Monday Myths: Are Favorites Becoming More Dominant in Big Races?

Welcome to a continuing handicapping series for our Monday blog space, “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:

Major stakes races have become increasingly more difficult to find a price play.

Background:

After a summer at Saratoga with short fields and short prices in graded stakes races, where 42% of favorites won and were an average winning favorite’s price of just 4-5, there’s a sense that stakes races aren’t providing the value bettors seek. But is that just a recent feeling and providing a bias, or is there more to it?

Data Points:

I fired up the Betmix database to look at all graded stakes races in North America from 2014-present. I studied average win odds and percentage of winning favorites and compared those across the years.

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Favorites have won 45.5% in graded stakes in 2022.
Favorites won 45.03% in graded stakes in 2021.
Favorites won 43.8% in graded stakes in 2020.
Favorites won 36.2% in graded stakes in 2019.
Favorites won 38.4% in graded stakes in 2018.
Favorites won 38.2% in graded stakes in 2017.
Favorites won 37.5% in graded stakes in 2016.
Favorites won 33.4% in graded stakes in 2015.
Favorites won 35.1% in graded stakes in 2014.

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Average win odds is 5.08 in graded stakes in 2022.
Average wins odds were 4.90 in graded stakes in 2021.
Average wins odds were 5.11 in graded stakes in 2020.
Average wins odds were 5.49 in graded stakes in 2019.
Average wins odds were 5.37 in graded stakes in 2018.
Average wins odds were 5.28 in graded stakes in 2017.
Average wins odds were 5.57 in graded stakes in 2016.
Average wins odds were 5.30 in graded stakes in 2015.
Average wins odds were 5.20 in graded stakes in 2014.

Bottom line:

Favorites are winning at a higher percentage in graded stakes this year than any of the last 9 in the Betmix database, and up more than 7 points on the averages we were used to seeing from 2014-2020. The major spike began a year ago in 2021 and is holding beyond just a one-time seasonal anomaly. Also the average win odds for graded stakes races has been the lowest the past 2 years of the 9-year study with 2021 a tad shorter in price, though we still have a quarter of the 2022 season to see how things finish.

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, how does this angle perform over various tracks?

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