by Jeremy Plonk
January 4, 2021
Introducing a new 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.
Horses who take an excessive amount of races to finally break their maiden are bad bets when they return against winners next time out. They're often dubbed "Career Maidens."
We could look at an excessive amount of maiden-breaking attempts as a subjective number. To some, it may be more than 5. Others 10. Even others somewhere in-between or above that total. No matter what your consideration of excessive may be, our ability to look at the numbers in various ranges should be able to give you personal confidence in your assumption, either for or against.
I looked at the Betmix database for runners who made 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 12 and 15 starts to break their maidens. Our sample size was over the last 5 full years of racing, 2016-2020, at all tracks.
1 start to break maiden: 17.84% wins next out ($0.78 ROI)
2 starts to break maiden: 13.66% wins next out ($0.74 ROI)
3 starts to break maiden: 12.75% wins next out ($0.75 ROI)
4 starts to break maiden: 11.84% wins next out ($0.75 ROI)
5 starts to break maiden: 12.28% wins next out ($0.74 ROI)
8 starts to break maiden: 11.93% wins next out ($0.76 ROI)
10 starts to break maiden: 12.44% wins next out ($0.72 ROI)
12 starts to break maiden: 11.74% wins next out ($0.73 ROI)
15 starts to break maiden: 10.73% wins next out ($0.59 ROI)
16 or more starts to break maiden: 8.61% wins next out ($0.53 ROI)
Overall Findings Verdict:
While horses who break their maiden quicker do tend to outperform their later graduates when facing winners, the discrepancy in numbers happens in two particular cut-offs. First-time starters who win are much more likely to win next out than those who were defeated any number of times before graduation. And, it’s around the 15-start mark that you see the big drop off between horses who took more time to break their maiden have success against winners. A maiden breaker from 2-12 prior starts isn’t wildly different in win rate or ROI.
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, tracks with the highest win percentage of first-time starters to win and repeat against winners next time include Los Al (TB) 29%, Thistledown 26%, Hawthorne 25%, Pimlico 25%, Belmont 24%, Turfway 24%.