Saratoga Teachings – 2YO Maiden Special Weight Races – FTS vs Non-FTS

June 29, 2023

By 2YO EdgeMan, 06/29/2023

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that Saratoga opens her wonderful doors in two weeks – on Thursday, July 13.  To prepare for this exciting event, we want to drop a bit of knowledge on you to give you that little extra edge to hopefully be successful with the terrific two-year-olds in Maiden Special Weight (MSW) events.  Certainly, there are no magic bullets; instead, it is more like putting together all of the pieces to the puzzle, and we’ll address one of those pieces in this article.  Specifically, we’ve taken a ten-year look back at all of the 2YO MSW races run at The Spa since the 2013 meet.  What we’ll be looking for is First-Time starter (FTS) success (or lack of it) vs that of Non-First-Time starters (Non-FTS).  We realize that this information is just one small piece to the jigsaw, but the more information that we can share with you, the better 2YO MSW player that you will be at Saratoga this summer.  Enjoy…  

FTS vs Non-FTS – In doing this study, we decided to frag out the information into two chunks – one for only July and the other only for August at Saratoga (we did not look at September because there is only a week or less of racing there in September).  The thought process in separating the data for each month is that as the racing year moves forward, there are new and different dynamics with FTS vs Non FTS.  

Let’s start with July.  Going back to the 2013 meet, there have been 143 winners in ‘our races’ in the month of July at SAR.  In those races, 97 were captured by FTS (67.8%) and 46 (32.2%) went to runners who had already started at least one time.  This is interesting, but without knowing how many of each category ran, it is difficult to gauge which one is relatively high and which one is relatively low.  Hence, here are those numbers – there were a total of 1,179 starters in our 2YO MSW races (a solid 8.24 average starters/race) in July.  Of the total number of starters in July, 818 were making their first start and 361 had previously started (69.4% and 30.6%, respectively).  These numbers tell us that Non-FTSs marginally outperformed FTS, but the delta was only 1.6%.  In other words, if all things were equal, you would expect that Non-FTS would win at a 30.6% rate – the same percentage of the amount that they had starters.  But they won 32.2% of the time, hence 1.6% more frequently than if their success rate was the same as FTS.  

In August, as you would expect, the number of competitors that had run previously goes up as compared to prior months.  Additionally, since August is a full month of racing (as opposed to roughly a half month in July), the total number of races and starters is much higher than in July.  Again, going back to the 2013 meet, 378 races were conducted in August at The Spa with 221 of those going to FTS (58.5%), and the other 157 were won by horses with racing experience (41.5%).  The August races were slightly more-full than those run in July with a total of 3,198 starters, for a per-race average of 8.46 starters.  To break that number down, 2,060 of the starters were doing battle for the first time (64.4%) and 1,138 had run previously (35.6%).  So, we see that the relative percentage of Non-FTS winners went up fairly significantly in August, now showing a difference of nearly 6%!  Said a different way, as you would expect, the percentage of Non-FTS starters went up in August, but the percentage of those winners went up even more.  

One more important piece of info on this topic that you’ll find helpful is to show you where juveniles that won ‘our races’ last raced, obviously only looking at Non-FTS victors.  Once again, we’ve divided this out to July and August, going back through 2013.  Take a look – you’ll quickly see a vast difference between the months in these two charts.                                                              

July – Non FTS Winners – Last Track
August – Non FTS Winners – Last Track

The big number (down near the bottom of the second chart) that I’m certain that you first noticed is that 113 (72.0%) 2YO Non-FTS that won MSW races in August at The Spa previously raced right here at Saratoga.  And not a single horse did this in July.  Certainly, this is almost exclusively due to the fact that Saratoga traditionally opens in mid-July, which leaves very little time for a horse to run back in that same month.  The other call out is Churchill Downs represented 16 Non-FTS 2YO MSW winners (37.2%) at SAR in July.  In August, that number plummets to four (2.5%).  Another observation is that in July, 86.0% of the winners in ‘our races’ ran previously either at Belmont or Churchill (if that in fact had run before).  And in August, a whopping 89.8% of the 2YO MSW winners that had at least one race prior, did their last running at Belmont or Saratoga.  

There you have it.  This info alone will not make or break your season at Saratoga, but hopefully, it will give you that ‘2YO Edge’ as you try to sort out these beautiful babies.  Knowledge is power – and we are here to bring it to you for all things two-year-old MSW racing.  If we went too deep in this piece, my apologies; we just like to give you everything that we’ve got.  Feel free to just take away the high points.  Have a great meet and let us know if we can be of service to you!

Contributing Authors

The 2YO Edge Man, Past The Wire

The 2YO EdgeMan

The 2YO EdgeMan started following horse racing when his family moved to Louisville, KY when he was 9 years old.  The story goes that he...

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