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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 12:00 AM


8 Days Until The SPA

Part IV—July 10

By Jim Hurley

Take a look at the calendar the opening of the 2014 Saratoga 40 day Race Meet is only 8 days away. As we have done in the first installments of SARATOGA OVERVIEW in today’s edition we will continue discussing all the INTRICATE ANGLES, TRENDS and HISTORICAL DATA that most Spa Bettors never consider…the Angles, Trends and Historical Data that will change your wagering fortunes.

Over the course of the next week we will publish further updates to this SARATOGA OVERVIEW that reveals factors that most bettors never even consider…factors that separate the 10% that win from the 90% that lose. We suggest you check in every few days to update this invaluable information.
With that in mind we are using this edition of the SARATOGA OVERVIEW to “Profile” what many bettors consider the toughest races of all to handicap…the TWO-YEAR OLD RACES. What is unique to these races is that most bettors will fall prey to so many OFF-THE-CUFF comments by pundits and talking heads alike who will repeat the mantras such as BET THE BOARD and ALWAYS CONSIDER PLETCHER and STAY AWAY FROM DISTANCE RACES THAT FEATURE FIRST TIME STARTERS (which is ridiculous in itself since the acute majority of juvenile starters in any SPA race are first time starters.)

This is why we PROFILE these races. The FACT must be separated from FICTION before we even begin to getting into more in-depth handicapping regarding any given race.

Let us first remind you that we use the term PROFILE because instead of strict reliance on Ragozin or Thorograph Numbers or Beyer or BRIS Speed Numbers that for the most part point to favorites, which the profiles below will once again show how those very numbers lead to distinct BET AGAINST PROPOSITIONS.

Let’s take a look at last year’s Juvenile Races.


As the PROFILES of last year’s 2-year old betting (which are pretty close to past years…we’ll give you a few examples of 2012 to back up 2013) reveal, the public perceptions of HOW AND WHO TO BET in juvenile races is so lopsided in a few significant and erroneous directions that there is more than ample opportunity for a savvy handicapper/bettor to take advantage.

As we’ve done in past editions of the SARATOGA OVERVIEW we’ll give you some statistics to back up this contention. But keep in mind, what is shown below is one of numerous breakdowns we do before advocating plays of our own…YOU DON’T THINK WE WERE GOING TO DO ALL THE WORK FOR NOTHING DID YOU…but should give you an idea of what is needed to WIND UP IN THE BLACK AT MEET’S END so that you have a beginning work sheet to do your own work.


Number of two-year old races—75
Number of two year old Winners—76 (There was one dead-heat)
Number of favored Winners—25 (33% Winners—Slightly below the national average of winning favorites at any given race meet.)
Average Payoff for all 75 Winners—$11.53
Average Payoff for all 25 Favorites as Winners—$4.10
Average R.O.I. based on $2 Wager for all 75 favorites—$1.37
Average Payoff for all 50 Non-Favorites as Winners—$15.04


As tempting as it is to want to FOLLOW THE MONEY in 2-year old races (as pundits and talking heads have advocated year in and year out) the numbers above show in general that in 2-year old races the “supposedly well-meant favorites” do not perform any better, and in many cases (based on following “legendary 2-year old trainers such as Todd Pletcher…more on that below) are about as bad a proposition as you can get.

As a starting point you should take a good look at the GENERIC PROFILE above and if you go no further than that…at least let it serve as a confidence factor when you like a horse to beat a favorite.

That being said, let’s do a few more breakdowns.


In this breakdown the PROFILE steers you towards even more reason to be selective by not buying into the general belief that 2-year old form is determined by “smart money” and/or “well-regarded connections.”

The 75 Two-Year old races broke down as follows:

  • 55 Main Track Races with 56 Winners—DH for the win in one race.
  • 20 Turf Races
  • Average Win Payoff for the 55 Main Track Races—$9.44
  • Average Win Payoff for the 20 Turf Races—$16.80
  • Number Of Winning Favorites in Main Track Races—21 (38%—Very Close To National Percentage Of Winning Favorites At Any Given Race Meet)
  • Number of Winning Favorites in Turf Races—4 (20%—Well Below National Percentage of Winning Favorites At Any Given Race Meet.)
  • Average Winning Payoff for all 21 Winning Main Track Favorites—$4.15
  • Average R.O.I.  based on $2 Wager for all 55 Main Track favorites—$1.59
  • Average Winning Payoff for all 4 Winning Turf Favorites—$4.05
  • Average R.O.I. based on $2 Wager for all 20 Turf favorites—$0.81


When perusing the PROFILE breakdown between Main Track and Turf 2-Year Old Races it is obvious that the rewards for a correct turf analysis far out way those of correct Main Track analysis.

Just the same you can’t go wrong taking a position that you are going to avoid betting the favorite unless the reasons are so compelling that it can’t be avoided or you are using the favorite in the exotics. Remember, none of this means you bet against the favorite in every race just because the rewards are far less. What you take out of this is that should you not believe there is a compelling handicapping reason to bet a Non-Favorite and do not want to take an UNDERVALUED PRICE on the favorite (see below for a few even more refined situations where you can stay away from the favorite) then you simply avoid the race. Remember…there are 40 days of arcing and on average a little more than 10 races a day…THERE WILL BE PLENTY OF THE “RIGHT” OPPORTUNITIES.


