I think many racing fans look forward to Saratoga and Del Mar, I know I do. Those two tracks offer both a unique cultural experience and high class racing. Fans who witness the racing in those two spots are told that this is the place to see past champions and future champions in action. The juvenile racing is especially touted.
I think it's worth taking a look at the validity of those claims. Do the top horses actually race there and what kind of impact do horses who have run at Saratoga and Del Mar have on the Breeders Cup.
Here is a statistical summary based on complete data from 1996-2006.
Overall if you had bet $2 to win on every Breeders Cup starter who ran, but not necessarily won at Del Mar or Saratoga over the last 11 years you would have made $14.80 or 1.30% return. 568 horses accounting for 49 wins from 85 races. Their impact value (1.03) is only just over statistical expectancy, however there seems to be much more value in playing them. If you had bet on every horse who did not run at Del Mar or Saratoga you would have lost $115 (43.9%) over the same period.
Statistically speaking the best performers in the Breeders Cup seem to be horses who have won a race at Del Mar during the current year. They returned a flat bet profit of $42.70 and an impact value of 1.49. That literally means that they won races 1.49 times more than one could have randomly expected of them.
Horses who won at saratoga in the same year they competed in the Breeders Cup had a record of 200-16-24-13 and were the worst performing group overall. You'd lose 42% of your money, although they won their fair share of races they generally did not pay very much.
The juvenile races are a particularly interesting subset since there is perhaps more focus on them than any other group of horses at Saratoga and Del Mar.
Overall over the last 11 years there have been 22 Breeders Cup races for juveniles and 16 of them were won by horses who had run at Del Mar or Saratoga. That's 72.7% percent of the runnings. 169 of the 258 starters fit that criteria so that gives us an Impact value of 1.11. A flat bet on all of them would have netted you a loss of 12.34%. Interestingly enough though the stats of the Del Mar Juveniles specifically outshine Saratoga's by a good margin. Both Saratoga and Del Mar have accounted for 8 wins but Saratoga has had 94 starters and Del Mar has had only 75. A wager on just the Del Mar juveniles would have yielded a 21.33% profit! Saratoga juveniles on the other hand are responsible for the overall losses and actually have only performed in line with statistical expectation (1.00).
Now having said that Del Mar has just switched to Polytrack and the Breeders Cup is being run on dirt. That could mean Saratoga youngsters will have the advantage, or if last year is any indication, perhaps Polytrack horses will do very well in the Juvenile.
It is worth noting that a flat bet on the 89 juvenile who did not run at Saratoga or Del Mar would have also yielded a 23.6% profit. Their impact value is much lower (0.79) but the return at the windows is much better. So one could make a case that the Saratoga juveniles tend to be the worst overall value bets at the Breeders Cup. They do not win more than their statistical expectancy and they are usually at low prices.
Older horses who ran at Saratoga or Del Mar did particularly well winning 26 out of 33 Breeders Cup races and showing a remarkable flat bet profit of 38.49%. The older horses need not have won a race at either meet, they just need to have contested a race. In fact horses who won a race at the top summer meets performed worse than those who rain in but failed to win a race.
A poorly performing subset of Saratoga and Del Mar runners is the Turf horses. They have a combined record of 148-7-10-5, a return of -46.99% and an impact value of 0.59. That virtually isolates them as a good bet against. But even within such a poorly performing group like this there is some value to be found. Horses that have specifically won a race at Saratoga during the summer have actually done decently in BC Turf races. They achieved a 1.44 Impact value and betting them would yield a 21.31% profit.
Turf horses who have run at Saratoga and Del Mar have definitely not performed very well but it would be wise to keep an eye on Saratoga Turf winners.
If you remove the Turf runners and just consider the dirt races then every category performs decently aside from those who won at Saratoga. In general that is the worst performing sector on the dirt. Interesting that it is the only bright light for Turf horses.
Anyway I hope you can find this of some use, and perhaps when you watch the races this summer from Del Mar or Saratoga you'll have one eye open for potential Breeders Cup winners. Remember 57.6% of all BC races have been won by horses running in these two meets. If you just consider dirt races then the number jumps to 76.4%. It is something worth considering for sure.