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Submitted by John Conte on Tuesday, July 2, 2019 at 10:27 AM

Making Money At The Spa  
John Conte,
Tuesday. July 2

Let me open with a statement that should be a galvanizing point for anyone betting their hard earned cash.

The Most Obvious Value Begins In Those Races Where The Betting Public has The Most Difficulty.

That statement might at first appear counter-intuitive. For how can a bettor f9ind value and make money6 in races where the betting public struggles the most?

Take a moment and think about it. If you can find those races where the bettor has shown a history of bad handicapping and bad betting choices you have already found a situation where value is hidden. Why, because you are betting against your fellow players.


For years, as a handicapper for the NY Post and the DRF and most noticeably as the winner of the NTRA/DRF National Handicapping Championship and $500K first prize I have long known that turf racing pays off better than dirt racing.

This is why my racing column “The Grass Is Greener” was not called that because it was cute. It was called that because as a handicapper and bettor I continually produced for myself (as a full time bettor) and my clients, a minimum of 20-25% more on turf bets than flat bets.

Why was I able to do this? Simple. The same handicapping methods which I used for flat racing simply produced better returns on grass. This had little to do with my handicapping and a lot to do with an early discovery that there were certain grass race conditions the public Never Got A Handle On. Certain conditions which continue to this day.

So knowing that…why would I not make the majority of my plays under those circumstances?



Over the course of the last 10 years at Saratoga, while the overall percentage of winning favorites on all races has varied form a low of 31% to a high of 41%, a number of specified distance and surface races has remained dramatically lower. How much lower? Well, today I will reveal to you one of the handful…the Mile Turf Races.

Before I get into the specifics and showcase a couple of last year’s big winners I and my clients had from these Mile Turf Races, let me just revisit one point.

If the same bettor who is involved in certain dirt race conditions or other turf conditions, or isolated baby maiden races or stakes races, each of which in their own condition produces close to the same percentage of w9inning favorites, a percentage, which over the years has been close to the average both at Saratoga and nationally for what favorites usually do, wouldn’t’ you have more value if you were betting into a condition that year-after-year produced 10-15% less winning favorites?

Let that sink in. You are betting the same dollars against bettors who have traditionally failed miserably in evaluating true value…in the case I’ll discuss below…in Mile Turf races. This means you go into battle knowing you are playing for higher returns. So it just means that you now apply solid handicapping to that opportunity.

More simply put. The same results going against a favorite in a race where only 20% of favorites win, results that produce the same winning percentage of handicapping success that is produced in a race where 35% of favorites win is going to increase your R.O.I. considerably.

Now, you might think, “sure, sounds great, but I still have to find the winner.” Well, yes and no, because that is where I come in. For the last 20 years I have ignored high-favorite-win-percentage-races and concentrated on those races where the public “pours it in” on the favorite and gets beaten regularly. Beaten as often as not by myself and my clients.

And one of those conditions, as I mentioned, is the Mile Turf Race at Saratoga. So let’s look at some numbers.


While overall Saratoga does earn its title as “Graveyard Of Favorites” by year in and year out having those favorites win at anywhere from 32% to 35%, which is below the national average of about 37%, when it comes to Mile Turf Races, as a handicapper I look to those races every day because those are conditions in which you can literally “let the favorite beat you.”

Now, I am not saying bet against the favorite in those races at Saratoga simply as a task. Of course you need to have reasons for betting a non-favorite, but the winning percentages of the favorite are so low it is an automatic look see for me.

Look at just the last three years.

2018 – 31 Races – Only 6 Winning Favorites – 19.3%
2017 – 37 Races – Only 7 Winning Favorites – 18.9%
2016 – 24 Races – Only 5 Winning Favorites – 20.8%

Now you know that there are great starting points. And there are many more isolated situations where we have a better chance of catching a great Return On Investment by fining a solid reason to play an overlay.

This are the sort of awareness that took me many years and cost me many torn up tickets to discover. Last year I and my clients went after 10 of these 31 races and scored in 5 of them. Here are the results:

Jess I Am - $12.80 – Sharp trainer Brad Cox shipped in from Churchill Downs and took slight drop and returned to best distance.

Quaff - $18.80 – Well-bred Into Mischief Filly had rough trip in prior and had good works in between. She was overlooked due to over bet Chad Brown MSW rival.

Voodoo Song - $15.40 – The public went all in on Bill Mott‘s European shipper Yoshida and ignored this Linda Rice horse-for-course that won 4 races at the Spa in 2017.

Spring On Curlin - $17.00 – Slight drop by perennial under the radar local trainer Charlton Baker (watch him again in 2018) got this filly her initial win as public once again sent it in on Chad Brown maiden.

Discreet Image - $28.60 – Sharp second place effort at the same 40K claiming level and at mile at Belmont two back. In next to last had trouble fighting jock out of gate and rank throughout. Returned in 3 weeks off work in between and was worth play if she ran back to second back. She did, and here is another factor. She was at 8-1 in last and she faced to same runner then who went off at 3-1. This time she went off at 13-1 and the favorite at 2-1.

As I said, I did not win every one of the 10 bets. But at $2 Win bet on each ($20) returned $91.80.

We can definitely live with that.




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