05/21/2004 12:00AM

Get to know the value of your riders


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Most handicappers tend to think of jockeys in general terms. We expect the good ones to be good all of the time, and we expect those who are usually in mid-pack or further back in the standings not to perform as well as those who are typically more successful. But broad generalizations are not a helpful thing in a betting game where it does not pay to know the obvious. Trends that are more specific, that differ from what is expected by most bettors, are the most valuable nuggets of information to have. A check of the jockey statistics through Thursday, May 20, at the current Churchill meet shows that there are a number of trends that bettors need to be aware of.

It isn't a surprise that Pat Day leads the standings. But what most bettors don't know is that he has been riding exceptionally well at Churchill, and has delivered a return on investment that is much higher than usual. Since 1991, in 15,868 mounts, Day has won at a 23-percent rate, with a return of $1.42 for every $2 bet. But he is currently outperforming those numbers with 27 percent winners, and a $1.94 return on investment. Throw in some handicapping on your part, and you should be able to show a net profit on his mounts.

Rafael Bejarano, and Cornelio Velasquez are tied for second in the standings. One of them is winning back more than half of the 16 percent parimutuel takeout, while the other is showing losses that approximate the takeout. If you play Churchill, and don't know which is which, you are at a disadvantage.

Bejarano has been profitable at $2.04 from a group of 2,686 races overall, but he has been hindered by his increased popularity lately, since he is much better known now than he was when he was riding most of those races. Nevertheless, he still shows a good $1.87 return on 16 percent winners at this meet, a loss of just 6.5 percent. Velasquez owns the higher win percentage at 20 percent, but his winners have not paid as much, yielding a $1.67 return, a little lower than his long term $1.74.

John McKee is in fourth place, seven winners behind Bejarano and Velasquez. He has won with 15 percent of 3,025 mounts overall, and is doing well to have scored at a 12 percent rate vs. the tough jockey colony at Churchill. His strong $1.92 return shows that he is getting a lot of run from his horses, an improvement over his long-term $1.71.

Mark Guidry is just one winner behind McKee, and he also is having a better meet than most bettors realize. He has been successful with his mounts since 1991 with 17 percent winners from 17,994 mounts, but his mounts have been overbet, returning just $1.42. He has won at a 14 percent rate at Churchill, but his winners have paid much more than usual, while providing a profit at $2.05.

When a jockey with a large fan base is unlucky, isn't getting the right mounts, or is a bit off his game, and his win percentage declines, the effect on his ROI can be brutal.

Robby Albarado has won 16 percent of a group of 17, 886 races since 1991, and is habitually overbet by his fans, with a $1.44 return. His 43 percent in-the-money rate at Churchill is nearly identical to his 44 percent over the long term, but he has been unfortunate to have won with just 11 percent of his mounts at this meet. The result has been a return of $0.88.

Shane Sellers is another rider whose fame makes it an uphill struggle for him to meet the expectations of his fans. He has finished in the money with 48 percent of his mounts at Churchill, about the same as his 47 percent rate from a group of 14,376 mounts since 1991. He has managed a $1.51 return overall, but with 12 percent wins here vs. his usual 19 percent, his ROI is $0.77.

Calvin Borel has been successful overall with 15 percent wins from a group of 17,290 mounts since 1991. He usually returns $1.51 to his supporters. He has been less effective at Churchill, with 7 percent winners, but his backers can take some solace in the fact that his winners are paying more than usual, so his ROI has declined much less than might have been expected, at $1.36.