11/03/2016 4:39PM

Bet This, Not That: trainer angles at Breeders’ Cup

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Often with trainer stats the idea is to determine trainer intent. Is the horse primed for a big effort, or is the trainer setting things up for a race in the future? Are there certain changes happening (surface, distance, equipment, jockey, etc.) that the trainer has had success with in the past, or do those changes indicate that the trainer may be experimenting?

The Breeders’ Cup, though, features 13 stakes races each worth at least $1 million, so the intent is clear: trainers want to win. Most horses coming into Breeders’ Cup races are in top form, are working well in the morning, and have had success in the preps for these races.

Therefore, some might argue that trainer stats are useless for racing’s biggest races, such as the Breeders’ Cup. No, they just take on a different focus, often giving useful information on how the betting market views the trainer’s similar runners. Does the betting public regularly overestimate the chances of these horses, or has the trainer shown that he/she can often get the horses to run well at square odds?

Since DRF Formulator gives you full access to all of a trainer’s runners over the past five years, let’s use Formulator to look at specific trainers and/or horses for this year’s Breeders’ Cup races, paying special attention to how similar runners have done relative to their final odds. We’ll also use the DRF internal database to take a look at some trainers beyond the five-year threshold.

Bet This: Mark Casse with juveniles in turf graded stakes. Mark Casse won the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf last year with Catch a Glimpse, and he just missed winning the Juvenile Turf with Airoforce, who ran second by a neck to Hit It a Bomb. Casse’s success with juveniles in turf graded stakes predated last year’s Breeders’ Cup, and it’s continued on this year as well. In fact, in the past five years, Casse is 38-13-4-4 with a $5.45 return on investment for every $2 win bet. Those wins include a $45+ payout in the Jimmy Durante at Del Mar in 2014, a $33+ winner in the Summer Stakes at Woodbine last year, and Catch a Glimpse’s BC win last year at odds of nearly 9-1. Casse looks to continue the trend this year with La Coronel and Victory to Victory in the Juvenile Fillies Turf and Keep Quiet in the Juvenile Turf.
Bet This: Aidan O’Brien with male horses, especially in the BC Juvenile Turf and the BC Turf. Many people believe that Aidan O’Brien is the best trainer in the world, and considering the success he’s had in Europe, they may well be right. He’s had his fair share of success in North America as well, winning two races at the 2015 Breeders’ Cup: Found in the Turf and Hit It a Bomb in the Juvenile Turf. His success in North America in recent years has come almost exclusively with males, though. He’s 38-8-6-2 with a $3.43 ROI over the past five years with males in North American turf races and just 21-1-1-3 with females (that lone win being Found last year). In the BC Turf he’s 14-4-2-2 with a $3.77 ROI with male horses (including the shared win in 2003, when High Chaparral dead-heated) and he’s 12-3-3-0 with a $5.18 ROI in the Juvenile Turf. That’s a combined record of 26-7-5-2 ($4.42 ROI), while he’s just 65-2-7-5 $0.48 ROI with all other runners in BC races. (Note: I’m not including the BC Marathon in those stats, a race he won on synthetic in 2009 with Man of Iron.)
Not That: Aidan O’Brien with female horses. Perhaps it’s a statistical anomaly that will correct over time, but I can’t ignore that he’s just 2 for 21 in the exacta with females in North America over the past five years. What’s particularly notable to me is that 13 of those 21 were odds of 6-1 or lower, so most were expected to run better than they did. Also, Found is the only female that O’Brien has won a Breeders’ Cup race with; the others are 20-0-3-2 combined. That’s 7-0-2-0 in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, 8-0-1-2 in the Filly and Mare Turf, 4-0-0-0 in the Juvenile Fillies, and off the board with the one other female he’s run in the Turf.
Bet This: Jockeys with success on the Santa Anita downhill turf course. When run at Keeneland, Churchill Downs, or Del Mar (as it will be next year), the Breeders’ Cup turf sprint is not markedly different from turf sprints run at most racetracks in North America. When it’s run at Santa Anita, though, it is something else entirely. After breaking from the gate, horses make a slight right turn, run downhill before crossing over the dirt surface of the main track, turning left at the top of the stretch to meet up with the main turf course. Many horses take to this unique course and others do not, but it can also be a difficult course to handle for jockeys unfamiliar with its quirks. This will be the sixth BC Turf Sprint run at Santa Anita, and all five previous races were won by jockeys with a history of hillside success. This year, only four jockeys (Flavien Prat, Gary Stevens, Mike Smith, and Joel Rosario) named on the 14 horses have more than one lifetime win on the hill. The other 10 jockeys have a lifetime record of 100-2-13-6 combined in downhill races.
Not That: Bill Mott juveniles in the Breeders’ Cup. Bill Mott is a Hall of Fame trainer who has saddled some all-time great horses. Trouble is, he’s not exactly known for his success with 2-year-olds, and his horses are often overbet in big races, particularly those juveniles. In fact, Mott has a record of 12-0-2-0 with juveniles in the Breeders’ Cup, with the most recent second-place finish coming way back in 1990. He’s finished off the board with five juveniles at odds of 6-1 or lower, including Harmonize last year at 9-2 in the Juvenile Turf and Puca at 4-1 in 2014 in the Juvenile Fillies. Additionally, Mott hasn’t hit the board (in seven starts) in the past five years with any juvenile in a Grade 1 stakes race.
Not That: Todd Pletcher juveniles on the main track in the Breeders’ Cup. Okay, so Bill Mott may not be known for his 2-year-olds, but clearly Todd Pletcher is. In fact, he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile twice in recent years, with Uncle Mo and Shanghai Bobby. The trouble is those are his only two BC wins on dirt (or synthetic) with juveniles, and both were short-priced favorites. Pletcher’s lifetime record in the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies is 30-2-7-3 for a $0.31 ROI. It’s also worth noting that 15 of the 28 non-winners went off at odds of 5-1 or lower. Can Sweet Loretta, Syndergaard, or Theory win this year? Of course. Are all three likely to be overbet because Pletcher trains them? Probably.
Not That: Kiaran McLaughlin in California. Kiaran McLaughlin is based in New York most of the year, and he’s had tremendous success there, especially in stakes races. McLaughlin has a win rate of better than 20 percent and a $1.93 ROI from over 4600 career races in New York. That success has not translated when he’s shipped to California, though. For his career, he has just one win in the state — Habaya in the 2008 Miesque Stakes at Hollywood Park. His record is just 26-1-3-5 ($0.26 ROI) in California, and he’s never won at Santa Anita, where he holds a lifetime record of 22-0-3-3. He’ll hope to change that with Tamarkuz in the Dirt Mile, Sentiero Italia in the Filly and Mare Turf, Lady Shipman (as an Also Eligible) in the Turf Sprint, and Frosted in the Classic.
Not That: Jerry Hollendorfer 3-year-olds facing older in stakes races. Perhaps none of the trainer stats matter when a very good 3-year-old faces older horses. It certainly didn’t matter for Shared Belief, who won the 2014 Pacific Classic and Awesome Again before finishing a rather eventful fourth in the BC Classic against older horses. However, it may be notable that Shared Belief is the only Hollendorfer trainee since 2014 to win a stakes race against older horses. In that time, the other 19 sophomores to try compiled a combined 20-0-3-4 record in stakes against older, and six lost at short prices (5-2 or lower). Songbird will certainly be a short price as well in the Distaff on Friday; maybe it won’t matter, but maybe she will be overbet compared to her chances of beating the best older fillies and mares.

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