Saratoga Shippers: Do Big Prices Bring "Too Much" Attention?

SARATOGA WATCHDOG

The following articles regarding the 2012 Saratoga Racing Season, which runs from Friday, July 20 until Labor Day, Monday, September 3, are provided FREE on this Web Site on a regular basis. You’ll find everything from individual type of race breakdowns to shipper evaluations, to money management suggestions and daily racing previews and reviews.
The “Saratoga Watchdog” invites you to check in as often as possible leading up to opening day as new material will be added every few days. Once racing begins there will be daily updates. From now until September 3 YOU SHOULD MAKE THIS WEBSITE YOUR FIRST SARATOGA STOP.

PART 2 - Wednesday, June 27

SARATOGA SHIPPERS: DO BIG PRICES BRING “TOO MUCH” ATTENTION?

Every year as Saratoga gets underway and trainers ship in from all over the country it is only natural that bettors begin the ritual of looking for the right shippers.

From a visceral, titillating and “right find” standpoint that makes sense. After all, because shippers are often the product of lesser known trainers, unrecognized horses, little followed second tier circuits, and to be honest, bias towards the unknown, these shippers will now and then pay the kind of prices that leave beaten bettors stammering, “if only.”

Last year a Louisiana Downs shipper returned $75.00. Horses journeyed up from the Jersey Shore and got everyone murmuring “watch for Monmouth shippers” as they won 16 times and lit up the tote to the tune of $36.20... $31.20... $29.60... $23.00 and averaged a $14.79 mutuel on all the winners.

Gulfstream Park registered a $43.80 bomb Delaware Park contributed a $31.40 highlight among its winners. Would a $51.50 payout on a Finger Lakes visitor or $50.50 winner from Parx get you to check the “out of town scoreboard?” Of course it would. Even Prairie Meadows ($27.60), Tampa Bay ($32.80), Presque Isle ($28.40), Fair Grounds ($27.20) and Colonial ($27.60) were well represented.

With prices such as that a bettor might easily be enticed into simply blowing off all the New York based runners and simply chase the big money the out-of-towners bring to Saratoga.

Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? And as reasonable and tempting as that might be, you have probably figured out by now that the Watchdog is about to drop the other horseshoe.

BEYOND THE BIG PRICES... THE REAL “SHIPPER CHALLENGE”

That other horseshoe dropping is the evidence behind the perception.

The preponderance of bettors is easily drawn to the big score... especially when they see it repeated over and over again as it beats them. So why shouldn’t a practice of waiting for the correct, high reward shipper be the way to go?

Good question... and my only response is... which is the correct, high reward shipper. After all, betting every horse simply because he is a shipper would be the only way of guaranteeing that you would actually hit every one of those high priced temptations. And therein is produced the “aha” moment... therein one can hear the clank of the dropping horseshoe.

(The Best Evidence As To The Value Of Shippers Is To Look At The Numbers)

Like any other serious investment endeavor, in order to beat the racing game you need to have a true understanding of what is behind the obvious and whether or not what appears obvious is the whole story. And the only way to figure that out is to do some research.

That being said, I slavishly (is there any other way to do research?) went over every race, except steeplechase races, that was held at Saratoga in 2011. What you will see listed below is the track of origin for the shipper, the number of races run, how many winners there were, how many winning favorites and beaten favorites, the average mutuel payout for the winners and the most important Return On Investment for a $2 wager on each and every shipper from the noted track of origin.

First I’ll show you the stats and then I’ll draw a conclusion. (In Alphabetical Order) - All prices based on a $2 Wager

ARLINGTON
Starters - 20... Winners 2
Beaten Favorites - 2... Winning Favorites - 0
Average Mutuel - $10.50... R.O.I. - $1.05

CALDER
Starters  - 21... Winners 2
Beaten Favorites - 3... Winning Favorites - 1
Average Mutuel - $12.60... R.O.I. - $1.20

CHARLES TOWN
Starters - 4... Winners 0
Beaten Favorites - 0

CHURCHILL DOWNS
Starters - 197... Winners 16
Beaten Favorites - 24... Winning Favorites - 4
Average Mutuel - $10.12... R.O.I. - $0.82

NOTE: With 24 Beaten favorites it is quite obvious that the public overvalues CD shippers. Even with 16 Winners the Return On Investment was a scant 82 cents for $2 wagered on every starter.

COLONIAL
Starters - 30... Winners 3
Beaten Favorites - 3... Winning Favorites - 0
Average Mutuel $17.40... R.O.I. - $1.74

DEL MAR
Starters - 2... Winners 0
Beaten Favorites - 0

DELAWARE
Starters - 44... Winners 7
Beaten Favorites - 6... Winning Favorites 3
Average Mutuel - $10.11... R.O.I. - $1.61

ELLIS
Starters - 4... Winners - 0
Beaten Favorites - 0

EUROPEAN
Starters - 7... Winners - 0
Beaten Favorites - 1

EVANGELINE
Starters - 2... Winners - 1
Beaten Favorites - 0... Winning favorites - 1
Average Mutuel - $4.40... R.O.I. - $2.20

FAIR GROUNDS
Starters - 5... Winners 1
Beaten Favorites - 1... Winning Favorites - 0
Average Mutuel - $27.20... R.O.I. - $5.44

FINGER LAKES
Starters - 31... Winners - 2
Beaten Favorites - 1... Winning Favorites - 0
Average Mutuel - $31.65... R.O.I. - $2.04

NOTE - Despite the $51.50 winner from Fingers lakes, how obsessive does a bettor have to be to bet 31 horses and settle for 2 winners to get back $2.04 for  every $2.00 wagered? Who can stay such a course?

