By Ed Bain
There are around 20 class levels at most racetracks and every class level has an escalating purse structure. At Belmont and Santa Anita Stakes races have purses starting at $75,000.
When a trainer has a good horse that they may want to protect from being claimed away in a high class claiming event some trainers choose to run their horse in the class of Allowance Optional Claim (AOC). At Belmont the AOC purse size starts at $65,000 and at Santa Anita it begins at $53,000.
At this class level the trainer can declare the horse up for sale at the claiming price or they can declare he is not for sale. Allowance Optional Claim lets the trainer run their horse with good pedigree into a softer spot which is essentially a claiming class without the risk of having his horse claimed away. Trainer intent is big in this class level.
3,279 runners went to post in the Allowance Optional Claiming Class at Belmont over the past four years. 454 won for a 14% win rate. Trainer Chad Brown ran 181 horses and won with 57 for a 31% win rate. Brown entered 123 different horses. One of them, Tombelane was entered five times where he won three races and had one place. Most wins came on the initial trainer move into Allowance Optional Claim.
5,819 runners went to post in Allowance Optional Claim at Santa Anita over the past four years. 754 won for a 13% win rate. Trainer Bob Baffert went 162-41-25% in AOC. Baffert raced Cat Burglar 5 times and he won 4 and placed on the other.
Trainer Phillip D’Amato produced 212 races from 107 horses, 45 won for a 21% hit rate.
At Santa Anita the favorite raced 744 times in AOC and won 229 for a 31% hit rate.
At Belmont the favorite raced 461 times in AOC and won with 167 for a 36% win rate.
At Belmont trainer Richard Violette went 23-1-4% in AOC. At Santa Anita trainer Van Belvoir went 28-1-3% in AOC. These are two good trainers. They enter horses in this class level for some other reason.
Allowance Optional Claim offers good sized purses and with a win the trainer gets to stay in that class if they want to. Then sometimes the trainer keeps their horses at this class level while looking for another spot to run their horse in later.
With the Triple Crown races Post Position draw is a big deal if you can handicap post position. This is not a primary factor but is important to betting when you have an advantage statistically to place a bet because of a big statistic or pass a bet because of a big negative statistic. I wanted to find out if post positions with good horses could be used as an advantage to bet or a disadvantage to pass the bet.
Of the 3,279 runners at Belmont who went to post, post position #7 had 264 runners and 32 won for a 12% win rate. Post position #8 went 178-13-9% winners. It is not the 13 winners I look at to try and place a bet on it is the 165 losers that is the issue. Post positions 8, 9, 10 went 348-23-7%. Overcoming these percentages with statistics is one way to handicap or just not betting into low percentage post position is another.
Post position #5 has the best percentage at Belmont with 433 races and 74 wins for a 17% win rate. Second best is post position #6 with 375-59-16%.
Belmont post #12 went 21-1. For post position #12 trainer intent is compromised by the distance from the inside post positions to the outside. They have to run a further distance than the inside posts. Trainer intent has to be evaluated by each statistic.
Santa Anita is different. Post position #7 loaded 516 starters and won with 57 for a 13% win rate. Post position #8 went 401-36-9% and 8, 9 and 10 went 834-89-11%. All post positions at Santa Anita are above my definition of random which is 10%. This is like knowing dogs can make 10 sounds while cats make 100.
At Santa Anita from post positions 1 through 10 only post position #8 has a percentage lower than 10%. There were 401 runners from post position 8, 36 won for a 9% win rate. Three post positions turned in 14% win rates; #1, #3 and #6 and they went
At Santa Anita post #10 had 165 runners. Belmont for post #12 had 64. I do not bet beyond post #10 at Santa Anita. Post #12 was 32-0.
Santa Anita shows no advantage through post position percentages in Allowance Optional Claiming events. I was impressed that in Allowance Optional Claim the statistics on each post position is a non factor for low percentages or large post position percentages. The post positions are about equal statistically, a random event is unpredictable.
With Belmont’s stats the post position is a handicapping factor. Three post positions are hitting at a 7% win rate. Random is 10%. For me betting into a 7% hit rate is almost impossible although sometimes numbers really don’t mean much even when you know the details. Some examples are, the 57 on Heinz ketchup bottles represents the number of varieties of pickles the company once had. Banging your head against a wall burns 150 calories an hour which may be an action created by speed figures. The required sample size depends strongly on the strength of the effect you are trying to measure. There are always two sets of numbers with racing statistics; the number of runners to the number of winners and how do I determine a large sample with a small sample to place or pass a bet.