By the Numbers

by Ed Meyer

posted on January 14, 2022 in General Discussion, Handicapping, Horse Racing, | Comments Off on By the Numbers

Watching the college championship in my recliner. Had my faded Alabama t-shirt on, and all was well with the world at kickoff. – Now, even though football was holding my attention, I was stuck on horse racing. The game set my thinking in motion of how Bama beat Georgia and how tough it would be to beat a powerhouse twice in the same season. – About three hours later the truth was told, but my thoughts about racing were still going in circles.

Even though the favorite won the football game, how often do favorites win at the races? I’ve heard it a million times over the years, but have you? – Public betting favorites win approximately 33% of all races and finish second 53% of the time. Second choices win approximately 21% of all races and finish second 42% of the time. So the top two choices win 54% of the races and finish second 74% of the time. You might even want to consider the fact that third choices win approximately 14% of all races run over the course of a year.

Now, according to, these numbers would drive people to bet the favorite more than they would usually tell you. – I’m not saying I won’t bet the chalk, but looking at the numbers it is hard to toss them out. – I guess Georgia is looking better and better after the game is over.

Additional percentage facts to consider are that public favorites in 6-horse fields win approximately 40% of the time at an average win price of just over even money, while public favorites in 12-horse fields win approximately 27% of their races at an average win price of almost 2-1. Basically, public favorites in larger fields win a lower percentage of the time but pay better.

Ok, I’m starting to remember. But how much does a jockey play into your winning wagers? – Jockeys who win at a clip of less than 10% are poor investments. Those that win at a clip of 10-15% are a little better. Jockeys who win at a clip of 15-20% are worth a second look, but jockeys who win at a clip of 20% or better can be like money in the bank in the right situation. Jockeys who win a high percentage of the races they ride in not only have their choice of the best mounts, they also generally have skill sets that are much better than their fellow riders.

Ok, the clouds are parting and the sun is shining through. But, how do the riders do with particular trainers? – If you see a 24% jockey riding one of the top three choices for a 15% trainer the horse probably has a decent chance, but what you’re really looking for is one of these top jockeys on a horse trained by someone with a 20% clip or better. These trainers win at a 20% clip for numerous reasons; brains, talent, the ability to attract the best jockeys, medication, and numerous other factors; but they win consistently more races than their competition.

Long story short. The better overall percentage riders win and do well with trainers who have a higher win and ITM percentage. – If only I would have worn my Georgia t-shirt and rooted for the chalk it would have been a winning night. Oh well, there’s always next year…