by Jeremy Plonk
January 26, 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.
The classier the horse and races you handicap, the more trustworthy the results will be.
You’ll often hear horseplayers lament that they just can’t get a grip on cheaper claiming races, or that maiden races are crapshoots. In turn, they claim to embrace the classier races and horses because they are more confident handicapping them due to their trustworthiness. The general consensus would argue this to be true.
I put the Betmix database to the test, studying races at each class level and their results, going back the past 5 years to Jan. 25, 2016. Each race class was judged by the average price of the winner and the percentage of winning favorites. Because field size can be a major influence on price, I also looked at each race class for small fields (6 starters) and large fields (10 starters) so the class comparison could be more direct.
Overall Findings Verdict:
The original hypothesis that classier horses are more reliable to handicap is shown to be clearly false. The highest level of racing, graded stakes, is the most volatile class of all. Favorites perform well there, but the average winners’ odds are significantly highest – overall, in small fields and in large fields. The graded stakes are more feast or famine for bettors. Directly comparing the maidens, the maiden claimers run slightly more unpredictable than maiden special weights, but it’s negligible if not insignificant. We know the cheaper races typically have larger field sizes, so it’s noteworthy to see the maiden claimers and claiming races in the large-field size samples perform at levels every bit as reliable as their classier counterparts.
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, you could test turf vs. dirt, sprints vs. routes or look into a specific track you follow. One more detailed query I ran was to look at Santa Anita, where the average winners’ odds for each class were: maiden claiming (4.69-1), maiden special weight (5.24-1), claiming (4.45-1), allowance (5.03-1), listed stakes (5.01-1), graded stakes (4.80-1) – which actually turned out lowest of all in claiming races.