by Jeremy Plonk
March 29, 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.
A classy horse is more likely to hold good form and repeat victories than a cheaper-class runner.
Odds-on favorite Greatest Honour was defeated in Saturday’s Curlin Florida Derby, snapping a 3-race winning streak. It’s fair for horseplayers and fans to assume a win streak can’t go on forever, and that it’s difficult to keep any horse in top form for an extended period of time. Most horseplayers say that that the lower-class horses are least-trustworthy when it comes to maintaining their winning form race after race. Is that true? And are the highest-class horses like Greatest Honour the most trusted to repeat victories? Let’s find out.
I crunched the numbers in the Betmix database for every Thoroughbred race in North America over the past 5 years, going back to Mar. 29, 2016. The study looked at last-out winners and how they performed in their follow-up race. I separated horses by class, from claiming to allowance to listed stakes to graded stakes. I also looked at horses who were trying to repeat in the same class level in back-to-back races.
Claiming horses going for a repeat victory of any kind won 17.8% and had a $1 ROI of $0.77.
Allowance horses going for a repeat victory of any kind won 16.3% and had a $1 ROI of $0.79.
Non-graded stakes horses going for a repeat victory of any kind won 16.1% and had a $1 ROI of $0.74.
Graded Stakes horses going for a repeat victory of any kind won 15.7% and had a $1 ROI of $0.79.
Claiming horses going for a repeat victory in another claiming race won 19.1% and had a $1 ROI of $.0.81.
Allowance horses going for a repeat victory in another allowance race won 20.4% and had a $1 ROI of $0.79.
Non-graded stakes horses going for a repeat victory in another non-graded stakes race won 24.7% and had a $1 ROI of $0.70.
Graded stakes horses going for a repeat victory in another graded stakes race won 22.5% and had a $1 ROI of $0.75.
The gap between horses going for a repeat victory among the class levels varies 2.1% from lowest to highest and the ROI for such runners consistently comes back a solid net loser between $0.74-$0.79. Because horses moves up and down in class, that can certainly impact the results.
When you look at horses remaining in the same class level while seeking back-to-back victories, the gap expands to 5.6% from best to worst, while the ROI bounces all around inconsistently. The win % among the non-graded and graded stakes horses makes large increases when running back at the same class level.
Overall Findings Verdict:
The first list gives the impression that claiming runners are more likely to repeat their victories than any other class of runner. They have the highest win percentage when seeking back-to-back scores (17.8%). But under further review, that is inflated by a 20% win rate for class-droppers coming out of allowance and stakes who repeat victories via the claiming ranks (many times moving from a smaller circuit stakes to a larger circuit claiming race).
The second list reverses that story when you look strictly at claiming horses trying to repeat, allowance horses trying to repeat, and so on. There, it’s quite apparent that stakes and graded stakes horses have a much higher propensity to double down on a victory than a claiming horse. But what you’ll also see is that the public entrusts those classier runners to the point that the ROI for them is far shorter than the claiming repeaters. You’ll win fewer times betting claimers back to repeat a win, but win more money in the long run.
It’s true, classier horses are more likely to hold their winning form and repeat. But bettors can find more value in the claimers trying to do so, even if they win less often.
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, take a look at the tracks you play most often to see if they fall in line with this study’s conclusions. I did a fun search by track and saw that Will Rogers (23.7%) and Mountaineer (22.7%) were the highest strike rates for claiming horses trying to win back-to-back. Though the lower level of racing to be sure, those in-form claimers have held their form the best. On the graded-stakes end, Oaklawn (29.0%) and Santa Anita (28.5%) are the tracks where you’re most likely to see a repeat winner at the top level.