by Jeremy Plonk
June 14, 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.
Three-year-olds improve against older horses as the year progresses.
As 2-year-olds and early in their 3-year-old campaign, Thoroughbreds compete against their peer age group. As the sophomore season unfolds, race class conditions are written fewer for restricted 3-year-olds and more for 3-year-olds and older competition. Horseplayers generally assume that the early season is a time to stand against the 3-year-olds as they lack some of the development that time will allow later in the year. The goal here is to find out if that’s true, and when might the development be best to follow.
I dialed up the Betmix database to track all North American Thoroughbred races for 3-year-olds and up going back to 2017. The months studied were April through December as the spring is when the first attempts against elders begin in earnest.
In April, 3-year-old vs. older horses win 11.96% with a $0.72 ROI for every $1 bet.
In May, 3-year-old vs. older horses win 13.14% with a $0.75 ROI for every $1 bet.
In June, 3-year-old vs. older horses win 13.71% with a $0.77 ROI for every $1 bet.
In July, 3-year-old vs. older horses win 13.82% with a $0.77 ROI for every $1 bet.
In August, 3-year-old vs. older horses win 14.49% with a $0.80 ROI for every $1 bet.
In September, 3-year-old vs. older horses win 14.15% with a $0.76 ROI for every $1 bet.
In October, 3-year-old vs. older horses win 13.81% with a $0.79 ROI for every $1 bet.
In November, 3-year-old vs. older horses win 13.18% with a $0.77 ROI for every $1 bet.
In December, 3-year-old vs. older horses win 13.26% with a $0.76 ROI for every $1 bet.
April is the worst month for 3-year-olds against elders, and it’s typically the first test for them annually. The numbers increase as summer approaches and peak with August in both win percentage and ROI. Interestingly, the growth does not continue throughout the autumn and winter. The late-season sophomores aren’t any more effective than those in spring. The place to tackle the 3-year-olds against elders clearly is June-October with a peak in August and September. The myth that 3-year-olds improve as the season unfolds is partially true, to a point.
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, which tracks see the most success with 3-year-olds vs. elders? During this timeframe, tracks like Mountaineer, Presque Isle and Canterbury showed the highest win percentages of sophomores vs. elders. Which trainers know best when to put their runners against elders? Find out for yourself.