FORT ERIE
Starters - 1... Winners - 0
Beaten Favorites - 0

GULFSTREAM
Starters - 46... Winners - 6
Beaten Favorites - 7... Winning Favorites - 2
Average Mutuel - $15.75... R.O.I. - $2.05

NOTE - Like Finger Lakes, you needed a $43.80 winner to push the R.O.I. into plus territory. That is a lot of work... although from a handicapping standpoint it is worth mentioning that any Gulfstream shipper had not run since late April, so all performed off considerable layoffs. Plus, like Churchill Downs, high visibility track contributed to a number of defeated (perhaps over bet) favorites.

HOLLYWOOD
Starters - 10... Winners - 2
Beaten Favorites - 1... Winning Favorites - 2
Average Mutuel - $ $3.20... R.O.I. - $0.64

HOOSIER
Starters - 2... Winners - 1
Beaten Favorites - 0... Winning Favorites - 1
Average Mutuel - $5.80... R.O.I. - $2.90

INDIANA
Starters - 13... Winners - 1
Beaten Favorites - 2... Winning Favorites - 1
Average Mutuel - $7.20... R.O.I. - $0.55

KEENELAND
Starters - 16... Winners - 1
Beaten Favorites - 2... Winning Favorites - 0
Average Mutuel - $7.00... R.O.I. - $0.44

NOTE: This is another track whose shippers would have been running for the first time since at least late April. Plus not only are they going synthetic to dirt, but even the turf to turf finds the Kentucky course much different from either of the Saratoga grass ovals.

LAUREL
Starters - 2... Winners - 1
Beaten Favorites - 0... Winning Favorite - 1
Average Mutuel - $3.80... R.O.I. - $1.90

LOUISIANA DOWNS
Starters - 3... Winners 1
Average Mutuel - $75.00... R.O.I. - $25.00

NOTE - If you think this will repeat in 2012, wouldn’t it be best to only bet the few LAD shippers and skip the entirety of the rest of the meet?

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MONMOUTH
Starters - 138... Winners - 16
Beaten Favorites - 4... Winning Favorites - 4
Average Mutuel - $14.79... R.O.I. - $1.71

NOTE - With 9 double digit payers, including a pair over $31 and a air over $23, Monmouth got plenty of attention from those believing in shippers. But still, the R.O.I. could do no better than break even after the standard track win takeout.

MOUNTAINEER
Starters 4... Winners - 0
Beaten Favorites - 0

OAKLAWN
Starters 1... Winners - 0
Beaten Favorites - 0

PARX
Starters - 38... Winners - 4
Beaten Favorites - 2... Winning Favorites - 0
Average Mutuel - $19.28... R.O.I. - $2.03

NOTE - Only 4 Winners... but a $50.50 bomb nudged the R.O.I. over the top. Again, it would take some kind of discipline to play them all and an even more amazing feat of handicapping to bet just a few and still catch the 25-1 shot.

PENN NATIONAL
Starters - 14... Winners - 1
Beaten Favorites - 2... Winning Favorites - 0
Average Mutuel - $12.20... R.O.I. - $0.87

PIMLICO
Starters - 7... Winners - 1
Beaten Favorites - 0... Winning Favorites - 0
Average Mutuel - $16.40... R.O.I. - $2.33

PRAIRIE MEADOWS
Starters - 7... Winners - 2
Beaten Favorites - 0... Winning Favorites - 1
Average Mutuel - $16.55... R.O.I. - $4.73

PRESQUE ISLE
Starters - 12... Winners - 2
Beaten Favorites - 0... Winning Favorites - 0
Average Mutuel - $20.30... R.O.I. - $3.30

SANTA ANITA
Starters - 4... Winners - 0
Beaten Favorites - 1

SUFFOLK
Starters - 7... Winners - 1
Beaten Favorites - 0... Winning Favorites - 0
Average Mutuel - $13.80... R.O.I. - $1.97

TAMPA
Starters - 8... Winners - 2
Beaten Favorites - 1... Winning Favorites - 1
Average Mutuel - $20.75... R.O.I. - $5.19

NOTE - Another example of why it might be better to carefully scrutinize a low visibility track with a small sample... one that the public will ignore under any circumstances.

THISTLE DOWN
Starters - 2... Winners - 0
Beaten Favorites - 0

WOODBINE
Starters - 38... Winners - 6
Beaten Favorites - 5... Winning Favorites - 4
Average Mutuel - $9.45... R.O.I - $1.49

CONCLUSION - If you are a handicapper who understands that there are never any shortcuts to analyzing any horse race or race horse then the above numbers unequivocally re-enforce the understand. The only way you should approach any shipper is with an understanding that those from the major circuits are going to be automatically bet more by the amateur public than those coming from the lesser known tracks.

Once that sinks in you have to do what you should have been doing in any case... attempt to ascertain if the shipper meets the same class lever, surface comfort, distance foundation, trainer strength and recent from edge that you’d need to find whether the horse had vanned in from Monmouth the morning of the race or been training at Saratoga and running at Belmont or been barned at Belmont for months and recently shipped north, Shippers of course can provide major rewards with inflated prices... but not simply because they are shippers.

REMEMBER... I’ll be back right before the July 4th Holiday with another WATCHDOG INSTALLMENT...

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