Monday Myths: Is It More Difficult for a Sprinter to Hold Form?

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:

It’s harder for sprinters to maintain their form than route runners.

Background:

The rigorous, all-out nature of sprint races leads many horseplayers to believe that it’s more difficult for these horses to maintain their best form. Sprint fields also are less spread-out typically than routes, giving more opportunity for bad racing luck. Additionally, sprints tend to have larger field sizes than routes on dirt. All those logical points add up to the assumption, but do the numbers agree?

Data Points:

I dialed up the Betmix database to look at all race winners over the past 5 years (August 16, 2016) to see which ones were more likely to return with top finishes. I looked only at horses returning for the same class level (claiming-claiming, allowance-allowance, stakes-stakes) so that a class riser would not be penalized for the more difficult return test. Sprint distances on dirt were considered at 7 furlongs or less. Sprint distances on turf were considered at 6-1/2 furlongs or less to maintain 1-turn similarity. The route comparables were for 1-1/16 miles or farther in distance due to several tracks offering 1-turn miles.

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Dirt sprint claimers who won last out returned to win 18.86% with a $0.76 ROI for every $1 bet.
Dirt route claimers who won last out returned to win 19.67% with a $0.81 ROI for every $1 bet.

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Dirt sprint allowance runners who won last out returned to win 22.00% with a $0.78 ROI for every $1 bet.
Dirt route allowance runners who won last out returned to win 19.81% with a $0.68 ROI for every $1 bet.

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Dirt sprint stakes runners who won last out returned to win 27.49% with a $0.81 ROI for every $1 bet.
Dirt route stakes runners who won last out returned to win 21.66% with a $0.67 ROI for every $1 bet.

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Turf sprint claimers who won last out returned to win 21.61% with a $0.80 ROI for every $1 bet.
Turf route claimers who won last out returned to win 18.28% with a $0.88 ROI for every $1 bet.

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Turf sprint allowance runners who won last out returned to win 20.35% with a $0.78 ROI for every $1 bet.
Turf route allowance runners who won last out returned to win 17.93% with a $0.86 ROI for every $1 bet.

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Turf sprint stakes runners who won last out returned to win 23.08% with a $0.69 ROI for every $1 bet.
Turf route stakes runners who won last out returned to win 20.35% with a $0.76 ROI for every $1 bet.

Overall Findings:

On dirt, returning sprint winners outperformed routers only at the lowest level (claiming). As the quality or runners increased, dirt sprinters repeated victories at a higher rate than dirt routers. At each class level, turf sprinters returned to win more often than turf routers, by nearly a 3% margin in each case.

Bottom line:

Unless you’re looking at dirt claimers, the assumption that it’s tougher for a sprinter than a router to hold his or her form and repeat is factually false. Of the six categories of runners by class and surface, five of the studies showed sprinters to be more likely to repeat victories than routers. The most successful categories for a repeat on either surface were at the stakes level.

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, see which trainers fare best trying to bring back a winner and repeat … or which tracks are you more likely to see return winners hold their form. Last-out winners score 16.3% at Saratoga, while they win 14.8% at Del Mar – and just under 20% at Finger Lakes.

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