutuel - $10.06
Average R.O.I - $3.08 for a $2 Wager
Beaten Favorites - 11
Winning Favorites - 7
(Older Runners made the favorite 26.6% of the time)
Conclusion...If you are going to wager on Todd Pletcher and are operating with a fixed bankroll it is logical that you would want to perhaps ignore the two-year olds altogether and concentrate on his older runners.

(Chad Brown...Careful Breakdowns Produces Extra Value)

A one stop look at the stats shows Chad Brown as second to Pletcher in total wins and percentages. But a closer look reveals some negatives you can avoid and some positives you could exercise.

I mentioned above that Todd Pletcher has long been an obvious betting tool for the the point where his prices are significantly deflated. Nonetheless, an overview of all 73 of his starts shows that Chad Brown is an even bigger darling of favorite players. While Pletcher had 32 of his 98 runners (33%) go off as the favorite, Brown had 25 of his 73 runners (34%) go off as the favorite. And whereas Pletcher had an overall R.O.I. of $2.73, Brown had (although profitable) a significantly less overall R.O.I. of $243.

That being said, a careful breakdown of Brown’s runners finds some value in the narrowing of categories, just as it did when we separated Pletcher’s juveniles from his older runners. So let’s break down Brown.

(Overall Statistics)
73 Starters
21 Winners...28.8%
Average Off Odds - 3.77-1
Average Win Mutuel - $8.44
Average R.O.I. - $2.42 for a $2 Wager
Beaten Favorites - 17
Winning Favorites - 9
Now break it down into Dirt and Turf
NOTE: Brown is heavily invested in turf starters.

(Turf Statistics)
55 Starters
18 Winners...32.7%
Average Off Odds  - 3.47-1
Average Win Mutuel - $8.04
Average R.O.I. - $2.63 for a $2 Wager
Beaten Favorites - 10
Winning Favorites - 10

(Dirt Statistics)
18 Starters
3 Winners...16.7%
Average Off Odds  - 3.03-1
Average Win Mutuel - $10.87
Average R.O.I. - $1.81 for a $2 Wager
Beaten Favorites - 5
Winning Favorites - 1

NOTE: The research clearly shows that you would want to stick with Chad Browns turf runners...unless of course you had your own compelling reasons to wager on one of his dirt runners. And there are even deeper levels by which to micromanage your way to slightly better value.
Whereas Pletcher has less than gaudy win percentage numbers regarding the massive number of 2-year olds he runs, Brown runs significantly less (he does not have the deep-pocket clients that Pletcher does) juveniles, yet his results (likely because his juveniles are disregarded) are much better.

(Two-Year Old Statistics)
12 Starters
3 Winners...25%
Average Off Odds  - 3.78-1
Average Win Mutuel - $12.00
Average R.O.I. - $3.00 for a $2 Wager
Beaten Favorites - 3
Winning Favorites - 1
In conclusion: these are not easily drawn statistics. They take work. But I’m certain that you understand how deeply you can dig and what you can discover, especially if you discover that you can move your R.O.I. up by as much as 10% or more.

Keep working...I’ll return to these pages soon.

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