WHAT THE MATH SAYS ABOUT THE TRIPLE CROWN DROUGHT AND CALIFORNIA CHROME

Nate Silver is a widely respected statistician and writer because his forecasts in politics and sports have been extremely accurate.  He makes predictions that are based on data analyses and probabilities absent emotion or personal bias.  He is the editor-in-chief of the FiveThirtyEight blog and an ABC Special Correspondent.

Benjamin Morris, a researcher and writer for FiveThirtyEight, wrote an article titled “The Triple Crown is Even Slumpier than You Think.”

According to Morris:

“The last 12 horses to win the Derby and the Preakness have failed to complete the Triple Crown [I’ll Have Another in 2012 was scratched]. With a historical success rate of 33 percent, the current 12-race slump is unlikely:  The odds of it happening by chance are about 1 in 130 – nearly the same as the 2011 Atlanta Braves failing to make Major League Baseball’s playoffs with 18 games remaining and an 8.5-game lead for the wild card.”

Since Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978, 11 colts have won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness only to falter in the Belmont.  Morris calculates that “The odds of all 11 horses that raced in the Belmont losing at their race odds (by chance) are only 1 in 20,000–about the odds of a random pitcher throwing a perfect game on a given night (and that’s not counting I’ll Have Another, who in 2012 was 4:5 to win…).”

The Wall Street Journal published an article (May 31, 2014) titled “The Odds on Chrome’s Run for the Triple Crown.”  The Journal compared California Chrome’s odds of winning the Triple Crown prior to the Kentucky Derby (9-1) with the odds on the seven reigning champions in the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, and college football and college basketball.  The analysis revealed that “Only Connecticut, at 66-1 before the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, faced longer odds heading into the postseason, or in Chrome’s case, the Derby.”

Further, the Journal said that Las Vegas in September 2013 had California Chrome at 300-1 to win the Kentucky Derby–and his odds to win the Triple Crown would have been 3000-1.  This compares to preseason odds on Connecticut of 33-1 and the Boston Red Sox at 30-1, which were the longest shots in the six aforementioned sports championships.

The odds of American horse racing going 36 years without a Triple Crown winner, given that 12 colts had the opportunity to do so, speak for themselves.  Moreover, the preseason odds of California Chrome breaking the streak made him a longshot in a charitable sense of the word.  That longshot now has a terrific chance to break the fluke of a drought next Saturday at Belmont Park.

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