Using Trainer Angles in Handicapping, Part 4

July 3rd, 2018

Trainer Stats and First Time Starters

Many handicappers know the value of analyzing a trainer’s record with first-time starters.

Some trainers, like Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher, are renowned for the ability to send out race-ready horses to win their debuts, and knowing this can be helpful when handicapping maiden races.

Other trainers are not as well-known for their success with first-time starters, but that doesn’t mean that a low winning percentage should turn you away from betting their debut runners. Under specific circumstances, trainers that usually win at a low percent rate with first-time starters can up their game dramatically, and recognizing the nuances of these situations can be quite lucrative.

For example, the Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott is known for his solid, though not overly remarkable record with first-time starters—according to DRF Formulator past performances, over the last five years, he’s won at an 8% rate with a $1.64 ROI for every $2 win bet, so blindly betting his first-time starters would yield a loss over time.

But all that changes when Mott sends his two-year-olds to Saratoga and debuts them in the track's many turf maiden races at a mile or farther. Over the last three years, Mott has sent out 21 starters under these circumstances, and the results have been astonishing—four wins at odds of 9-1, 11-1, 21-1, and 22-1 (generating a massive $6.55 ROI!), plus five runner-up finishes at odds of 5-1, 10-1, 11-1, 15-1, and 16-1.

This trend was already apparent as the 2017 Saratoga meet got underway and provided an excellent betting opportunity in the fourth race on August 5th, an 8.5-furlong maiden special weight on the turf course. Mott had two debut runners in the race—Irish Territory at 13-1 and Trumpi at 22-1—while Todd Pletcher had the well-bet first-time starter Seabhac.

It didn’t take a very creative bettor to think of boxing Seabhac, Trumpi, and Irish Territory in the exacta, allowing any two of them to run 1-2 in either order to produce a winning payoff. Playing the exacta for a $2 base would have cost $12, and when Trumpi led from start to finish to edge Seabhac by half a length—paying $47.40 to win—the exacta payoff was an eye-catching $294.50.

Be sure to keep an eye out for this angle at Saratoga this summer!