Using Trainer Angles in Handicapping, Part 5

January 7th, 2019

The Unbeatable Hot Trainer

You’ve probably heard the talk—the talk of how trainer has become essentially unbeatable with his two-year-olds.

Maybe “unbeatable” is a bit of a stretch, but it isn’t far from the truth either. In 2018, Baffert’s two-year-olds compiled an otherworldly 32-for-62 record—that’s 52% wins—and when you consider that Baffert frequently runs two horses against each other, his record for the year was nothing short of jaw-dropping.

So should we just throw up our hands and play all of Baffert’s two-year-olds in 2019, knowing that in 2018 they literally won more often than not? Well, let’s not go quite that far, because there’s actually one area where Baffert has historically been less successful with his two-year-olds.

That area is maiden special weights held over distances of one mile or longer. Most of Baffert’s best horses debut in sprints, and most are so talented that they have no difficulty winning those sprints, even if they ultimately wind up being top-class route runners. In contrast, if Baffert chooses to run a maiden going a mile or farther, it’s usually a sign that they lack the brilliance of their speedier stablemates, and their success rate is understandably less than inspiring.

Need evidence?

According to statistics from DRF Formulator, over the last five years Baffert has started 51 two-year-olds in maiden special weights going a mile or longer, and just six have won, generating a 12% strike rate and a $1.19 ROI for every $2 bet. Furthermore, Baffert’s first-time starters under these conditions have gone just 1-for-12 (8%) with a $1.18 ROI.

Yet these horses frequently start at short prices. Regulate was favored at 9-10 odds in his debut going a mile at Los Alamitos in December 2017, but he checked in sixth of seven, triggering hefty payoffs in the exacta, trifecta, and superfecta. In September 2018, Dark Prince was the 13-10 favorite in a similar race at Los Alamitos, but struggled home fifth. And just last month, Baffert sent out Figure Eight as the overwhelming 1-2 favorite in a one-mile maiden race at Los Alamitos, only to witness Figure Eight run last of five while the logical second choice prevailed easily and paid $7.00 to win.

In other words, don’t feel like you have to bet every single Baffert maiden that comes along. As dominant as they are in sprints, if you find one running in a route race, there’s a good chance you can beat it with a horse offering better odds.