by Jeremy Plonk
January 18, 2021
Welcome to a new handicapping series for our Monday blog space entitled “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.
It seems as though horses coming off of long layoffs are winning more and more these days.
What is deemed a long layoff is subjective, but for this study I’ve chosen 120 days or more as the base. The old days of a 30-day layoff are far gone, most horses racing far fewer times per year than yesteryear. A 120-day break is essentially 4 months, and would indicate a horse was either given a long winter break or was forced to the sidelines for some reason beyond the normal time just waiting for the next spot. We don’t want to misread a quality horse being aimed at a specific spot in these layoff numbers, so 120 days provides that breathing space.
I looked at the Betmix database going back to its Jan. 1, 2013 beginning and crunched the numbers for all horses who had been away from the races for 120 or more days. I measured the overall trend-line for all tracks in terms of win percentage for such runners and $1 return on investment (ROI). I also tackled some of the numbers by circuits. Lastly, I took a cursory look at slightly shorter layoffs for a comparison.
--2013 extended layoff horses won 10.74% with a $0.71 ROI.
--2014 extended layoff horses won 11.26% with a $0.73 ROI.
--2015 extended layoff horses won 11.42% with a $0.76 ROI.
--2016 extended layoff horses won 10.79% with a $0.74 ROI.
--2017 extended layoff horses won 10.98% with a $0.72 ROI.
--2018 extended layoff horses won 10.94% with a $0.71 ROI.
--2019 extended layoff horses won 10.88% with a $0.66 ROI.
--2020 extended layoff horses won 10.39% with a $0.73 ROI.
--Overall extended layoff horses won 10.74% with a $0.71 ROI.
--NYRA (Aqu/Bel/Sar) extended layoff horses won 13.17% with a $0.80 ROI.
--SoCal (SA/Dmr/Lrc-TB) extended layoff horses won 11.77% with a $0.84 ROI.
--Florida (GP/GPW/Tam) extended layoff horses won 11.89% with a $0.78 ROI.
--Gulfstream extended layoff horses won 10.89% in 2013, 12.72% in 2017 and 13.05% in 2020.
--Santa Anita extended layoff horses won 9.96% in 2013, 13.30% in 2017 and 12.11% in 2020.
--Horses off 60-90 days for comparison sake won 12.55% from 2013-2020.
--Horses off 60-90 days for comparison sake won 12.55% in 2013, 12.56% in 2017 and 11.54% in 2020.
Overall Findings Verdict:
Nationally, the percentage of extended layoff horses winning peaked with a rise in 2015, but has settled evenly since then with 2020 its lowest success rate in the study (down more than a full point since its peak). That could have been due to the pandemic and schedule changes, or perhaps some increased horse safety measures and awareness. If you bet NYRA consistently, you see an extended layoff win percentage far above the national average (2.43 points higher), while popular circuits in SoCal and Florida also are higher than the national average by about a point each. NYRA has been consistent across the years in its percentages being higher than most, while Gulfstream’s extended layoff winners have been growing through the years; Santa Anita was on a rapid ascent from 2013-’17, but has trended downward of late, perhaps owing to its recent horse safety measures. In terms of race class, claimers performed far worse than any other class level off extended layoffs, the other race classes very similar in performance.
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 for extended layoff horses– where I found Hawthorne (15.70%), Aqueduct (15.11%) and Belmont (15.10%) topping the list, and tracks like Delaware Park (4.69%), Evangeline Downs (5.93%) and Delta Downs (5.96%) at the bottom of the list. I also crunched which race class was most impacted by extended layoff horses. Maiden claimers had only 9.30% wins with such layoffs, while every other race class was consistent between 11.22% and 11.92%.