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Monday Myths: They Knew ... Or Did They?

By Jeremy Plonk  (Xpressbet editor-in-chief) 

February 10, 2021 01:08 AM

Welcome to a new handicapping series entitled “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.

Assumption:

“They knew.”

Background:

If there’s one thing that horseplayers – almost without fail – believe, it’s that inside information abounds, especially with first-time starters and horses coming off of long layoffs. The assumption is that rumors spread and money follows. And not only is that influence prevalent, it’s accurately on the money.

Given the odds-on debut of ballyhooed Bezos on Sunday at Santa Anita, in which the 26-1 Kentucky Derby Future Wager proposition only mustered a fifth-place finish, it’s an interesting time to visit the topic. Sure, eventually great horses don’t always debut a success; Triple Crown winners Secretariat and American Pharoah finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in their unveilings. This study isn’t about Bezos, but rather the public that backed him with abandon.

Data Points:

I crunched the numbers in the Betmix database for every race over the past 8 years, beginning with the start of the 2013 season. I looked at how the public bet first-time starters and how those favored compared to favorites in general, favorites in maiden races and favorites in 2-year-old maiden races. Comparisons also were made for heavily bet favorites at even-money or less in each category.

I also looked at favorites who were returning from long layoffs of 6 months or more.

Overall Findings:

First-time starters bet to favoritism win 33.8% in all races, which is below the 37.0% win rate of favorites overall.

First-time starters bet to favoritism in maiden races win 33.7%, which is below the 37.6% win rate of experienced favorites in those races.

First-time starters bet to favoritism in 2-year-old maiden races win 33.9%, which is below the 35.9% win rate of experienced favorites in those races.

First-time starters bet to even-money or less favoritism in all races win 45.6%, which is below the 50.6% win rate of experienced even-money or less favorites overall.

First-time starters bet to even-money or less favoritism in maiden races win 45.4%, which is below the 50.8% win rate of experienced even-money or less favorites in those races.

First-time starters bet to even-money or less favoritism in 2-year-old maiden races win 47.2%, which is below the 48.8% win rate of experienced even-money or less favorites in those races.

Horses returning from 6 month layoffs-plus and bet to favoritism won 35.7%, which is below the 37.0% win rate of favorites overall.

Horses returning from 6 month layoffs-plus and bet to even-money or less favoritism won 47.7%, which is below the 50.6% win rate of experienced even-money or less favorites overall.

Overall Findings Verdict:

When it comes to first-time starters, “They knew” is completely debunked. Debut favorites win at a far shorter percentage than favorites overall, favorites in maiden races and favorites in 2-year-old maiden races. The most heavily bet ones don’t fare any better, trailing the win rates of experienced favorites overall, in maiden races and in 2-year-old maiden races. In fact, the gap is actually larger between heavily bet rookie favorites and general favorites in all but the 2-year-old maiden category, there the edge still remains with the experienced favorites.

Turns out, “They knew” also hasn’t proven out with horses coming off of long layoffs either. Both favorites and heavily bet favorites returning from 6 months or more away underperformed the results of favorites overall.

Bottom line:

Favorites bet in their debut or coming off a long layoff win less frequently than favorites overall. “They knew” may be a common refrain, but it’s an anecdotal complaint and not the prevailing fact.

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, take a look at the tracks you play most often to see if they fall in line with the overall national results. At Saratoga, mecca of the 2-year-olds, the juvenile debut maiden favorites win 32.4%, while experienced 2-year-old maiden favorites win 34.4%. So much for “They knew” at the Spa. Try it out for yourself at Betmix.com!

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