Be The Smart Money - August 18, 2022

Myth Buster

“Irad Ortiz (or enter jockey’s name) is always unstoppable at Saratoga!!”


Data Speaks Louder than Words

If you spend more than 2 minutes listening to a racing broadcast or even your betting buddy, you’ll hear “Dude, ‘Jockey X’ has a hot hand – you have to include ‘Jockey X’ in your Pick3.”  We know many expert handicappers that see one of the Ortiz brothers on a horse – even a horse they don’t like - will include that horse in an exotic wager.


The casual bettor bets on jockeys – the experts, right?!?!  But, at the same time – it feels unsafe to bet against Irad.


The question becomes – as handicappers - are we doing ourselves a disservice by betting jockeys?  Or, being foolishly wary of betting against a big-name jockey? 


Here is a data look at the major jockeys at Saratoga and how they have performed over the years.



The Data Set

  • 10 years of data from Saratoga (2012-2021)
  • All races
    • Excluding races with dead heats, entries and DQs


The Analysis & Results


First, lets see who has taken the most mounts over the years at Saratoga.  (Top 9 below)



Not including the current 2022 meet, Irad leads all jockeys in mounts with close to 2,500 (~250 mounts a meet).  You also see his brother Jose come onto the scene (possibly) taking mounts away from Hall of Famers, Castellano and Johnny V at Saratoga?


There is a myriad of ways to analyze jockey performance.  Here, we will focus on trends of WinRate and ROI.  Starting with WinRate…




Observation #1:  There is a decent amount of ‘noise’ in the WinRates from year to year

Observation #2:  Luis Saez only recently has hit the elite status at Saratoga

Observation #3:  There is a clear delineation in WinRate between the Elite and others (Franco, Lezcano, Alvarado)




Although WinRate is interesting, lets take a look at ROI for Irad and ponder the thought – has he earned or lost rides on short odds horses due to performance….lets roll the tape.


Irad earned getting ‘good mounts’ by riding non-favorites to wins.


    The IRAD Example


  • 926 mounts; 141 Winners à                      15.2% WR
  • Average odds of winners were                   5.8:1
  • ROI on betting IRAD to win was                  +3.7%


  • 1,568 mounts; 302 Winners à                   19.3% WR
  • Average odds of winners were                   3:1
  • ROI on betting IRAD to win was                  -22.0%


The proverbial horse has left the barn, the word is out…. and Irad is overly bet.



Myth Busted?  (YES – if you want to win money / No – if you want to win races)


Well known jockeys get bet down and result in severe negative ROIs. 


If you catch on to the next Irad you may have an advantage – but don’t follow the crowd on the Elite jockeys.


“So, BTSM, who is the next Irad?”


Ah, thanks for asking….


Tyler Gaffalione:

                In 2021, Tyler had over 200 mounts for the first time in Saratoga, his performance:

  • 202 mounts; 30 Winners à                         14.9% WR            (’12-’15 Irad 15.2% WR)
  • Average odds of winners were                   5.9:1                      (’12-’15 Irad 5.8:1)
  • ROI on betting Tyler to win was                  +2.8%                    (’12-’15 Irad +3.7%)      


Tyler could be the next Irad.


Feel free to ping us with your doubts and questions or the next myth to bust



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