Saratoga Shippers

SARATOGA SHIPPERS -LOVE 'EM OR LEAVE 'EM...OR...

The Ugly, The Bad And The Good!

By Jim Hurley:

Sometimes you'll hear it from some disgruntled old-timer down on the macadam or holed up in the corner at an OTB, "damned shippers, what a fix." From some obsessive record keeper (present company excluded) with a long memory you might overhear, "every year Roy Lerman or Eddie Kenneally or Tommy Voss pops one at a big price, how many times am I going to miss it. You might even be privy to quiet, head-shaking reflection from a stat guy who mutters under his breath, "when will I ever begin paying attention to trainers with a decent percentage of last out winners, or last out claims and stop worrying about what track the last race was at?

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Sound familiar? Of course it does. And I guarantee you that players will once again go through this same process as shippers from around the country as well as Canada and even Europe and elsewhere join the festivities at Saratoga, and generally win at very rewarding prices.

That being said, the question now becomes, does there exist discernible information or a chartable history that points out a winning pattern? The answer to that is largely NO THERE ISN'T...it is still all about handicapping. But I can tell you one thing...THERE IS PLENTY OF EVIDENCE that points to DISCERNIBLE LOSING PROPOSITIONS...which should if properly handled, help you pare down the contenders in any race involving shippers to a manageable short list.

That being said...let's take a look at the 2012 shippers to see where the worst performing shippers came from and where the best immigrated from.
We begin by perusing the stats for the two tracks that sent (by far) the most shippers to Saratoga, Churchill Downs and Monmouth. Please keep in mind that for PURE SHIPPER PURPOSES only the first race at Saratoga is catalogued. For instance if a horse shipped in from CD and ran on July 27 and then ran back 3 weeks later, the horse WAS NOT considered a shipper for the second try. And yes, we do catalogue how shippers do SECOND TIME OVER THE SURFACE, but we are not going to make things that easy for you. Some work you have to do on your own.

CHURCHILL DOWNS
156 Shippers
17 Winners -10.8%...Average Win Mutuel Payoff...$8.91
Return On Investment $0.97 Per $2.00 Wager
27 Second Place Finishers
22 Third Place Finishers

  • The CD Shipper was sent off as the Favorite 34 times. That means that 21.8% of CD shippers were designated as the favorite. Even with a number of races involving more than one CD shipper that is an extremely high percentage.
  • Of the 17 CD Shippers than won, 9 were the post time favorite. The average payoff for those 9 winners was $5.40. Based on $2 Wagers you would have bet $68 and gotten back $48.60...a Return On Investment of $1.43 for every $2...better than the overall CD Shipper investments but not productive.

OBSERVATIONS:
These numbers for CD Shippers are consistent with what has happened in recent years. The most obvious conclusion is that Churchill Downs shippers are trained by better known conditioners and ridden by the better known jockeys. Other than Gulfstream Park and Keeneland, Churchill is the most well regarded location from where shippers would be sent. You also have many more of them because Gulfstream ends in early April and horse that ship from there are off significant layoffs or have run elsewhere since April. As to Keeneland, many horse from there run at Churchill after that meet closes. All of these factors lead to the public overvaluing and over betting CD horses.

CONCLUSION:
Given the evidence, if you don't have solid handicapping reasons for betting CD shippers beyond them just being shippers, you might be better off betting against them and taking the "beat" the few times that happens.
The numbers, notes, observations and conclusions above should give you an idea of how to approach shippers so I'll let you think about how you want to utilize the results from the other locations from where horses shipped last year.

MONMOUTH PARK
122 Shippers
10 Winners -8.2%...Average Win Mutuel Payoff...$12.87
Return On Investment $1.06* Per $2.00 Wager
14 Second Place Finishers
15 Third Place Finishers

  • In order to get even this low R.O.I. one of the 10 winners had to return $74.50


DELAWARE PARK
53 Shippers
6 Winners -11.3%...Average Mutuel Payoff...$18.72*
Return On Investment $2.11 Per $2.00 Wager
8 Second Place Finishers
7 Third Place Finishers

  • That number is not a misprint. The 6 winners from 53 shippers paid $30.60, $29.60, $22.00. $12.80, $9.30 and $8.00. Compare that with 7 winners from only 41 Parx shippers directly below and you can see why the NAME OF THE GAME IS ALWAYS R.O.I. 


