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Betting Saratoga with 1/ST BET Assistance

by Jeremy Plonk

July 14, 2020

Saratoga’s season opens Thursday, and with more than half of its races annually either maiden or stakes races, it provides a hopeful look forward or a celebration of existing greatness. That’s part of the rejuvenating lure of Saratoga. To ready you for the 40-day meet, which runs through Labor Day, I’ve dug through the 1/ST BET statistics in the Betmix database for some helpful hints. And, we’ve crunched the numbers in the 1/ST BET app to determine which of the 52 filters in the exclusive algorithm have had the most success at Saratoga the past 2 summers.


Whether using the 1/ST BET app filters to handicap the races on their own or to supplement your traditional handicapping approaches, there’s value in letting the data process. 1/ST BET uses 52 various handicapping filters (such as speed, class, pedigree, connections, et al) over more than 200,000 past races to create its exclusive calculations. But which of those filters has proven useful at Saratoga? We examined the database for dirt and turf and came up with the 5 most-telling predictors.

ITM % (31%)
Avg Best Speed 2 of Last 3 (30%)
Avg Speed last 3 (30%)
Speed Last Race (28%)
Best Speed Last 3 (28%)

Best Lifetime Speed (34%)
Best Speed Last 3 (33%)
Avg Best Speed 2 of Last 3 (31%)
Last Purse (31%)
Avg Last 3 Race Class (29%)

Last Purse (27%)
ITM % (27%)
Last Turn Time (26%)
Last Race Class (26%)
Trainer Current Year (23%)

Last Purse (30%)
Trainer Current Year (30%)
Turf Earnings (28%)
ITM% (25%)
Trainer 2yr Win% This Race Type (25%)


Saratoga is a destination track for horsemen and brings a melting pot that’s predominantly NYRA circuit runners. With the COVID-19 travel situation, it likely leans harder toward the NYRA set. But those outside the circuit have had tremendous success the past 2 summers. In fact, Belmont-prepped horses win 12% at the Spa, while those from everywhere else win 14%. Here are the leading last-prep locales (and their Saratoga win percentages):

Monmouth 20%
Churchill 17%
Santa Anita 17%
Ellis Park 15%
Gulfstream 15%
Laurel 15%
Delaware Park 15%
Parx 15%
Belmont 12%
Woodbine 9%
Tampa 9%
Indiana Grand 6%

Horses who run back the second time at the same Saratoga meet win 13% (and universally 12-13% in every class category). It’s notable that the Monmouth percentage included a 9-for-25 (36%) mark for since-suspended trainers Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro. All other Monmouth shippers hit 17%. And for Churchill preppers, be particularly aware of NYRA trainers coming from road trips to that venue, such as Chad Brown, Danny Gargan and Shug McGaughey.


More than one-third of the races at Saratoga the past 2 summers were maiden races (283 of 808…35%), so while the major stakes grab the headlines, day-to-day handicappers need to hone on these events. Consider the favorites won just 32% in maiden races (28% maiden claiming, 34% maiden special weight), and these oft-run races can be lucrative. Compare to 36% winning favorites in the more glamorized allowance and stakes events. First-time starters win 9% of the time in Saratoga maiden races. First-time starters bet to favoritism in maiden races win 30%, which is actually lower than the overall maiden win percentage for favorites. In other words: the rookie hype at the Spa isn’t as founded as the perception.


Chad Brown trainees have won a remarkable 23 stakes at Saratoga at Saratoga the past 2 summers. With 151 such races offered, the stakes are a hotbed of activity and attention. To put Brown’s number in perspective, no other barn has won more than 6 during that time (Mark Casse) and only 5 trainers total have hit the 5-win mark (Steve Asmussen, Brad Cox, Bill Mott with 5). Brown’s stakes favorites win 32%, which seems low for his powerhouse when you consider 35% winning favorites in stakes overall. His 16% win rate with non-favorites in stakes has produced a much lower ROI than his favorites ($.69 to $.86 for every $1 bet). In other words, betting Chad Brown in stakes races is a difficult balance.

A stakes note: 2 of the top 8 stakes-winning trainers are out of the game this season, Jason Servis (suspension) and Kiaran McLaughlin (retirement, now a jockey’s agent for Luis Saez).