Small Fields in Graded Stakes Races

December 5, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Horse Racing 

I recently upgraded the Graded Stakes Database to include purse money and field size and the new data reveals a few interesting items.  (At least to me.)

2010 Graded Stakes Field Size

(through 12/4/2010 - excluding off-the-turf races)

Runners => 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13+ Avg Races
ALL 7 41 69 84 66 68 32 34 24 14 8.1 439
                         
G1 1 8 17 21 12 19 6 13 7 4 8.3 108
G2 5 16 22 32 17 15 13 7 8 6 7.9 141
G3 1 17 30 31 37 34 13 14 9 4 8.1 190
                         
Dirt Spr 3 7 8 10 11 10 2 3 3 2 7.8 59
Dirt Rte 1 18 28 17 17 16 9 8 9 3 7.8 126
                         
Synth Spr 1 3 7 10 2 3 1 4 0 1 7.5 32
Synth Rte 1 9 8 9 9 8 5 4 1 2 7.8 56
                         
Turf Spr 0 0 1 4 1 1 0 3 0 1 8.8 11
Turf Rte 1 4 17 34 26 30 15 12 11 5 8.5 155

I have been noticing all year that there have been quite a few graded stakes races with very small fields.  As the table above shows, there have actually been 48 graded stakes races this year with five or fewer runners.  That’s an astonishing 11% (1 in 9) of all graded stakes races.  Those races offered over $9.4 million in purses for an average of over $196,000 per race.  That’s a lot of purse money being given away nearly uncontested.  While scratches certainly play a part (for instance, the Hopeful Stakes was reduced to a four horse field due to three scratches), you have to wonder how many scratches are predetermined by racing secretaries asking trainers to enter horses to help fill a race knowing full well those horses will be scratched come race day.  Aqueduct and Belmont Park led the way in very short fields with eight apiece in 2010, followed by Santa Anita with six.

I’m sure a case can be made that some of those short fields are due to the presence of a  ‘big horse’ scaring away the competition, but only nine of those 48 short-field races were Grade 1’s.  What’s the excuse in the 18 Grade 3’s that couldn’t attract more than five runners?  Surely something with a mane and a tail could be found on the grounds that had a chance to pick up part of the purse.  If the horse population is really so small that even these big money races can’t attract a full field, why run so many graded stakes races?  Wouldn’t horsemen be better served if these very-short-field graded stakes races weren’t run and the purse money was used to fund more allowance and overnight stakes?  The tracks themselves, and therefore the horsemen again, would benefit more from presenting nearly any other race with a full field that could generate additional handle from trifecta and superfecta wagers.

I know horseplayers would be better served by eliminating these races. It’s nearly impossible to find value in a five horse field to begin with, but these graded stakes races tend to show up in the middle of potentially lucrative wagers, like pick-4’s and pick-6’s, reducing the chances of a large payout.

If we look at short fields as races with six or fewer runners,  a few more points of interest emerge:

  • 35% of 185 graded stakes races on dirt had 6 or fewer runners.
  • 33% of 88 graded stakes races on synth had 6 or fewer runners.
  • only 14% of 166 graded stakes races on turf had 6 or fewer runners.
  • 31% of 59 dirt sprint graded stakes races had 6 or fewer runners.
  • 37% of 126 dirt route graded stakes races had 6 or fewer runners.
  • 30% of G2 races had 6 or fewer runners versus 24% for G1’s and 25% for G3’s

Percentages

Field Size => 4-6 7-9 10+
ALL 27% 49% 24%
       
G1 24% 48% 28%
G2 30% 46% 24%
G3 25% 54% 21%
       
Dirt Spr 31% 53% 16%
Dirt Rte 37% 40% 23%
       
Synth Spr 34% 47% 19%
Synth Rte 32% 46% 22%
       
Turf Spr 9% 55% 36%
Turf Rte 14% 58% 28%

2011 Graded Stakes Announced

December 3, 2010 by · Comments Off on 2011 Graded Stakes Announced
Filed under: Horse Racing 

[Check out our Graded Stakes Database for the complete schedule and results of all 2011 Graded Stakes races.]

The American Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association announced on Thursday the results of their review of 689 unrestricted stakes races run in the United States and assigned grades to 474 of them for 2011, a decrease of 13 from 2010.

Changes of note:

  • The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf was upgraded from a Grade 2 to a Grade 1.
  • The Tampa Bay Derby has been upgraded from a Grade 3 to a Grade 2.  This race has produced two Kentucky Derby winners over the past four years.  Super Saver rebounded from a 3rd place finish here in 2010 and in a thrilling finish in 2007 Street Sense won this race by a nose over Any Given Saturday.  Other top horses that have run in the Tampa Bay Derby recently include Musket Man, General Quarters, Warrior’s Reward, and Bluegrass Cat.
  • Charles Town Races joins the ranks of graded stakes hosting tracks with the assignment of a Grade 3 to the Charles Town Classic Stakes.
  • Eight races, including the formerly Grade 1 Pimlico Special, were not eligible for grading in 2011 and lost their graded status.
  • For more information about graded stakes, visit our FAQ or visit TOBA:  Graded Stakes.
  • For a complete list of graded stakes races for 2011, visit our Graded Stakes Database