01/31/2003 12:00AM

Jump off Lumpkins bandwagon now

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Buy low, sell high. Wise stock investors know when to sell and take their profits. When a stock you own receives intense media coverage and becomes hopelessly overpriced, it is definitely time to get out.

The same theory applies to betting on jockeys. Jason Lumpkins has dominated his rivals at Turfway Park with 47 wins from 133 mounts, for an incredible 35 percent win rate. Those 47 wins are more than three times the number ridden by Dean Butler, who is a distant second with 14. Lumpkins was red-hot before Wednesday's card and became even hotter when he won five races from eight mounts that night. The result is that just about everyone who bets on races at Turfway is now a huge Jason Lumpkins fan. Whenever a bandwagon gets that crowded, wise bettors know that it is probably time to become a contrarian.

Here are a couple of reasons why you should consider betting against Lumpkins: First, his mounts are now being hammered down to very low prices. These are the closing odds on the 15 horses he rode on Wednesday and Thursday, from lowest to highest: 4-5, 4-5, 1-1, 1-1, 1-1, 8-5, 9-5, 9-5, 9-5, 9-5, 2-1, 2-1, 2-1, 3-1, and 7-2. His six winners during that two-day period paid $3.80, $3.80, $4.20, $4.20, $5.80, and $6.20. The total payoffs were $28 on $30 bet, which isn't bad, but it should be noted that he won 40 percent of those races, and still produced a small loss. What happens if his win percentage dips down to below 30 percent, and his win payoffs remain low?

Second, his statistics provide a subtle but significant clue that it will be difficult for him to maintain his current win rate. Through Thursday, Lumpkins has ridden 47 winners vs. only 15 second-place finishers, and just 17 third-place finishers. That is an abnormally high 1.47 ratio of winners vs. seconds and thirds combined, the equivalent of a handicapper who goes through a hot streak when he wins most of his photos, never gets disqualified, etc. We all know that streaks like that are bound to end sooner or later.

Take a look at the statistics through Thursday for some of the leading riders at other meetings and you will see how out of line that 1.47 ratio is. Eddie Martin Jr. leads Fair Grounds with 48 wins, 39 seconds, and 34 thirds, for a .66 ratio. Eibar Coa has 25 wins vs. 19 seconds and 23 thirds at Gulfstream, with a .60 ratio. Ryan Fogelsonger has won 35 races vs. 18 seconds and 30 thirds at Laurel, for a .73 ratio. And Pat Valenzuela shows similar numbers in all three slots with 28 wins, 25 seconds, and 23 thirds, and a .58 ratio at Santa Anita. When Lumpkins rode at the most recent Bay Meadows and Bay Meadows Fair meets, he had a combined 92 wins, 48 seconds, and 57 thirds, for an .88 ratio. That was a strong number, but still not close to 1.47.

The bottom line is that Lumpkins seems bound to cool off in the win slot. When some of the horses who have been winning for him start finishing second and third often enough to bring that 1.47 ratio back down to earth, contrarian bettors will cash some nice win bets, and can also score in the exotics by using other jockeys in the first slot at overlaid odds.

The same argument can be made while checking out the numbers leading trainer Bernie Flint has produced. His 60-18-8-4 record is also top-heavy with a 1.50 ratio of winners vs. seconds and thirds. He enjoys a large following, so his winners are unlikely to pay enough (an average win payoff of less than 5-2 so far) to cover the betting losses that would accumulate if some of the horses he has been winning with begin filling in the gaps in the second and third positions.