PHILADELPHIA PARK
41 Shippers
7 Winners -17.1%...Average Win Mutuel Payoff...$7.81
Return On Investment $1.34 Per $2.00 Wager
10 Second Place Finishers
2 Third Place Finishers


GULFSTREAM PARK

34 Shippers
7 Winners -20.1%...Average Win Mutuel Payoff...$16.30*
Return On Investment $3.36 Per $2.00 Wager*
4 Second Place Finishers
3 Third Place Finishers

  • There are a number of things to consider from this number. First off is that the high average mutuel and R.O.I. derived from 4 of the 7 winners paying $41.40, $24.20, $17.40 and $15.80. Remember, Gulfstream ends their meet in early April so all of these shippers are running off layoffs. That could contribute to these horses being relatively overlooked and undervalued by bettors. In addition, these horses were part of what is without a doubt the strongest meet (along with Keeneland's short 18 day spring meet) from November to April. So even though these horses are coming off layoffs they are generally on a higher class level than many of the other shippers (Churchill, Monmouth and Arlington included.) You would do well to carefully scrutinize Gulfstream shippers before discarding them...and obviously you should not be afraid of a price. 


PRESQUE ISLE DOWNS
29 Shippers
4 Winners -13.8%...Average Win Mutuel Payoff...$11.03
Return On Investment $1.52 Per $2.00 Wager
3 Second Place Finishers
6 Third Place Finishers
NOTE: Synthetic to traditional dirt or turf


ARLINGTON PARK
29 Shippers
3 Winners -10.3%...Average Win Mutuel Payoff...$11.87*
Return On Investment $1.23 Per $2.00 Wager
2 Second Place Finishers
6 Third Place Finishers

  • High mutuel average a result of one of only 3 winners paying $23.80.
    NOTE: Main track shippers go synthetic to traditional dirt.


WOODBINE
28 Shippers
4 Winners -14.3%...Average Win Mutuel Payoff...$6.83
Return On Investment $0.98 Per $2.00 Wager
4 Second Place Finishers
2 Third Place Finishers

NOTE: Main track shippers go synthetic to traditional dirt.


FINGER LAKES
22 Shippers
Zero Winners
2 Second Place Finishers
2 Third Place Finishers


COLONIAL DOWNS
21 Shippers
2 Winners -9.5%...Average Win Mutuel Payoff...$13.90
Return On Investment $1.32 Per $2.00 Wager
2 Second Place Finishers
1 Third Place Finisher


CALDER RACE TRACK
21 Shippers
1 Winner -7.5%...Average Win Mutuel Payoff...$23.80
Return On Investment $1.13 Per $2.00 Wager
4 Second Place Finishers
0 Third Place Finishers

PENN NATIONAL
13 Shippers
1 Winner -04.8%...Average Win Mutuel Payoff...$8.30
Return On Investment $1.13 Per $2.00 Wager
2 Second Place Finishers
0 Third Place Finishers


NON-CANADA/NON-USA

13 Shippers
2 Winners -15.4%...Average Win Mutuel Payoff...$10.10
Return On Investment $1.55 Per $2.00 Wager
0 Second Place Finishers
1 Third Place Finisher

KEENELAND
10 Shippers
2 Winners -20%...Average Win Mutuel Payoff...$15.70
Return On Investment $3.14 Per $2.00 Wager
1 Second Place Finisher
0 Third Place Finishers

HOLLYWOOD PARK
10 Shippers
4 Winner s-40%...Average Win Mutuel Payoff...$5.80*
Return On Investment $2.32 Per $2.00 Wager
1 Second Place Finisher
3 Third Place Finishers

  • NOTE -The horses that shipped in from the west coast did so (for most of their efforts) to compete in Key Stakes Races. 3 of the 4 winners were sent off as the favorite. Keep that in mind when you consider the Hollywood sample. But last year they were live horses and most importantly did produce a healthy plus R.O.I.


