Saratoga the Graveyard of Favorites?

The best players in the country are now working on tomorrow’s races at Saratoga. Every year we hear about the graveyard of favorites at Saratoga. Is it true?

When we lived in Maryland Susan and I would go to Saratoga every year for her birthday and spend a week at the track. The weather during the summer at Saratoga is warm and muggy and it rained a lot causing small fields and small mutuels. So after the fourth year Susan chose to go to Laurel for her birthday.

Evaluating favorites is an act of experience. How do you bet the favorite and which ones can you pass? Over the last four years there were 1,632 favorites at Saratoga from 13,146 runners that went to post.  Of these 1,632 favorites 537 won for a 32% win rate. The average field size had 8.0 runners per race.

The term Odds On means a better than even chance to win. How many Odds on favorite horses won? I combined the five lowest odds levels that require a plus 50% win rate. Saratoga had 208 races with 118 wins for a 57% win rate. Averaging these five odds levels together says their win par needs to be 72%.

1/10  Odds  2-2-100% Win Rate    1/10 Odds 90%   Payout $2.20
1/5    Odds 15-12-80% Win Rate  1/5 Odds 83%      Payout $2.40
2/5    Odds 21-9-43%   Win Rate  2/5 Odds 71%     Payout $2.80
3/5   Odds  76-43-56% Win Rate   3/5 Odds 63%     Payout $3.20
4/5   Odds  94-52-55% Win Rate   4/5 Odds 56%     Payout $3.60

2/5 and 3/5 may be part of the reason for the graveyard of favorites expression, par is 71% and 63%.

The handicappers at Saratoga are sharpening their speed figures. At even money they are 4 Points over par, an overlay.

1/1 Odds went 90- 49-54% Win Rate    1/1 Odds 50%    Payout $ 4.00

The odds level 6/5 contributes to the legend with a 37% win rate versus par of 45%.

6/5 Odds 98– 36-37% Win Rate    6/5 Odds 45%   Payout $4.40

The players make a big move with 7/5 which has a 49% win rate. 7/5 needs a 42% win rate for par. The players won at an almost even money hit rate. 7/5 has a $4.80 win mutuel, a big overlay at Saratoga.

7/5 Odds 134-65-49% Win Rate    7/5 Odds 42%   Payout $4.80

The crowd is above par on 3/2. 40% is par and the favorite hit at 42%. 3/2 is a statistical overlay. So far I think the players know what they are doing with odds.

3/2 Odds 77 –32 – 42% Win Rate   3/2 Odds 40%   Payout $5.00

The next odds level, 8/5 is 2 points under par.

8/5 Odds 175-63 -36% Win Rate    8/5 Odds 38%   Payout $ 5.20

9/5 adds to the graveyard of favorites narrative 9/5 favorites are 8 points below par.

9/5 Odds 147 -41- 28% Win Rate   9/5 Odds 36%   Payout $5.60

The last five favorite odds levels feed the graveyard narrative.

2/1 Odds 345 -78-23% Win Rate  2/1 Odds 33%   Payout $6.00
5/2 Odds 577-138-24% Win Rate  5/2 Odds 29%  Payout $ 7.00
3/1 Odds 98  – 19-19% Win Rate     3/1 Odds 25%    Payout $8.00
7/2 Odds 15 – 4-15% Win Rate       7/2 Odds 22%   Payout $9.00
4/1 Odds 14   -5- 36% Win Rate     4/1 Odds 20%   Payout $10.00

The statistics on odds and percentages tells us what favorites to add into an exacta bet. All favorites are not the favorite. I look at odds in segments. Odds on favorites and even money is the first segment. I never make the favorite my key horse at this odds level however, I do like to have a 1/1 even money favorite as one of my three fillers in the exacta. I know that even money will win half their races. If I have the 3rd favorite as my key horse at 3/1, I do not argue with myself about including the favorite in my bet as he is going to win half his races so I accept that. It makes for a great bet and an opportunity to hit an exacta that produces a $15 to $19 dollar exacta payout.  My exacta key bet is one with three horses and then the same three with one. Even money favorites are going to lose half of their races as well and this can produce exactas from $30 to $90. I take the payout no matter what the odds are because it is a good bet. I have a chance at a really good sized exacta or a predictable low paying exacta. If I hit the exacta it is an overlay.

The second segment is 3/2-7/5. 6/5 favorites are also good to include as a filler. Two out three of these odds are overlays. 7/5 is an odds level. I have always thought when 7/5 was on the tote board that the horse is really the favorite.

The third segment is 8/5 to 4/1, a total of seven odds levels. I never fear I will get beat by the favorite. I know the percentages are against them. I combined these seven odds levels and 1,371 favorites went to post at Saratoga over the last four years and 348 went on to win, a one out of four win clip. These seven odds levels favorites lost 1,023 races.

The real handicapping is on these seven odds levels on the favorite. These are easy to go against.  It’s the bet of 1 with 3 and 3 with 1 I am trying to cash.

Any stat that can win half their races has to be included. 50% is a magical statistic to me because my selections start at 40% in the exacta. I prefer 50% exacta stats to bet with. A favorite at even money has to be included as a filler because they win every other race.

There is a favorite in every race and overall they win at a 32% win rate. For every 100 races the favorite will win 32 and lose 68. The Saratoga handicappers are very good and from their experience they know when to bet and when to pass and let the crowd over bet the favorite. I choose to bet with them when they are overlays and against them when they are an underlay.

I do not think that Saratoga is the graveyard of favorites. Even money and 7/5 are overlays as is 3/2. Many of the odds levels are a point or two from par. Sometimes we have to look at odds from what we know. Comparing the percentages of wins to the pars is how I determine a lot of plays. Odds On horses are supposed to win so we have to bet them. The payouts are low even when my stats say their hit rate backs them up as a legitimate favorite.

The Graveyard of Favorites may be in the Odds On category of players over betting stakes runners. Odds On has all the hype influencing the betters as a can’t miss, mortal lock bet. This may be part of the myth of the Graveyard of Favorites. This is a play I like to take advantage of. Maybe I should name this play the Saratoga Graveyard of favorites play.

Here’s a link to the Odds % Payout Table   Odds % Payout Table

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