Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Preakness By The Numbers

After spending so much time looking at statistical information for the Kentucky Derby it would be logical to wonder if the same type of thing can be done for the Preakness. The simple answer is no, the reason being that hardly anyone points specifically for the Preakness. I think Carl Nafzger illustrated this point the best when he admitted that he hadn't given any thought to the Preakness at all. For real quantifiable statistical trends to develop I think it's key that each horse in the race be intentionally prepped for it.

But that doesn't mean we cant find a few interesting angles to play.

The Preakness is a chalky race, in the last 15 runnings we've had 8 favorites win. In fact favorites rarely finish out of the money, they've compiled a record of 15-8-4-1. Cavonnier who ran 4th and Barbaro were the only Preakness favorites in recent history to run poorly, and Barbaro's poor effort can hardly be held against him.

In the last 15 runnings only Charismatic, Red Bullet, Bernardini, Louis Quatorze and Real Quiet were even over 5/1. You better be pretty confident about any longshot used for the win spot.

The best way to find value in the Preakness is actually with the exotics. in 12 of the 15 runnings at least one horse who was over 10/1 hit the frame. Last year, when Bernardini and Hemingway's Key were in the trifecta, was the only time that two horses over 10/1 hit the frame in the same race. So again I think that stat is just about urging caution, this isn't really a race to go deep in. It is best to find one longshot and use them in combination with the favorites.

One statistical angle we can look at is how the Derby horses fare in the Preakness. Since most of the major contenders for the Preakness run in the Derby it's a logical place to look.

Derby winners have a strong 15-6-3-2 record in the Preakness. If for some reason you don't like the Derby winner make sure you use them somewhere.

Another strong angle is the record of Derby favorites in the Preakness. Sometimes for whatever reason the Derby favorite does not show his best on the day, however that is not to say the public picked the wrong horse. Many time they bounce back in the Preakness. Horses like Point Given, Timber Country and Pine Bluff fit this description. They have a cumulative record of 11-5-2-2 and that even includes Excellent Meeting who was technically part of a favored entry in the Derby, but would not have been the favorite on her own merit.

A good rule of thumb is simply to take the Preakness entrant who had the lowest odds in the Derby. Since 1990 you'd have a record of 17-7-2-2. Not too bad for single selections in a major race.

Runners who finished second and third in the Derby have actually not fared as well at all. They are a cumulative 24-4-2-6. While their record is not bad it does mean that only 50% of them return to run well in the Preakness. If you're looking for a horse at a short price to throw out you might want to consider the Derby second or third place finisher.

Speedy Derby winners also have a better record in the Preakness than their late running rivals. Derby winners who were in better than 10th place at the half mile pole of the Derby went 9-6-1-1 in the Preakness. Conversely those who were in 10th place or worse at the half mile pole went 4-0-1-1. While the sample size is not all that large it would seem that the most vulnerable Derby winners are those who closed from well back to win the roses.

Prior to the Derby there is a lot of talk about freshness and how to make sure your horse is not tired out by the time the Triple Crown comes around. Some trainers give their horses less preps, some given them more time between preps. But let's take a look and see if any of these methods really do give trainers a fresher horse beyond the Derby. The comparative Derby stat will be in brackets.

The Preakness record of horses with two preps for the Derby: 9-1-1-1 (34-1-4-1)
The Preakness record of horses who had a 4+ week layoff going into the Derby: 6-0-0-0 (26-1-1-1)

The sample size is pretty small because most of the horses who go into the derby with two preps or off a layoff don't wheel back in the Preakness but it would seem as though the horses with two preps for the Derby hold their own in the Preakness while the horses who are now second off a layoff actually do slightly worse. This actually makes logical sense as handicappers oppose this kind of horse every day. It is often said that you should never take a horse second off a layoff if their first race was a hard one and they're wheeling back quickly.

Another factor worth looking at is the horses who enter the Derby with less than 5 career starts. We often theorize that they can't win the Derby because they don't have enough experience. Big fields, bumping and dirt in their faces all conspire to see the inexperienced slain in the Derby. But do these, usually talented, horses bounce back in the Preakness which is run more like a conventional race? The stats say they don't. They have a cumulative record of 7-0-0-1 with only Congaree hitting the frame. The suggestion seems to be that the hard Derby experience takes something out of them and they just can't get back to top form in two weeks.

So perhaps some things to think about when handicapping the Preakness, although it's not a race where a statistical profile would be useful there are still some stats that could help lean you towards a winner.

1 comment:

Biby Cletus said...

Cool blog, i just randomly surfed in, but it sure was worth my time, will be back

Deep Regards from the other side of the Moon

Biby Cletus