The Southern California horse racing circuit is shifting to Hollywood Park for the final time. The recently concluded Santa Anita meet, culminating with the Breeders' Cup, was one that saw the main track races dominated by front runners and pace pressers for most of the meet. With that trend fresh in the minds of most horseplayers there may be a tendency to overbet those horses when they return to the races at Hollywood Park. In some cases this may not be a bad decision but in others it will mean the horses with the preferred off the pace running style will go off at overlaid odds.
With that in mind let's take a look at the results of the 2012 fall meet at Hollywood Park to determine which running styles are preferred at each distance on the main track and turf course. The reason I chose the 2012 fall meet instead of the 2013 spring/summer meet is the weather will be more similar to the upcoming 2013 fall meet and the main track and turf course should play more similar to that meet than the one run during the hotter months of the year.
For purposes of the discussion below please note that each winner was labeled as one of three running styles.
- E = on or within 3/4 lengths of the leader at the first call
- P = between 1 and 3 lengths of the leader at the first call
- S = more than 3 lengths behind the leader at the first call
The first call is 1/4 mile in sprint races (up to 7.5 furlongs) and 1/2 mile in route races (1 mile and longer).
Main Track Races
The main track at Hollywood Park is Cushion Track, which is one of several All Weather or Synthetic surfaces used in North America. It is more comparable to the dirt track at Santa Anita than the Polytrack at Del Mar so horses form from the recently concluded Santa Anita meet can be expected to transfer to the Hollywood Park meet.
Main track sprint races are run at distances ranging from 5.5 furlongs to 7.5 furlongs. As one might expect speed is best in the shorter races but loses its edge as the distances get longer.
During the 2012 fall meet there were six races run at 5.5 furlongs on the main track. Those races were dominated on the front end.
- E - 5 (83%)
- P - 0 (0%)
- S - 1 (17%)
Fifty three races were run at 6 furlongs on the main track and front runners and pace pressers had the advantage.
- E - 21 (40%)
- P - 20 (38%)
- S - 12 (23%)
Thirty seven races were run at 6.5 furlongs on the main track and front runners and pace pressers again had the advantage.
- E - 14 (38%)
- P - 15 (41%)
- S - 8 (22%)
Fourteen races were run at 7 furlongs on the main track and there was no advantageous running style.
- E - 4 (29%)
- P - 5 (36%)
- S - 5 (36%)
Only four races were run at 7.5 furlongs on the main track.
- E - 1 (25%)
- P - 1 (25%)
- S - 2 (50%)
In races from 5.5 to 6.5 furlongs front runners and pace pressers win nearly four out of five races but in races from 7 to 7.5 furlongs there is no advantage for any of the three running styles.
Main track route races are run almost exclusively at 1 1/16 miles. During the 2012 fall meet one race was run at 1 1/8 miles and one at 1 1/4 miles and that race was moved from the turf course to the main track.
During the 2012 fall meet thirty six races were run at 1 1/16 miles and they were dominated by front runners and pace pressers.
- E - 14 (39%)
- P - 14 (39%)
- S - 8 (22%)
The lone 1 1/8 mile race was won by front runner Game on Dude while the lone 1 1/4 miles race was won by a closer.
The 1 1/16 mile races were dominated by front runners and pace pressers as they accounted for nearly four out of every five winners.
Turf Course Races
At the 2012 fall meet turf races were run at distances ranging from 6 furlongs to 1 1/2 miles.
During the 2012 fall meet twenty five races were run at 6 furlongs on the turf course and while running style was advantageous nearly two thirds of the races were won by front runners or pace pressers.
- E - 10 (40%)
- P - 6 (24%)
- S - 9 (36%)
The majority of turf route races are run at either 1 mile or 1 1/16 miles with only a few run at longer distances.
Seventeen races were run at 1 mile on the turf during the 2012 fall meet with the advantage going to closers.
- E - 4 (24%)
- P - 3 (18%)
- S - 10 (59%)
Sixteen races were run at 1 1/16 miles on the turf during the 2012 fall meet with no advantage to any running style.
- E - 4 (25%)
- P - 5 (31%)
- S - 7 (44%)
Four races were run beyond 1 1/16 miles with one won by a front runner and three won by closers.
With the Hollywood Park main track playing less kindly to pure front runners there will be many opportunities to bet on pace pressers and closers at overlaid odds. Runaway front running winners at Santa Anita can be downgraded at most distances but still can be expected to win if they are best. Closers that were up against it at Santa Anita will provide massive value as they may appear off form due to one or more recent off the board finishes. If those horses ran well at Del Mar or during the Hollywood Park spring/summer meet they can be expected to run well again.
As for the turf course the one angle that must be acknowledged is the unique sprint distance of 6 furlongs. Santa Anita runs all turf sprints down the hill at 6.5 furlongs while Del Mar runs all turf sprints at 5 furlongs. Some horses can handle all three distances but most prefer one. Look for horses with wins at the 6 furlong distance at Hollywood Park especially those that ran poorly at Del Mar and Santa Anita as they will offer the best value.