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Monday Myths: Is the Travers Distance a Trap?

by Jeremy Plonk

August 23, 2021

Welcome to a continuing handicapping series for our Monday blog space, “Monday Myths.” Each week I’ll use the power of the Betmix database to take common handicapping assumptions and either support or dispel them with data. Betmix data powers the 1/ST BET app and its features like Angler and Birddog give data-minded horseplayers a treasure trove of information in which to query your own curiosities.


The mile and one-quarter distance is the great hurdle for horses to prove their mettle.


With Saturday’s Travers at the ‘classic’ American distance of a mile and one-quarter on dirt, you’re bound to hear and read this week about how important the distance factor will be. It’s a rare trip in the US, to be sure, but is it the stumbling block often cited?

Data Points:

I dialed up the Betmix database to look at all North American dirt races at one mile and one-quarter, finding 226 such races since 2014. The comparison will be for average winning payoff, percentage of winning favorites and percentage of races won by longshots 10-1 or more. The mile and one-quarter races will be compared to the two most common dirt distances – 6 furlongs (sprint) and 1-1/16 miles (route). Because of the large national volume of races at the common distances, we’ll use 2021 results to date for that study length.

Mile and one-quarter dirt average $2 winning payouts are $9.88.

Six-furlong dirt average $2 winning payouts are $11.80.

Mile and one-sixteenth dirt average $2 winning payouts are $11.78.

Mile and one-quarter dirt favorites win 39.1% with a $0.86 ROI for every $1 bet.

Six-furlong dirt favorites win 37.0% with a $0.80 ROI for every $1 bet.

Mile and one-sixteenth dirt favorites win 38.7% with a $0.86 ROI for every $1 bet.

Mile and one-quarter dirt races are won by longshots 10-1 or more 8.4% of the time.

Six-furlong dirt races are won by longshots 10-1 or more 8.7% of the time.

Mile and one-sixteenth dirt races are won by longshots 10-1 or more 8.6% of the time.

Overall Findings:

Mile and one-quarter winners produce the smallest $2 win payouts of the distances sampled, while producing the best percentage of winning favorites and the least percentage of longshot winners 10-1 or more odds. In all 3 areas studied, they are the most reliable runners by distance. They perform at a sizeable 2% difference in terms of winning favorites compared to the 6-furlong commonly run distance and a whopping $1.92 less return in terms of payout compared to 6-furlong winners.

Bottom line:

Any fear that mile and one-quarter dirt races produce some uncertainty and chaos are statistically unwarranted and false. While any distance is susceptible to occasional upsets, this one is slightly less likely than its counterparts. In fact, you may argue it's more formful from the data cited above.

Additional Details:

You can go into Betmix and run your own queries for a deeper dive into this theory and any that you can create. For instance, how does your favorite local track perform in terms of reliable results at each of its various distances? Learn where you might be able to find more frequent longshot leans, and reliable singles for multi-race tickets.