Fit vs. Fragile
The premature retirements of both I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister, the 1-2 finishers in this year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, seems to back this contention up, as does the recent tendon tear that unethically targeted last year’s juvenile champion Hansen and likely relegated his career to the history books as well.
Of course, the biggest challenge one faces when attempting to prove or disprove a racetrack “fact” is obtaining truly independent variables. The reality is that almost no single factor contributing to the outcome of a horse race can be easily isolated. Take, for example, speed and form — what’s the real difference? Typically, a horse that runs fast also runs well, right? After all, it’s not often that a 30-length loser will post an outstanding Beyer figure.So, my first hurdle was distinguishing between a “freshening” and layoffs resulting from injury or infirmity. Thus, I decided to concentrate solely on post-time favorites (ignoring entries). That way, I could be reasonably certain that I was apprising only those contestants that had shown at least a semblance of class and form in the recent past.Now, does this ensure an autonomous sample? Of course not. Obviously, the date of a horse’s most recent outing is going to influence the crowd’s betting habits, but at least it helps eliminate those hapless nags that neither racing nor resting will aid.First, I looked at favorites as a whole (provided they were single betting interests with at least one lifetime start) from assorted races run during 2004-2009:Races: 5,786Won: 2,075Rate: 35.9%ROI: -15.49%As you can see, these figures are right in line with long-term national averages. Thus, my database would appear to be “fair.” Next, I looked at favorites that were coming back on less than 10 days rest:Races: 250Won: 98Rate: 39.2%ROI: -8.36%
Far too often, they are anything but.