Off the Turf Races at Saratoga
by David Navarre
August 21, 2018
Weather being what is has at Saratoga during this meet, it’s useful to examine how various jockeys handle the races that go off the turf to see how that may affect our selections.
When I ran the numbers, I was often surprised. I’d really expected the top performers to be those who filled those spots on the dirt, but there is not a direct correlation.
Table 1: Win Percentage in Off the Turf Routes
|Ricardo Santana, Jr.||17%|
|Luis R. Reyes||9%|
Luzzi could be a quirk – that’s 3 wins in 7 races, 2 of which were in the slop. You’d expect Velazquez to do well, but these off the turf routes are his highest win percentage by far. The next four go from average or poor to very good. So, when you’d normally discount these jockeys as having no significant effect on the outcome, you have to pay attention when they go off the turf.
One important thing to note is that the average win percentage goes up when the race is taken off the turf. There are fewer horses running, even with some MTO (Main Track Only) entries. That’s why the line for ALL is at 15%.
|Dirt Sprint||Dirt Route||Turf Sprint||Turf Route||Off Turf Sprint||Off Turf Route|
Thus, if a jockey is producing 12% wins when going off the turf, that isn’t the “average” performance that it would be for the same race run on the turf. Going off the turf, the average jockey’s win percentage should go up by 2-4%. So, let’s look at the differential between the Turf Route win percentage and the Off the Turf Route win percentage to get an idea who’s improving their chances when the race goes off the turf.
Table 2: Win Percentage differential when going Off the Turf over Routes
|Ricardo Santana, Jr.||10%|
|Luis R. Reyes||4%|
While Cohen was already atop the list for win percentage, the fact that he’s tripling his win percentage when going off the turf likely means you’re going to get a good price on those mounts. He’s better than average on dirt routes, but dominant in these races. Carmouche goes from below average to very good as well. Conversely, Irad Ortiz and Joe Bravo do worse in these off the turf routes. Most betters won’t have any idea and they’ll be overbet.
Not surprisingly, the rates for sprints and routes vary off the turf as well.
Table 3: Win Percentage in Off the Turf Sprints
|Ricardo Santana, Jr.||12%|
|Luis R. Reyes||0%|
The top of this list is vastly different. While Cohen is near the top of both and Leparoux moves up, Bravo and Rosario advance from merely average when it’s a sprint instead of a route. Looking at the differentials is very instructive as well.
Table 4: Win Percentage differential when going Off the Turf over Sprints
|Ricardo Santana, Jr.||2%|
|Luis R. Reyes||-7%|
Again, though Irad Ortiz remains an above average jockey, the advantage he has on the turf disappears when off the turf.
Sometimes, turf routes will become dirt sprints when you go off the turf, so here’s the differentials for those.
Table 5: Win Percentage differential when going Off the Turf while going from a Route to a Sprint
|Ricardo Santana, Jr.||5%|
|Luis R. Reyes||-5%|
The weather in the winter and spring this year did cause a few jockeys to head south, so the composition of the New York jockey colony wasn’t the same as most years. That might have allowed some of these jockeys to hit more frequently in off the turf races. It might also have exposed some of them to more races of this kind. I think if I was the agent for some of these guys, I’d insist that they ride where the weather is most likely to be bad.
One thing I think is certain, most people won’t have any idea how much these numbers vary from the overall numbers. Being armed with some more statistics, you’ll be able to gain an advantage on those folks and maybe record a few more big scores.