INDIANA DOWNS
8 Shippers
2 Winners -25%...Average Win Mutuel Payoff...$42.90
Return On Investment $10.73 Per $2.00 Wager
0 Second Place Finishers
0 Third Place Finishers

  • NOTE: Indiana Downs is one of those tracks that will be completely ignored by the public, But not only did it produce a $77.00 Winner, but that runner was produced by trainer Ron Moquett, who while not a household name to the general betting public, is well known as having the very "upset" capability he pulled opening week.

PRAIRIE MEADOWS
8 Shippers
2 Winners -25%...Average Win Mutuel Payoff...$21.80
Return On Investment $5.45 Per $2.00 Wager
0 Second Place Finishers
1 Third Place Finisher
NOTE: Last year was not the first time that trainer Steve Asmussen shipped in and won with a high priced PM runner. Asmussen is known on all the main circuits, but he is also prominent on the "minor league" circuit and has never been reluctant to ship.

FAIR GROUNDS
7 Shippers
2 Winners-28.6%...Average Win Mutuel Payoff...$13.20
Return On Investment $3.77 Per $2.00 Wager
0 Second Place Finishers
0 Third Place Finishers

  • NOTE: Another of the less visible circuits that get overlooked by the "savvy" New York bettors...which much more often than not automatically leads to an overlay.

TAMPA BAY DOWNS
7 Shippers
3 Winners -42.9%...Average Win Mutuel Payoff...$36.03*
Return On Investment $15.44 Per $2.00 Wager
1 Second Place Finisher
0 Third Place Finishers

  • NOTE: With not a lot of shippers in any given year...with lesser known trainers...with layoffs since the end of the TB meet, it is understandable that these horses will be overlooked. But every year there seems to be at least one and it is noteworthy that some trainers have said the dirt surfaces at TB and Saratoga are similar.


ELLIS PARK
7 Shippers
1 Winner -14.3%...Average Win Mutuel Payoff...$15.40
Return On Investment $2.20 Per $2.00 Wager
0 Second Place Finishers
0 Third Place Finishers

PIMLICO
6 Shippers
Zero Winners
0 Second Place Finishers
2 Third Place Finishers

SANTA ANITA
5 Shippers
1 Winner -20%...Average Win Mutuel Payoff...$5.40
Return On Investment $1.08 Per $2.00 Wager
1 Second Place Finisher
0 Third Place Finishers

OAKLAWN
4 Shippers
Zero Winners
0 Second Place Finishers
0 Third Place Finishers

CHARLES TOWN
4 Shippers
Zero Winners
0 Second Place Finishers
0 Third Place Finishers

DEL MAR
3 Shippers
1 Winner -33%...Average Win Mutuel Payoff...$3.00
Return On Investment $1.00 Per $2.00 Wager
0 Second Place Finishers
0 Third Place Finishers

MOUNTAINEER
3 Shippers
Zero Winners
0 Second Place Finishers
0 Third Place Finishers

SUFFOLK
2 Shippers
Zero Winners
0 Second Place Finishers
0 Third Place Finishers

THISTLEDOWN
2 Shippers
Zero Winners
0 Second Place Finishers
0 Third Place Finishers

GOLDEN GATE
1 Shipper
Zero Winners
0 Second Place Finishers
0 Third Place Finishers

REMINGTON PARK
1 Shipper
Zero Winners
0 Second Place Finishers
0 Third Place Finishers

There you have it...last year's performance by shippers. It should come as no surprise that any mythology regarding the HIGH RETURNS FOR SHIPPERS is as misguided as any other mythology that players adopt as a substitute for hard work.

Should you pay attention to shippers? Of Course! But you have to apply the same depth of organized handicapping and appreciation of value as you would under any circumstances. That is why I do the work...that is why I've been at it as long as I have. And that is why when it comes to Saratoga, have a go at it on your own if you think yourself capable. I wish you all the luck in the world.

Just remember, there are no magic wands...and I'll be here if you need me.
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