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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, August 15, 2014 at 12:00 AM


(Public Perception Vs. The Numbers)

On a very visceral level just about every relatively regular visit to the race track, whether in person or online knows who the “top” trainers are. When peering at the data of past performances their eyes linger on Todd Pletcher, Chad Brown, Bill Mott, Christophe Clement, Shug McGaughey, Wesley Ward and even recently successful (for the most part) claiming trainers such as David Jacobson.

These guys win races and they win more than most of the lesser known trainers they compete against. One need only look at the “leader” boards to find the usual suspects.

However, if you’ve followed me even only sporadically over the years you know what my next question is. Biggest number of winners and even highest or among the highest in winning percentage aside…how much VALUE do these “well-eyed” trainers add to the Bottom Line. After all, as exciting as it is to watch a beautifully bred and well meant juvenile maiden making its debut for Todd Pletcher, the only true indicator of a trainer’s worth is based on the same criteria the worth of any other race track player…what is their overall and more precisely, broken down into individual circumstance (distance, surface, training pattern, claiming maneuvers) RETURN ON INVESTMENT.

As I like to do let me show you what I mean by revealing a few examples as to how I break down the TRUE VALUE OF TRAINERS.
Below are the “Top 20” Trainers listed by number of wins at the Saratoga meet as of Monday 8/11.

1 Todd A. Pletcher 71 19 14 8 $1,573,862 27%
2 Chad C. Brown 49 10 10 10 $906,120 20%
3 William I. Mott 39 8 5 5 $853,328 21%
4 Michael J. Maker 30 7 5 3 $403,956 23%
4 H. Graham Motion 41 7 6 6 $663,897 17%
6 Linda Rice 34 6 3 3 $576,893 18%
6 George Weaver 27 6 3 6 $365,948 22%
6 Rudy R. Rodriguez 40 6 6 8 $356,572 15%
9 Gary C. Contessa 46 5 4 7 $300,097 11%
9 Anthony W. Dutrow 17 5 2 1 $614,583 29%
9 Michael E. Hushion 22 5 3 1 $307,085 23%
9 Claude R. McGaughey III 25 5 2 5 $409,183 20%
9 Wesley A. Ward 28 5 4 2 $310,357 18%
9 James A. Jerkens 15 5 1 2 $607,104 33%
15 John P. Terranova, II 16 4 1 1 $211,769 25%
15 Christophe Clement 36 4 7 8 $537,187 11%
15 Thomas Albertrani 27 4 5 2 $373,006 15%
15 Bruce R. Brown 31 4 1 11 $260,453 13%
15 David Jacobson 39 4 7 5 $290,164 10%
20 H. James Bond 9 3 0 1 $156,280 33%


For the initial purposes of this “lesson” I chose to include the Top 3 on the list as well as 4 other trainers based more on what I would consider recognition to the casual New York bettor. In other words, while a careful follower of racing would certainly recognize Michael Maker and Graham Motion and both have started a number of runners at the meet, they are not essentially trainers such as Christophe Clement, Mike Hushion or David Jacobson, who have a year round New York presence or the lone as often as not shipping conditioner Anthony Dutrow who spots horses in New York year round, but runs many less horses so was included for that purpose in order to widen the scope.

Obviously one can ask why I left out the likes of Rudy Rodriguez, Shug McGaughey or Linda Rice among others and my only answer is…I don’t want to do all the work for you…and this is just a point of view to get you on your way.

First let’s take a look at the seven chosen trainers below and reveal some basic numbers that present an overall VALUE based on R.O.I. (Return On Investment.)

Todd Pletcher:
71 Starters—19 Wins
Average Off Odds—4.32-1
Average Payoff For The 19 Winners—$5.10
R.O.I. Based On $2 Wager On All 71 Starters—$1.37

NOTE: There is no question that Todd Pletcher is now and has been over the years the most visible trainer at Saratoga. This is borne out by the fact that 29 of his 71 runners were the post time favorite. And even as the favorite many of those are odds-on, especially with his two-year olds. There is no question that the name Todd Pletcher more than any other trainer leads to a deflation of value.

However, the entire process of finding VALUE demands search beyond the front line numbers. Even with a trainer such as Todd Pletcher there is value to be found. Take a look at just this one example of how you might break down his 71 runners even further.

