09/05/2014 2:01PM

DRF Formulator: Saratoga 2014 trainer stats

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With the 2014 Saratoga meet in the history books, let’s take a look at the trainers who did well and those who didn’t. Better yet, let’s look at the trainers who were smart bets that brought big payouts and those you were better off betting against.

If you followed the meet, you know that Chad Brown and Todd Pletcher were in a tight battle for most wins, until Pletcher pulled away on Labor Day weekend to end with 28 wins to Brown’s 23. But just because a trainer leads in wins does not mean his horses are worth a win bet. Which trainers were most profitable at Saratoga in 2014 and in which types of races did they return the best payouts? Let’s break it down.

Pletcher finished with 28 wins from 131 starts, for a 21 percent win rate and $1.05 return on investment (ROI) for each $2 win wager. That means if you bet $2 to win on all of Pletcher’s 131 starters, you would have lost 48 percent of your starting bankroll. Yes, you would have cashed regularly, but the payoffs on those winners were not enough to absorb the losses on the losers. If you thought the answer was to bet his longshots, you’d be in for an even worse surprise. Of Pletcher's 28 wins at Saratoga 2014, 24 of them went off favored, 17 were even money or lower. The longest-price winner was Costenia at 6-1 on Aug. 3, and only three others were higher than 2-1. Of horses that went off at 5-1 or higher, Pletcher was 1 for 33 with a $0.42 ROI.

Pletcher horses had a consistently strong winning percentage regardless of distance or surface, but those winners were bet early and often at Saratoga, meaning it is hard to find any angle where he had a positive ROI. Pletcher has a well-deserved reputation for winning with 2-year-olds making their debut at Saratoga. This year, though, he was “only” 6 for 29 with a $0.77 ROI on those horses, with none paying more than $5 to win. However, since Pletcher’s babies tended to run in direct relation to how they were bet, he was 5 for 7 with a $2.50 ROI with 2-year-old debuters when they were bet to even money or lower. Other profitable Pletcher angles were hard to find at Saratoga in 2014, but, oddly, turf routes with Javier Castellano were strong: 6 for 18 with a $2.43 ROI.

Pletcher’s top competitor for leading trainer, Brown, won fewer races but had a better winning percentage and higher ROI. At Saratoga, Brown was 23 for 98 (23 percent) for a $1.79 ROI with all horses. It’s tough for a top trainer to finish within the range of the takeout on all horses, and certainly much better than Pletcher, but if you bet $2 to win on all of his horses, you still lost money. Whereas Pletcher coupled a consistently strong winning percentage with a consistently weak ROI regardless of surface or distance, Brown excelled on turf over dirt. On dirt, he was 5 for 33 with a $1.02 ROI, but on turf he was 18 for 65 with a $2.19 ROI. He excelled with turf routers making their career debut, going 5 for 11 with a $4.79 ROI with those types. Even better, in turf routes with 2-year-olds, he was an astonishing 7 for 11 with a $6.32 ROI and three of his four losers lost to one of his own horses!

After those top two trainers, there was a sharp drop in the number of wins, with no other trainer amassing even half of Pletcher’s total. Still, there were plenty of other good bets to be found as well as many bad bets to be avoided. Let’s look at some noteworthy angles from other trainers.

Tony Dutrow continued amazing stats with 2-year-olds in their second career starts in dirt sprints at Saratoga: 3 for 5 with a $7.84 ROI. He was 4 for 6 in the four prior meets, making him 7 for 11 with a $7.10 ROI with those types in the past five Spa meets.

Great Saratoga meet for Jeremiah Englehart, especially if you bet him: 5 for 23 with a $5.97 ROI, including a $31 and a $61 winner.

Gary Contessa had a Jekyll/Hyde Saratoga meet. On dirt, he was 9 for 56 with a $2.38 ROI (6 for 42, $1.97 sprint; 3 for 14, $3.61 route). On turf, he was winless in 35 starts (16 sprint; 19 route). It was a tale of two Saratogas for Shug McCaughey as well, as he went 7 for 29 with a $2.14 ROI on turf and only 1 for 16 with a $0.26 ROI on dirt.

Steve Asmussen had a nice Saratoga meet as well, especially with 2-year-olds. He was 7 for 45 with a $2.68 ROI overall and 5 for 15 with a $6.37 ROI with the babies. Michael Wilson still has an amazing $3.23 ROI lifetime as a trainer (12 for 79), but it took a hit when he went 0-for-Saratoga in 2014 (13 starts).

John Terranova was an incredible 5 for 11 with a$5.16 ROI in dirt sprints at Saratoga in 2014. He was 1 for 20 in other starts.

Ian Wilkes had an odd meet. He was 3 for 3 with $11.33 ROI in turf sprints, 0 for 30 in all other races. He was 3 for 33 with $1.03 ROI overall.

Dallas Stewart had a winless Saratoga meet (0 for 13). He has not had a horse cross the finish line first at the Spa since July 23, 2011; had two horses win via DQ.

Jimmy Jerkens had a 32 percent win rate at the meet: 9 for 28 with a $4.47 ROI with all starters; 6 for 10 with a $8.23 ROI in dirt routes. #VEDay

Michelle Nevin was 5 for 20 with a $4.17 ROI with all starters; best in dirt sprints: 4 for 10 with $7.15 ROI. She was 1 for 10 with a $1.20 ROI with all other starters.

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DRF Plus subscribers, click here to see more trainer stats from Saratoga 2014, including the top trainers broken down by surface and distance.