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Monday Myths: Do Barns Really Step Up for Del Mar?

by Jeremy Plonk

July 5, 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.


Del Mar is a meet that California’s top trainers aim for and fire their best shots.


The summer showcase meet at Del Mar is considered boutique for its relatively short length and high quality. For those reasons, there’s a narrative that everyone wants to find the winner’s circle at Del Mar. But are there trainers who actually find more success behind those apparent desires?

Data Points:

I dialed up the Betmix database for the past 5 years (July 1, 2016-present) at Del Mar and Santa Anita, California’s principal race meetings, to compare. I listed out the top active trainers by victories and also included their win percentages. I wanted to see if there was a shuffle or successful emphasis when it comes to Del Mar’s summer meet.


Leading Trainers By Wins at Santa Anita (+ win % for context)

1. Peter Miller 25%
2. Richard Baltas 18%
3. Phil D’Amato 19%
4. Doug O’Neill 13%
5. Bob Baffert 26%
6. Mark Glatt 17%


Leading Trainers By Wins at Del Mar (both summer and autumn meets)

1. Peter Miller 22%
2. Phil D’Amato 17%
3. Richard Baltas 18%
4. Doug O’Neill 12%
5. Bob Baffert 22%
6. Mark Glatt 17%


Leading Trainers By Wins at Del Mar (summer only)

1. Peter Miller 20%
3. Richard Baltas 18%
3. Phil D’Amato 18%
4. Doug O’Neill 13%
5. Bob Baffert 25%
6. John Sadler 18%
(7. Mark Glatt 17%)

Overall Findings:

The top 6 trainers in all 3 situations are the same outfits (except one), regardless of race meeting in California. And, they’re almost in identical order except for the 2-3 spots changing between Richard Baltas and Phil D’Amato, and the No. 6 spot between John Sadler and Mark Glatt. As for Del Mar’s summer-only boutique meeting, the order of dominance remains the same; plus, the win percentages for the top barns are nearly identical across the board as well, except for leading trainer Peter Miller, whose percentage actually drops during Del Mar summer, but he succeeds with volume and quality in tandem.

Bottom line:

It’s a commonsense narrative to say everyone wants to win at Del Mar, but the numbers absolutely crush any thought that the big barns are geared up any differently for this meeting than they are year ‘round. Obviously, the proliferation of 2-year-old racing this time of year can have an impact on wins and percentages for barns that succeed with those types of horses and situations. But, overall, you’ll see Doug O’Neill around 13% this summer, Richard Baltas and Phil D’Amato around 18% and Bob Baffert amidst his usual flirtation with 25% if his barn continues to perform this summer post-Medina Spirit as well as it has in the past.

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, there are some smaller barns that have had some Del Mar success with more limited starts. Tom Proctor has 31% wins (38% on turf) during the boutique the past 5 years. The aforementioned John Sadler barn has a Del Mar summer ROI of $1.22 for every $1 bet, clearly among the ‘big’ barns the most to move up this time of year historically.