29 Favorites
16 Winning Favorites Produced A $2.15 R.O.I. For Every $2 Wager On All 29 favorites
3 Winners From The 42 Non-Favorites Produced A $0.88 R.O.I. For Every $2 Wager

Obviously I would not recommend an automatic wager on every post time favorite that Pletcher sends out but if you want to show a profit that will do it. But more importantly, eliminating virtually impossible to win scenarios, which betting a Pletcher non-favorite is, you had better have an almost 100% reason based on your handicapping factors to bet one of his non-favorites. The smart move is to let one of them beat you…especially if you like another horse in the race because even with a non-favorite Pletcher by virtue of his popularity is taking support at the windows and adding to the value of your horse.

Those notes should give you an idea as to how to begin with the most basic of statistics such as those listed on any less than revelatory “leader board<” pare them down to the average off-odds, R.O.I. etc. and then pare those down even further. I showed you one by separating Pletcher’s favorites and non-favorites, but how about sprints vs routes, grass vs dirt, layoff vs recent competition, all of which will eliminate the negligible and add the better prospects.

Now let’s continue with the other six I’ve chosen and show you what you are up against should you just take their VALUE or lack thereof on the basic level most bettors accept…bettors you are competing with.

Bill Mott:
39 Starters—8 Wins
Average Off Odds—8.42-1
Average Payoff For The 8 Winners—$7.09
R.O.I. Based On $2 Wager On All 39 Starters—$1.45
3 Winning Favorites
8 Losing Favorites
NOTE: Interestingly enough Mott’s R.O.I. for his 28 non-favorites ($1.45) was exactly the same for his overall R.O.I.

Chad Brown:
49 Starters—10 Wins
Average Off Odds—4.38-1
Average Payoff For The 10 Winners—$8.72
R.O.I. Based On $2 Wager On All 49 Starters—$1.78
4 Winning Favorites
12 Losing Favorites
R.O.I. For The 33 Non-Favorites—$1.88

NOTE: Chad Brown has become a very visible trainer the last few years and his $1.78 and $1.88 starting point R.O.I. figures are very helpful given that there are other factors which begin with his horses and increase the R.O.I. once the horse in any given scenario is segregated further. It is also worth noting that Brown began the meet at 2-23 and has won with 8 of his last 26 starters.

Anthony Dutrow:
17 Starters—5 Wins
Average Off Odds—8.45-1
Average Payoff For The 5 Winners—$11.96
R.O.I. Based On $2 Wager On All 39 Starters—$3.52
3 Winning Favorites
2 Losing Favorites

NOTE: Dutrow is a prime example of why the results, in this case quite good (R.O.I. $352) have to go under the same microscope as the seemingly very negative R.O.I. numbers. When I hit his shipper Big Trouble in the Sanford Stakes on opening weekend we got back a juicy $25.60 and Dutrow followed up with his very next starter at $15.40. That meant he began the meet at 2 for 3. It also means, if you look at the generic numbers above (3 winning favorites) that he is 3 for his last 14 with an R.O.I. on those 14 runners of $1.33. Dutrow is a very good trainer and over the years I have been very fortunate with his select number of runners. But you have to keep in mind that his recent numbers can be skewed downward as much as the aforementioned (8 of last 26(Brown numbers can be skewed upward. That is why I know how recent numbers compare to long range numbers and how that also factors into the equation.


Mike Hushion:
22 Starters—5 Wins
Average Off Odds—5.60-1
Average Payoff For The 5 Winners—$6.98
R.O.I. Based On $2 Wager On All 22 Starters—$1.59
1 Winning Favorite
2 Losing Favorites

Christophe Clement:
36 Starters—4 Wins
Average Off Odds—4.64-1
Average Payoff For The 4 Winners—$6.93
R.O.I. Based On $2 Wager On All 36 Starters—$0.77
2 Winning Favorites
6 Losing Favorites

NOTE: Do you know what Clement’s overall numbers are at Saratoga? Do you know whether or not he will improve over the final weeks? I’ll tell you one thing, based on the last 4 years there is one very productive scenario that could under the right conditions produce a very big payoff or two before we are through…and NO I’m not going to tells you…but my clients will know on race day.

David Jacobson:
37 Starters—4 Wins*
Average Off Odds—5.78-1
Average Payoff For The 4 Winners—$7.75
R.O.I. Based On $2 Wager On All 37 Starters—$0.84
1 Winning Favorite
5 Losing Favorites

*The overall standings at the top of the page list Jacobson with 39 starters, which is how many horses raced but he had two entries so for betting and calculation purposes there were only 37 investments.


What I have produced above only scratches the surface, but as I have done so many times I have given you a map towards the approach. Believe me, just as I know VALUE UNDER ALL CIRCUMSTANCES for the 7 trainers above, so do I know it for all the trainers. I hope this helps you sharpen your handicapping tools, but if you need additional help, click here to get with me at Saratoga everyday racing day!

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