We mentioned above that there are many mantras that will be trotted out during the approaching Saratoga Meet. Below we are going to take a look at three trainers who will be mentioned often as being at the top of their profession when it comes to developing 2-year olds; Todd Pletcher, leading circuit trainer Chad Brown and juvenile wunderkind Wesley Ward.

Are they talented trainers? That they are is beyond question. Do they condition talented juveniles? Some of the deepest-pocketed owners in the game send them their horses. Are they therefore worth backing at the SPA? Let’s take a look.


  • Started 56 Juveniles At The 2013 Saratoga Meet.
  • Won With 18 Of Them…32%
  • Average $2 Mutuel Payoff For The 18 Winners…$5.07
  • 21 Of The 56 (37.5%) Went Off As The Favorite
  • 11 Favorites Were Winners
  • Average $2 Mutuel Payoff For The 11 Winning Favorites…$4.08
  • Average R.O.I. Based On $2 Wager For All 21 Favorites…$2.17
  • Average R.O.I. Based On $2 Wager For All 56 Juvenile Starters…$1.63


While the actual percentage of juvenile winners produced by Todd Pletcher indeed speaks to his talent, his ultra-high visibility leads to the public over-betting his horses. If you are going to back his horses the numbers above would produce a profit if in 2014 the statistics for 2013 are repeated IF you stuck to ONLY BETTING the horse that are sent off as the favorite. In that case for every $2 you wager you would get a return of $2.17, which is an 8.5% return on your money…not earth-shattering but certainly comfortable from an investment standpoint. Of course betting in this way means you have to have the capacity to bet late to insure you are wagering on his runner as the favorite and not all bettors have that logistical luxury. All in all you have a situation where arguably the best 2-year old trainer in the nation is far from a playable proposition.

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  • Started 21 Juveniles At The 2013 Saratoga Meet.
  • Won With 5 Of Them…23.8%
  • Average $2 Mutuel Payoff For The 5 Winners…$8.98
  • 7 Of The 21 (33%) Went Off As The Favorite
  • 2 Favorites Were Winners
  • Average $2 Mutuel Payoff For The 2 Winning Favorites…$3.60
  • Average R.O.I. Based On $2 Wager For All 7 Favorites…$1.O3
  • Average R.O.I. based on $2 Wager For All 21 Juvenile Starters…$2.17


Chad Brown has emerged as one of the most successful trainers on the NY Circuit. He will head to Saratoga after winning with about 35% of his Belmont Spring/Summer Meet and hitting the board with close to 2 out of 3. He will be the subject of daily conversation, which like Pletcher will make him over bet in most circumstances. Against that backdrop you could do the same thing as shown above with Pletcher, BET ONLY his post time favorites under the optimum logistical conditions noted above and take home an equal $2.17 for every $2 wagered. Not exciting, but a profit.

Now…consider this…it still takes the same amount of handicapping expertise to come up with the winner of any given race, and if it is established that the horses entered by Pletcher and Brown are devalued by over betting  it makes sense that the same expertise might allow you to find a horse with positive factors for support and if that horse is also in a race that features a Pletcher and/or Brown favorite, you are automatically getting an overlay as to the probability of your horse’s chances to win the race.


  • Started 11 Juveniles At The 2013 Saratoga Meet.
  • Did Not Win A Single Juvenile Race
  • However…Lost With 4 Favorites (36.3%)


For many of you Wesley Ward is not as big a name as Pletcher or Brown but during the Keeneland meet for instance he is renowned as an early producer of juvenile winners and his reputation follows him to the Saratoga Meet. Despite going winless this year it is a given that he will be trumpeted as a master of developing two-year olds and the betting public will take ONLY THAT MANTRA to the windows.



  • Started 23 Juveniles Last Year At Saratoga
  • Did Not Win A Single Race

To The Publics Credit Only 3 Went Off As Favorites…this is in large part because the pundits and talking heads have a Mott Mantra that repeats how “slow” he is to bring his youngsters around. Nonetheless he is a big name trainer who does get recognition but is still a toss when it comes to juveniles as only 6 of his 23 starters even managed to hit the board.


  • Started 8 Juveniles Last Year At Saratoga
  • Did Not Win A Single Race
  • 3 Of The 8 Went Off As Favorites
  • 6 Of The 8 Hit The Board

Clement will be “over” respected with the few juveniles he sends out and perhaps a tad more so this year after  winning the Belmont Stakes with Tonalist. He does bring them to the races close to full ready so can be considered in exotics.


  • Started 16 Juveniles Last Year At Saratoga
  • Won With 2 Of Them
  • Both Winners Were Among The Conditioners 3 Favorites...they Paid $5.00 And $4.80
  • Of The 14 Non-Winners Only 2 Managed To Finish As Well As 3rd.

Although Zito has managed to find a few winners at the current Belmont Meet his numbers have not been as good in recent years as they were in his more productive days but is still a NY favorite so tends to get backed more than his record would indicate he should so it is probably fair warning that you should have almost a consensus opinion that his runner is the play.


The PROFILES above are a handful of the Hundreds We Employ in order to breakdown the races and FIND THE BEST VALUE at Saratoga. And as you can see by the few hints of FACT and FICTION sampled, you have much work to do if you want to take advantage of the RIGHT UNDERVALUED RUNNERS that can create SARATOGA PROFIT.

We’ll return in a few days with another edition of SARATOGA OVERVIEW.   

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