by Jeremy Plonk
September 20, 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.
Saratoga’s elite stakes are destination races, and their alumni find it difficult to repeat their success after that pinnacle.
So far this year we’ve seen Saratoga stakes winners Caravel, Got Stormy and Fast Boat all return to disappoint next out with third, sixth and fourth-place finishes, respectively. As we round into the final Breeders’ Cup preps and perhaps even the Breeders’ Cup championship events themselves, how much stock do we take in Saratoga stakes winners being over the top?
I dialed up the Betmix database to look at all Saratoga graded stakes winners since 2016 and how they fared in the next races when back in graded stakes. Only starts within 90 days were considered as part of the current form cycle and how the immediate impact of the Spa outing may have impacted the runner. I also looked at the location of the return and its production. (Steeplechase races were omitted in the stats.)
Saratoga graded stakes winners returned to win their next start 27% with a $0.70 ROI for every $1 bet.
All non-Saratoga graded stakes winners returned to win their next start 22% with a $0.73 ROI for every $1 bet.
At Belmont from 34 starts, Saratoga graded stakes winners returned to win their next start 38% with a $0.89 ROI for every $1 bet.
At Keeneland from 26 starts, Saratoga graded stakes winners returned to win their next start 15% with a $0.33 ROI for every $1 bet.
At Churchill from 14 starts, Saratoga graded stakes winners returned to win their next start 0% with a $0.00 ROI for every $1 bet.
At Santa Anita from 9 starts, Saratoga graded stakes winners returned to win their next start 44% with a $1.47 ROI for every $1 bet.
At Del Mar from 8 starts, Saratoga graded stakes winners returned to win their next start 25% with a $1.01 ROI for every $1 bet.
At Woodbine from 8 starts, Saratoga graded stakes winners returned to win their next start 25% with a $0.82 ROI for every $1 bet.
At Parx from 6 starts, Saratoga graded stakes winners returned to win their next start 33% with a $0.53 ROI for every $1 bet. Noteable: 5 of 6 finished in exacta.
Overall, Saratoga graded stakes victors won more often in their next graded stakes attempts than the national average by 5 percent. But the popularity of Saratoga stakes winners drives the price down with a slightly lower ROI than the national returning graded stakes winner. There certainly has been some regional swings in play – hitting a strong 38% right back on the NYRA circuit at Belmont, but a surprisingly poor 4-for-40 (10%) at Churchill and Keeneland on the return. Heading straight west to California has produced 35% wins and a $1.25 ROI for every $1 bet.
Saratoga graded stakes winners are not over the top, by the numbers. Be cautious of the Saratoga graded stakes winners when they return in Kentucky – such as we saw with 2021 returning losers Got Stormy and Fast Boat at the concluded Kentucky Downs meet, continuing a poor trend regionally – but overall the Spa graded stakes performers have returned stronger than what you’d expect nationally. They should be solid at places like Parx this weekend and potentially Santa Anita and Del Mar to come, along with their obvious presence at Belmont in its current new stand.
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, see which trainers have been able to bring back Saratoga graded stakes winners with success and which have struggled. Notably, Steve Asmussen is 5-8 with his next-out stakes runners after winning such races at the Spa, succeeding last year with the likes of Yaupon and Jackie’s Warrior, and the previous summer with Mitole and Midnight Bisou.