Stars of the Breeders’ Cup: how America’s trainers measure up

Classic hope Arrogate working at Santa Anita this week. His trainer, Bob Baffert, is leading trainer on dirt in races run in America this season, according to TRC rankings. Photo: Zoe Metz/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders’ Cup

As detailed in Teresa Genaro’s recent feature, New Yorker Chad Brown’s rise to the top of the training ranks has been completed in 2016. His performance on dirt and turf overall is enough to eclipse the incumbent Todd Pletcher at the top of the TRC Rankings of U.S. trainers in 2016.

The numbers in Table 1 below are the result of applying the powerful TRC Global Rankings algorithm to the results of graded races on dirt, turf and synthetic surfaces. The ranked order of trainers given is the one that best explains the finishing order of these races, bearing in the mind the strength of competition in each race.

Table 1: Leading trainers on U.S. soil this season overall

Using 2016 results only, by TRC Rankings algorithm

Rank2015NameRunnersRunsIVtRPRG1sG2sG3sPts2015 ptsChange
12Chad C Brown751701.4495.44  9111710691061+8
21Todd Pletcher731651.1694.12  761610381088-50
33Bob Baffert28661.3291.28  85510231035-12
48Mark Casse41961.2491.24  54101018987+31
55Jerry Hollendorfer28691.1490.16  5461001996+5
64William Mott30670.9889.07  442981997-16
77Kiaran McLaughlin20471.0088.61  450978995-17
88H Graham Motion27551.0887.64  316974987-13
915Steven Asmussen35810.8489.09  224971957+14
1017Philip D'Amato29600.9187.95  134966950+16
1123Michael J Maker28620.9687.22  026962937+25
1214John W Sadler15380.9286.63  222954958-4
1312Doug O'Neill23540.8986.62  222952961-9
1412Dale Romans20520.8386.74  122949961-12
145Christophe Clement26430.9286.04  114949996-47
1620Brian A Lynch14350.9985.41  025948946+2
1721J Keith Desormeaux11300.8885.74  301944938+6
1725Brad H Cox13281.0284.70  024944933+11
1911Claude McGaughey III18350.9385.32  015943967-24
2035Dallas Stewart10241.0184.55  212942919+23

In common with the rankings of sports teams in the U.S., the system combines an individual’s winning percentage (captured as the metric Impact Value or ‘IV’) and the so-called ‘strength of schedule’ of the races in which he competed (formulated by the algorithm itself, not the names of those races) (captured by the metric translated or time-decayedRacing Post RatingtRPR’).

Comparisons are given with the equivalent rankings and points totals in 2015. Note that the fact that 2016 is not completed yet (the 2016 results obviously do not include this weekend’s Breeders’ Cup meeting) affects the totals of graded races won, but points are still directly comparable, for it is one of the strengths of the TRC algorithm that it can easily take different sample-sizes into account when comparing individuals.

Table 2: Leading trainers on U.S. soil on dirt this season

Using 2016 results on dirt and synthetics only, by TRC Rankings algorithm

Rank2015NameRunnersRunsIVtRPRG1sG2sG3sPts2015 ptsChange
12Bob Baffert27621.3692.29  855105010500
21Todd Pletcher561171.1193.55  551110391088-49
33Jerry Hollendorfer20491.1989.85  54510131001+12
44Kiaran McLaughlin16411.0588.96  450992991+1
511Chad C Brown18431.0288.44  233984947+37
56Steven Asmussen33760.8690.02  224984960+24
75Dale Romans17440.8887.15  122959965-6
816Mark Casse17360.9586.20  213957932+25
925Dallas Stewart10241.0285.20  212955919+36
107Doug O'Neill16340.9285.78  221951953-2
1119J Keith Desormeaux11250.9185.71  301949931+18
127James Jerkens6151.0584.09  141947953-6
1312John W Sadler11240.8685.57  211943945-2
1420David Jacobson12230.9085.05  103942930+12
1561Arnaud Delacour481.0882.73  212938901+37
1615Jorge Navarro6120.9983.41  022936938-2
1750Peter Eurton5160.9383.39  040930904+26
1898Michelle Nevin390.9882.69  013928892+36
19121Art Sherman 360.9882.59  220927889+38
20106John C Servis6130.9482.89  121926891+35

We can further divide the results on U.S. soil by the surface on which they were achieved. Again, points are comparable. Table 2 above shows that Bob Baffert has had a better year than Pletcher, by our reckoning, even though Pletcher has won 21 graded races in this category to Baffert’s 18 and those races have generally featured better opponents (Pletcher has the higher tRPR).

However, one of the principles underpinning the TRC Rankings algorithm is that efficiency matters. Here, Baffert has achieved his success from a lot fewer runners (62 to 117) and half the number of different individuals (27 to 56). As a result, his Impact Value (IV) is much higher than Pletcher’s, and it turns out from the evidence of millions of back tests we have carried out, that this is a better leading indicator of future success. TRC Global Rankings are designed to be predictive, not an exercise in playing with numbers. (It is a direct reflection of the stability of these predictions that Baffert’s points score in 2016 is exactly the same as 2015, while those of Kiaran McLaughlin, Dale Romans and Doug O’Neill are very similar.)

In this category, note also gains by Brown over his 2015 numbers, plus significant rises for Mark Casse and Dallas Stewart.

Table 3: Leading trainers on U.S. soil on turf this season

Using 2016 results on turf only, by TRC Rankings algorithm

Rank2015NameRunnersRunsIVtRPRG1sG2sG3sPts2015 ptsChange
11Chad C Brown571271.4594.94  781410571052+5
26Mark Casse26601.2590.02  3371002973+29
35William Mott23530.9489.10  331978976+2
42H Graham Motion20441.1187.98  216976982-6
53Todd Pletcher22481.0087.75  215969979-10
612Michael J Maker20430.9587.00  015959924+35
78Philip D'Amato19380.9187.09  131958944+14
84Christophe Clement23370.9186.17  014950978-28
98Claude McGaughey III12250.9885.12  0149449440
107Brian A Lynch11290.9485.23  014943949-6
1116James Cassidy5130.9082.94  021935916+19
1225Brad H Cox8150.9583.08  003924910+14
1225Richard Baltas9151.0482.66  031924910+14
1415John W Sadler5140.8882.94  011919917+2
1528Patrick Gallagher5130.8882.69  020917906+11
1511Richard E Mandella6120.8982.70  110917930-13
1736Brendan P Walsh7120.9082.47  002916903+13
1827Carla Gaines6140.8582.66  011915908+7
1928Peter Eurton480.9881.88  030914906+8
2034James J Toner380.9182.12  110913904+9

Brown’s dominance in grass races is confirmed by the information in Table 3: he has a huge lead of 55 points. Otherwise, it is Tepin’s trainer Mark Casse who has made the biggest splash. In 2015, he won eight races on turf on American soil, but he has 13 already this year, and there are surely more to come – perhaps including from Tepin herself this weekend.

The fact that turf racing is almost a speciality in the U.S. is shown by the fact that nine of the top 10 trainers on 2016 evidence were also in our top 10 lawn rankings last year. The only new shooter is Mike Maker, who was just outside the top 10 in 2015.

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