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Monday Myths: Do Turf Sprints Make Saratoga Tougher?

by Jeremy Plonk

July 25, 2022

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.


Turf sprints make the Saratoga meet even tougher handicapping.


Horsesplayers often lament the chaotic nature of turf sprints in their handicapping, especially at Saratoga, where they are an increasingly more prevalent part of the daily schedule. While turf sprints often have larger field sizes, do they actually create a significantly more difficult piece of the handicapping puzzle?

Data Points:

I fired up the Betmix database to look at all race types at Saratoga since the start of 2018 meet. Four groupings: turf sprints, turf routes, dirt sprints, dirt routes were examined for both average win odds and reliability of favorites in terms of win percentage. Here’s what we found:

Turf sprints have an average win odds of 5.2-1.
Dirt sprints have an average win odds of 4.9-1.
Turf routes have an average win odds of 5.0-1.
Dirt routes have an average win odds of 3.7-1.


Turf sprints have a favorite’s win percentage of 32.1%.
Dirt sprints have a favorite’s win percentage of 36.4%.
Turf routes have a favorite’s win percentage of 32.7%.
Dirt routes have a favorite’s win percentage of 36.7%.

Bottom line:

Turf sprints do produce the longest-priced winners at 5.2-1 and are 0.3 longer than turf routes, 0.4 longer than dirt sprints and a significant 1.5 longer than dirt routes. Turf sprints also have the shortest win percentage among favorites at 32.1%, a slight 0.6% less than turf routes, but significantly shorter than dirt sprints by 4.3% and dirt routes by 4.6%. By the numbers, the turf sprints do make handicapping more difficult for players, but not to much degree more than turf routes. It’s simply the turf races are tougher to evaluate than the dirt races, particularly in the route ranks.

Additional details:

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, evaluate the turf sprints when equalizing field sizes, and also look at turf sprints vs. other races at various race classes.