• Analyzing Kentucky Derby Trainers

    POSTED Mar 22, 2014
    Last year, I did a piece on Kentucky Derby trainers. In it, I detailed a unique method I had derived to assess the merits of Derby trainers.

    The piece (and my method) came about following a blog posting by my friend and colleague Ed DeRosa, in which he defended Todd Pletcher’s (then) 1-for-31 record in America’s biggest race.

    “Admittedly, 1-for-31 isn't the most impressive stat,” DeRosa wrote on Feb. 26, 2013, “but it's also an unfair way to couch the opportunities he's had to win America's most famous race because he's only tried 12 times (but with 31 horses).”

    At best (barring any dead heats for the win), Pletcher would be 12-for-31, DeRosa argued. Furthermore, given the large fields that the Run for the Roses typically attracts, Pletcher’s miniscule win rate is to be expected.

    “Pletcher is 1-for-31 (3.2%) in an era when all starters are 13-for-246 (5.3%),” he pointed out. “That makes all starters not trained by Todd Pletcher 12-for-215 (5.6%). Sure, a trainer of his stature could be expected to perform a little better than all starters, but even winning the race a second time gets him to just 6.45%, and we're about to see winning it twice is no easy task let alone the charming third time that would make him a nearly 10% trainer in one of the most difficult races in the world to win.”

    In my original piece, I noted that although I had “no qualm with DeRosa’s math — it’s spot-on — I do take issue with his conclusion, and particularly with the way he approached the subject.

    “Frankly, it’s the same problem I have with the winner of the National Handicapping Championship being awarded an Eclipse Award as Handicapper of the Year: In low-probability events, it is generally more illustrative to look at overall consistency rather than focus solely on winners and losers.”

    “Don’t get me wrong,” I continued, “I’m not taking a shot at past and future winners of the NHC, but there is a reason that there has been no repeat champion since the tournament began in 2000; just like the Kentucky Derby, one’s chances of winning are miniscule. Hence, judging the competence of a handicapper based on whether or not he/she won the National Handicapping Championship is silly. Ditto winning or losing the Derby.”

    I then presented a chart showing a correlation I found between my Win Factor Report Form Ratings (a number from 0 to 100 percent that I use to assess a horse’s finishing position as well as its beaten lengths in a particular contest) and its final Kentucky Derby odds:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    So, with the above chart in mind, I offer statistics for selected trainers with horses on the 2014 Kentucky Derby trail:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Anonymous said...

    hi Derek , this post and your posts for the last few months are not appearing when we enter www.twinspires.com - obviously they did not bump ed de rosa - he's posts are up there every week !! I found this post by googleing your name and found your post via the twitter feed you put up. thanks for the ideas.

    Derek Simon said...

    I'm assured that this is being worked on. Thank you for taking the trouble to find my stuff! I greatly appreciate it.

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