The Gray Trifecta

by Horstradamus

posted on June 12, 2016 in Handicapping, Help/Educational Articles, Horse Racing, Other Events | No Comments >>

Destin working out.
Photo: John C. Engelhardt

Those who use the age-old handicapping method of picking by color were well rewarded in the 2016 Belmont Stakes, as the top 3 finishers Creator, Destin and Lani are all gray.  The $1 Trifecta paid a whopping $1,375.  However, don’t bet the farm on this angle just yet.  Although gray horses are all the rage now as Tapit is a top sire, this is an uncommon phenomenon (it’s also very rare in such a large field).

Since 2010 in the US and Canada, the top 3 finishers are gray (or white) at an average rate of once per 1,470 Thoroughbred races.  Many of those occurrences are in smaller fields with a high concentration of grays. The last time it happened was on May 21st at Will Rogers Downs.  Fortuitously, on May 14th it happened at both Golden Gate Fields and Lone Star Park.  Think it could ever happen twice on one card?  It did, exactly 3 years ago on June 11th, 2013 at Fort Erie. Color handicappers were rewarded that day with Triactors worth $750.30 and $23.10.

At Belmont specifically, it happens once every 2,838 races.  The last time it occurred was on June 4th, 2010 for an unimpressive $46.50 Trifecta.

When eliminating races with less than 3 gray entries (when a gray Trifecta is impossible), the rate becomes a more reasonable 1 in 42 races (1 in 72 at Belmont).

Now the next logical question is what if you want to shoot for the moon and score a gray Superfecta?  Can that ever happen?  Well it just so happens that the last gray Trifecta at Will Rogers Downs was also a gray Superfecta.  However, there’s one fact that we forgot to mention – that entire five horse field was gray (and there was no Superfecta wagering on the race).  Remember that magical day at Fort Erie we mentioned?  In one of those two races, the fourth finisher was gray as well. Unfortunately, Superfecta wagering was not available on that race either. All in all, the top 4 finishers are gray at an average rate of once per 9,625 races.

When eliminating the impossible gray Superfecta races (races with less than 4 gray entries), the rate becomes 1 in 42 races – the same rate as a gray Trifecta with 3+ gray horses.

So what does this all tell us? You should probably stick to more proven handicapping methods – like picking by name. Or, let WinningPonies do the handicapping for you.