Saratoga: Summer 2019 meet data overview (favorite analysis)

Photo credit: NYRA


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In this installment, I had the idea to take a look at favorites (contrary to the title, this is not my favorite analysis), when they won, how they won, and who they won for in the hopes of trying to give everyone a feel for when they might be able to be confident in a favorite winning, or when they might want to look for a price. Hopefully this can help in contests (primarily Win Place contests) or just daily play.

The analysis below looks at races from Saratoga dating back to 2015. And to quickly set some context, favorites have historically won at about a 33% clip.

Field size and race type

  1. I find it interesting that favorites are 1 for 24 in route races on the dirt with field sizes of 9 or more. You may as well light your money on fire in these situations as if you had consistently bet the favorite for $24 you would have only returned $2.75.
  2. With fields of 8 or less, you would have won higher than the average of 33% for Saratoga as a whole, but only when your reach a field size of 8 do you just barely beat the takeout.


Not a ton to note here. It is interesting that with field sizes of 10 or more in Dirt sprints you would have returned a profit for merely betting the favorite over the past few years. This is perhaps a bit counterintuitive as you would expect races with fewer horses to be easier to find the winner. Maybe this merely speaks to favorites that aren’t bet into chalk-blivion. Either way – something to keep in mind

Inner TurfRoute31110.621.351.351.61
Inner TurfRoute42210.583.251.621.73
Inner TurfRoute5190.110.412.950.330.27
Inner TurfRoute611280.390.3723.50.841.06
Inner TurfRoute710290.340.3422.950.791.01
Inner TurfRoute819590.320.3247.80.811
Inner TurfRoute912480.250.2935.60.740.87
Inner TurfRoute1014780.180.2842.80.550.64
Inner TurfRoute116350.170.2719.40.550.64
Inner TurfRoute1212440.270.2633.40.761.04

Inner turf races appear to be pretty difficult for the public to assess. This is especially true when there are 8 or more horses in the field where the favorite win percentage is below average and money appears to be more flammable than normal.



I won’t belabor the points here with Turf Routes and Sprints. There appears to be pockets of value in looking outside of the favorite for a winner in shorter fields, and potential for profit in siding with the favorite for larger fields (again, perhaps counter-intuitively).

Trainers with favorites

I also wanted to see if there are any trainers that reliably send out winning favorites, or, unfortunately vice versa. The below table is sorted by ROI (descending) and is filtered for trainers having 10 or more mounts

Gary Contessa6160.380.2920.951.311.29
Anthony Dutrow5100.50.312.951.31.68
Albert Stall, Jr.5110.450.313.71.251.5
Philip Serpe5120.420.3314.61.221.28
George Weaver17390.440.346.91.21.44
Kiaran McLaughlin22470.470.3353.51.141.44
Danny Gargan9250.360.2928.31.131.23
Wayne Catalano3100.30.319.40.940.98
Jason Servis16480.330.3344.30.921
Thomas Albertrani3100.30.2990.91.04
Rudy Rodriguez20570.350.3251.10.91.09
Todd Pletcher671830.370.35161.50.881.04
Michelle Nevin8230.350.3519.250.841
Joe Sharp7200.350.3416.750.841.03
H. Motion6220.270.2717.850.811
Chad Brown942810.330.36222.650.790.94
Christophe Clement12370.320.3129.050.791.04
Linda Rice9360.250.325.20.70.83
Steven Asmussen13440.30.3330.90.70.88
Brian Lynch4170.240.3211.750.690.73
Eddie Kenneally3100.30.356.60.660.87
Wesley Ward9380.240.325.050.660.78
Brad Cox5200.250.3112.70.640.81
Michael Maker7310.230.3118.90.610.72
David Jacobson9320.280.3219.550.610.88
Chris Englehart3120.250.370.580.83
Mark Casse7350.20.3119.50.560.64
William Mott13610.210.3233.450.550.67
H. Bond2100.
James Jerkens4180.220.329.10.510.69
Charlton Baker3150.20.337.10.470.6
Jeremiah Englehart5280.180.3312.10.430.55
Bruce Levine3170.180.346.80.40.51
Claude McGaughey III3250.
Gary Gullo1110.

Couple of notes:

  • Obviously you have to use Chad and Todd almost always. I do find it very interesting though that betting Chad favorites (to win) won’t beat the takeout, while betting Todd will. Both however will result in a depleted bankroll.
  • At the top of this you can find not only the highest ROIs, but some pretty incredibly high win percentages (with favorites) from some names that didn’t necessarily come to the top of my mind when thinking through this and what I expected.

Jockeys with favorites

To continue, I checked to see if there are any jockeys that reliably ride winning favorites, or, unfortunately vice versa. The below table is sorted by ROI (descending) and is filtered for jockeys having 5 or more mounts. Note here that I thought the list was rather short restricting to 10 or more mounts. I loosened the restriction assuming a would maybe double the length of the list. To my surprise, the list only grew slightly which I think goes to show either how the public gravitates toward certain jockeys, or how agents / trainers gravitate toward the upper tier riders.

Mike Smith7100.70.4415.51.551.59
Kendrick Carmouche12320.380.335.651.111.23
David Cohen250.40.35.451.091.35
Joe Bravo6150.40.315.851.061.32
Irad Ortiz, Jr.1123020.370.33285.750.951.11
Joel Rosario391170.330.311070.911.07
John Velazquez742050.360.34186.150.911.07
Jose Lezcano14460.30.2941.650.911.03
Junior Alvarado17480.350.3242.60.891.12
Manuel Franco27730.370.3363.30.871.11
Jose Ortiz682050.330.33174.950.851.01
Rajiv Maragh280.
Luis Saez27980.280.3177.90.790.89
Javier Castellano802730.290.34199.30.730.86
Angel Arroyo290.220.355.70.630.64
Julien Leparoux5230.220.2613.80.60.84
Ricardo Santana, Jr.7330.210.318.350.560.7
Eric Cancel2160.
Rafael Hernandez180.120.2630.380.48
Shaun Bridgmohan190.110.312.40.270.36
Florent Geroux3170.180.384.450.260.47
Cornelio Velasquez1150.
Paco Lopez0700.3000

My observations:

  1. Paco is 0 for 7 on favorites, even while his horses get bet down quite low.
  2. Mike Smith (go figure) appears at the top of the list hitting with the favorite 70% of the time. To be fair, his horses get bet down more than all others on the list with favorites (he’s only expected to win on the favorite 44% of the time), but still, wow. And he has a massive ROI.
  3. There are some other interesting names toward the bottom of the list. Javier Castellano only returns 73 cents for every dollar invested. The public does expect him to win more than may of the others that appear on this list, but I did find that ROI to be particularly low.
  4. Joe Bravo, who rides much more infrequently than many on the list punches well above his weight with respect to win percentage.
  5. Lastly, I find it very intriguing that the jockey with the second highest expected win percentage is Florent Geroux. I’m not entirely sure why this is the case, but the numbers sure are good to know. His 3 wins have only returned $4.45 suggesting that he won on the shorter of the short prices that he was riding. Is there potential value here??
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