July 11, 2022 | By Jeremy Plonk/
Originally published on

Welcome to a continuing handicapping series for our Monday blog space, “Monday Myths.” Each week I’ll use the power of the Betmix database to take common handicapping assumptions and either support or dispel them with data. Betmix data powers the 1/ST BET app and its features like Angler and Birddog give data-minded horseplayers a treasure trove of information in which to query your own curiosities.


There are no secrets with Saratoga first-time starters.


Thursday opens the Saratoga racing season, and it’s known for outstanding maidens that often become tomorrow’s stars. With the intense focus of the Spa and close-knit racing community there, it’s often said that word spreads on a good one. Is it any more true than anywhere else? Let’s check the numbers.

Data Points:

I fired up the Betmix database to look at all first-time starters at Saratoga over the past 5 years – delivering more than 2,000 debut runners. I studied all Saratoga first-time starters in terms of average win payoff, win percentage and ROI. I compared those numbers with NYRA circuit sister tracks Aqueduct and Belmont, as well as summer counterpart Del Mar and the national averages.


Saratoga first-time starters won at average offs of 6.0-1.

National first-time starters won at average offs of 6.9-1.
Aqueduct first-time starters won at average offs of 8.2-1.
Belmont first-time starters won at average offs of 7.4-1.
Del Mar first-time starters won at average offs of 6.2-1.


Saratoga favorited first-time starters won 34.6% with a $0.87 ROI for every $1 bet.

National favorited first-time starters won 33.7% with a $0.81 ROI for every $1 bet.
Aqueduct favorited first-time starters won 31.8% with a $0.79 ROI for every $1 bet.
Belmont favorited first-time starters won 35.2% with a $0.84 ROI for every $1 bet.
Del Mar favorited first-time starters won 47.0% with a $1.10 ROI for every $1 bet.

Bottom line:

First-time starters who won were nearly a full point lower on the tote than the national average, more than 2 points lower than those at Aqueduct and 1.2 points lower than Belmont – easily the most ‘identified’ on the NYRA circuit. They also were slightly lower in returns than rookie winners at Del Mar by .2 points. Saratoga’s favorites among the debut runners won slightly more often than the national average by .9%. They easily outperformed those from Aqueduct, but actually came home 3.4% less often than Belmont debut favorites and a whopping 15.2% less often than their Del Mar brethren. The average odds lean toward Saratoga gives an impression that there are fewer big surprises among first-time starters than the comparable tracks and national average; but the performance of favorites suggests that the betting public has no decided advantage identifying a live rookie at Saratoga more so than anywhere else.

Additional details:

You can go into Betmix and run your own queries for a deeper dive into this theory and any that you can create. For instance, break these numbers down for maiden special or maiden claiming races, dirt vs. turf, and see if any indicators may exist in more specialized races.