The spring and summer kick off several great thoroughbred meets. Both Monmouth Park and Woodbine are underway and the premier summer meets of Saratoga and Del Mar are approaching. The initial weeks of every meet will leave even the most seasoned horseplayer scratching their head with all the shippers and horses making coming off of layoffs. Most of the horses that have run recently and are shipping into the meet have a pace profile and show recent form, either good or bad.
How do you find sharp horses that are making their first start off of a layoff?
If you have knowledge of your local meet, or access to meet data from years past, you can see what trainers excel at that meet with horses coming back off of a long layoff. Most past performances also provide select trainer statistics showing the win percentage for the layoff period. Yet, if you have meet-specific data, you will often find that certain trainers do better or worse with starters making their first start off of long layoffs as compared to their overall record. For example, Josie Carroll has hit at a rate of 38% with first-time starters over the last two years at Woodbine, while winning at about a 23% clip at Woodbine with all starters in the same time span.
Horses are creatures of habit. Just like the trainers, some are better first off of the layoff than others, while other horses may need a race or two to round back into form regardless of how many workouts they are sent out to run.
The first chart shows as sample of horses that were making their start first off of a layoff and that have shown at least one win in their running lines that came in their first start off of a previous layoff. At first glance the results don’t look promising with a win rate of under 20% and at a 10% loss. Yet, once we apply other filters to the data, the results improve.
- Horse must show a win off of a layoff previously in its past performances.
- The horse must be coming back off of a layoff of 180 days or more.
- The horse must show a win percentage or 10% or greater over its lifetime, as well as this year and the previous year combined. It must also show at least one win in the last ten running lines of its past performances.
- The horse must be coming back at the same level or dropping in class from its last race before the layoff.
- The horse must have a different jockey than the last race before the layoff.
As you can see, the results have improved enough to make this a viable spot play, with average winning odds of about 6-1 with a win percentage of 27.42%. In this sample, this spot angle play had almost 30% of the winning horses pay over $20 with a maximum price of $38.40.
The early days of any meet can be difficult, yet if you know how to spot trainers and horses that can win first off the layoff you will have an edge early in the meet and find some decent prices at the windows.