Handicapping trends from the 2013 Canterbury live meet: Feast or Fools Gold?


When it comes to picking winners and handicapping horse races, there are as many theories as there are faces in the crowd.  Everyone plots their own course, which is what makes the handicapping process such an enjoyable, challenging endeavor.  I’m a believer that trends dominate in handicapping, and that statistics and trends do repeat themselves over the long run.  With that in mind, here are a few trends from the 2013 live racing season that might carry forward and help us with our selections and ticket construction this year.    


The Favorite

The public was right 34% of the time last year in all races run at Canterbury Park.  That was below the national average, and a full nine percentage points below the favorites’ win rate from the previous year.  In other words, approximately one fewer favorite was winning per day last year than the year before.  I expect this trend to continue in 2014.  It doesn’t sound like much, but it makes a huge difference in terms of potential payoffs in horizontal wagers.  For example, the odds of a Pick 3 not including any winning favorites last year was 29% (0.66 X 0.66 X 0.66), whereas two years ago it was only 19% (0.57 X 0.57 X 0.57).  Beating all three favorites (or four if you’re a Pick 4 player) is the key to lucrative payouts and potential pool-sweeping scores.

The public was most accurate in maiden claiming races last year (41% winning favorites), and struggled most often in turf routes (22% winning favorites).  This trend has held up very well over the years at Canterbury Park, as the turf races offer full fields and close finishes, and the maiden claiming races have smaller contender groups on average.  Keep these trends in mind when putting your tickets together for horizontal wagers, as ticket construction is equally important to the handicapping process.



Dean Butler has been the leading rider at Canterbury Park four of the past five years.  He won at a 19% clip last year with 67 wins, and was consistent on both dirt and turf.  His overall ROI was a respectable $0.93, but he had a few profitable angles worth following this year.  He had 25 winners in the odds range of 7/2 – 8/1 which translated into an ROI of $1.30.  He showed a flat bet profit on the turf with 18 winners and a $1.07 ROI.  He was also good with his 2-year old runners, posting 4 winners and returning $1.29 for every dollar wagered.  He should be prominently placed in the jockey standings once again.

Alex Canchari made a run at the jockey title last year but came up just short with 65 wins.  He won with 21% of his mounts at Canterbury last summer, with a near break-even ROI of $0.99.  He was consistent in all categories, but excelled on the turf winning 20 races with an ROI of $1.25.  Two summers ago, he hit with several longshots near the end of the meet and showed a flat-bet profit with no handicapping required!  He figures strongly on the jockey leaderboard again this summer.

Ry Eikleberry was back at Canterbury last summer and made a strong impact.  He finished third in the standings with 46 wins and had with a 15% win percentage.  His overall ROI was a bit lower than the top two at $0.85, but he specialized in dirt sprints where he won 24 times and generated a flat bet profit of $1.01.  He also threw in an 18-1 winner for good measure.  He’s a very good gate rider and is known for putting his mounts on the lead which is helpful on this speed favoring surface.



Mac Robertson was the leading trainer once again with 51 winners, and won with 22% of his starters.  His win percentage was down from previous years, but he was still the top trainer at meet’s end.  He was reliable with favorites (41% winners), but his most lucrative plays were in 2-year old races where he won 6 of 15 starts with an ROI of $1.67.  He is consistently strong with his 2-year old runners each year, and looms as strictly the one to beat for the trainer title once again.  His weakest category last year was with maiden claimers, where he was 3 for 26 (12%) with an ROI of only $0.49.

Bernell Rhone had 31 winners last summer and a win percentage of 15%.  He excelled with route horses on turf, posting a 25% win rate and returning $1.50 for every dollar wagered in that category.  You could look elsewhere when Rhone started a two year old (1 for 15) or an extreme longshot > 15-1 (0 for 47).  These trends carried forward very well from 2012 also!

Michael Biehler also had 31 winners last summer and a win percentage of 15%.  He was very reliable when saddling the favorite, winning 45% of the time.  He had 6 winners from 27 starters in maiden special weight races, returning $1.59 for every dollar wagered in that category.  You could avoid his 2-year old runners last year, as he posted only 1 winner from 23 starters with 0 seconds.

Good luck with your selections and wagering in 2014 and we will continue to follow what’s happening on the racetrack from a statistical perspective throughout the summer.

The Oracle



  1. Johnny Love says:

    Great job Mr Oracle..

  2. rsampson says:

    good info- I always assumed watching the races at Canterbury that the favorites won more than the national average ??

    • Bruce Meyer says:

      Canterbury was above the national average for winning favorites until last year. Favorites had a much tougher time last year due to bigger fields and more competitive racing. I expect that will continue in 2014 as well.

  3. Great analysis Oracle. Thanks for providing this useful information. It’s easy to see why you’re the only person to be named Canterbury’s Handicapper of the Year in back to back years. Good luck on the Live meet.

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