JC / Railbird

What the Winners Paid

Another 2011 classic, another upset.

Considering the Triple Crown season just ended, I thought it’d be interesting to look back at the win prices for the five Grade 1 Derby preps (Florida Derby, Santa Anita Derby, Wood Memorial, Blue Grass Stakes, Arkansas Derby*), and the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont for the past 10 years:

Winning favorites are indicated with a gray background.

This year stands out for the both the highest average win mutuel ($34.01) of the past decade and for being the sole year in which no favorite won in the five preps or a classic. The next highest average ($32.05) was 2004, when Smarty Jones dominated Oaklawn and the first two legs of the Triple Crown, while Friends Lake and Castledale sprung upsets in the Florida Derby and Santa Anita Derby, respectively, and Birdstone shocked everyone in the Belmont.

Price-wise, 2006 was the least surprising year, with the lowest average win mutuel ($11.68); chaos still had its moment, when Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro broke down shortly after the start of the Preakness Stakes. The $27.80 paid to Bernardini backers was the highest price of the season.

Of the three classics, the Preakness has the lowest average win pay ($10.40), with six winning favorites, four of those Derby winners. The other two winning favorites were Rachel Alexandra in 2009 and Afleet Alex in 2005, contenders rightly tabbed as superior to upset Derby winners Mine That Bird and Giacomo.

Only one favorite has won the Belmont Stakes in the past 10 years, and that was Afleet Alex in 2005. Handicappers look for longshots in the Derby, but the Belmont has delivered a higher average price ($43.61) and a healthy ROI in recent years — if you had bet $2 to win on all 110 Belmont starters since 2002, you would have almost doubled your money.

*Grade 2 through 2009.