Monday Myths: Are Horses Claimed for Saratoga/Del Mar Placed to Strike?

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:

Horses claimed prior to the Saratoga and Del Mar meets deserve extra consideration as connections have a spot in mind for them at the boutique meets.

Background:

Everyone wants to win races, particularly at Saratoga and Del Mar’s prestigious summer meets. You’ll often see a flurry of horses claimed prior to these race meetings with an eye toward their prestigious winners’ circles. But are these horses any more successful when claimed before Saratoga and Del Mar than the other race meetings in their respective circuits?

Data Points:

I dialed up the Betmix database to look at all horses who raced first time off the claim at Saratoga and Del Mar over the past 5 years, going back to summer 2016. Horses claimed within that meet were not considered in the study, but rather horses claimed from other racetracks in their prior starts. To compare, I ran the same numbers for horses claimed prior to meets at corresponding circuit meets (NYRA = Aqueduct, Belmont, SoCal = Santa Anita, Los Alamitos). I also added the opening weekend results for horses fresh off the claim for 2021.

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Horses claimed and raced next at Saratoga won 15.1% with a $0.75 ROI for every $1 bet.
Horses claimed and raced next at Belmont won 15.8% with a $.0.77 ROI for every $1 bet.
Horses claimed and raced next at Aqueduct won 17.0% with a $.87 ROI for every $1 bet.
Horses claimed and raced opening weekend 2021 at Saratoga were 20: 2-1-5 (10%).

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Horses claimed and raced next at Del Mar won 12.6% with a $0.76 ROI for every $1 bet.
Horses claimed and raced next at Santa Anita won 14.4% with a $0.83 ROI for every $1 bet.
Horses claimed and raced next at Los Alamitos won 19.1% with a $0.72 ROI for every $1 bet.
Horses claimed and raced opening weekend 2021 at Del Mar were 20: 2-2-3 (10%).

Overall Findings:

Saratoga was the most difficult place for horses on the NYRA circuit to win off the claim, slightly under-performing those at Belmont and significantly below those at Aqueduct. Del Mar also was the most difficult place for horses on the SoCal circuit to win off the claim, under-performing both those from Santa Anita and Los Alamitos. Opening weekend 2021 showed a below-par performance for horses off the claim at both Saratoga and Del Mar.

Bottom line:

While everyone wants to win at Saratoga and Del Mar, claiming horses with an eye towards running there is not proven to be as statistically successful as attempting that on the other circuit tracks for both destinations. In fact, the success of horses claimed and running on both of these circuits is decidedly more favorable with the circuit’s least-glamorous meets ... and gets tougher with the increased competition at its various season meetings. In other words, it’s been more successful to claim a horse prior to the cheapest meet on the circuit than the most lucrative – proving this study’s assumption to be patently false.

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, which trainers DO perform well off the claim at Saratoga and Del Mar? Absent the suspended Jason Servis (8-19), the most effective barns at Saratoga with horses claimed in their start prior to the meet are Rudy Rodriguez (7-30), Linda Rice (6-26), Danny Gargan (5-19), Bruce Levine (3-11) and Steve Asmussen (3-12). At Del Mar, those top barns are fewer and include Richard Baltas (3-6), Doug O’Neill (6-33), Mark Glatt (3-17).

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