by Jeremy Plonk
May 17, 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.
The best betting races on a card are later in the day.
How a racing office puts together a day’s card is most often the best way to maximize betting handle. Races with smaller fields and heavy favorites tend to draw less handle, and often are placed early in the racing day. At the same time, betting handle tends to increase as the day progresses as crowds increase and interest peaks toward more important races. The fuller fields most often are placed on the back half of the card in the late pick four, pick five and/or pick six.
I dialed up the Betmix database to track every race winner over the past 5 years based on their position on that day’s card. The races surveyed were 1 through 12, while typical card today ranges from 8 to 10 races on average. Fuller Saturday cards at some tracks and elite racing days expand the card beyond 10 races, so I included Races 11 and 12, though obviously a smaller sampling.
Race 1 winners averaged 4.19–1 odds, and saw 39.1% winning favorites.
Race 2 winners averaged 4.52–1 odds, and saw 38.6% winning favorites.
Race 3 winners averaged 4.06–1 odds, and saw 38.0% winning favorites.
Race 4 winners averaged 4.28–1 odds, and saw 38.5% winning favorites.
Race 5 winners averaged 4.54–1 odds, and saw 37.7% winning favorites.
Race 6 winners averaged 4.62–1 odds, and saw 37.6% winning favorites.
Race 7 winners averaged 4.68–1 odds, and saw 36.3% winning favorites.
Race 8 winners averaged 5.21–1 odds, and saw 35.5% winning favorites.
Race 9 winners averaged 5.42–1 odds, and saw 35.2% winning favorites.
Race 10 winners averaged 5.59–1 odds, and saw 35.6% winning favorites.
Race 11 winners averaged 6.09–1 odds, and saw 34.0% winning favorites.
Race 12 winners averaged 5.68–1 odds, and saw 35.5% winning favorites.
The lowest-paying average returns are among the first few races and the highest returns by as much as 1.5 odds points come in the last half of the day. The percentage of winning favorites also declines almost by every race as the card progresses.
The proof is clear that the best payoffs and more attractive betting races by lower percent of winning favorites come later in the card. That can help you decide when to strike, and when to choose between early and late pick four/pick five sequences (also measure against the takeout of those wagers, which can differ at some tracks).
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 race sequences for the tracks you follow specifically. Also, you could compare these returns and percentages based on field sizes.