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HRN Original Blog:
Pedigree Power

Key Factors to Winning at Keeneland

keeneland start
 
You know its spring when the horses converge on Keeneland Racetrack for a month of spectacular racing. Last April, there were on average, two to three double-digit win payouts per day. Astute handicappers were scoring left and right. Some of the winners stood out as good plays, yet these horses were dismissed at long odds. What works at Keeneland doesn't always work at other tracks. Let's take a closer look at the primary factors to which horse players should pay attention.

BREEDING:
 
Polytrack has been in use long enough to gather relevant data about which sire's offspring have a proclivity for artificial surfaces.
 
Look for offspring by these sires. This isn't an all inclusive, list, but most of the populuer sires are represened below:
 
Pleasant Tap, Ghostzapper. Smart Strike, Indian Charlie, Harlan's Holiday, Kitten's Joy, Medaglio d'Oro, Unbridled's Song, Dixie Union, Eurosilver, Officer, Scat Daddy, Bellamy Road, Mr. Greeley, Offlee Wild, Speightstown, Stormy Atlantic, Catienus, Henny Hughes, Johar, Malibu Moon, Scrimshaw, Sky Mesa, and Aragorn.


WORKS:
 
Many of the competitors will have superior Poly breeding but only so-so dirt running lines. Watch the works very carefully on any horses switching from dirt, they will tell you a ton about how they feel about Poly. Here is a classic work that illustrates this point:


October 12, Race 8, Allowance, 3 YO +, for fillies & mares, 6 ½ F.
One contender stood out on the basis of her works. QUEEN'S AWARD (by Medaglio d'Oro):
 
 
 

 
 
 




 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note her handily breeze over the Keeneland surface, which is a full two seconds faster than any of her works over dirt. She was the only filly in the race to have a recent breeze at Keeneland. She also owned the third highest late pace figure in the race (88). So, a mare by a good polysire with a sharp breeze at Keeneland and a good late pace figure would, in my estimate, make Queen's Award one to including in my bets. Queen's Award won by 4 ½ lengths and paid $60.20 to win.



These diamonds in the rough aren't easy to find and you may only pick up three or four during an entire race meet.


The improvement doesn’t have to be that stark. Look for horses that were breezing four furlongs in :50/:51 or five furlongs in 1:02/1:03 over dirt that run :48's or 1:00 at Keeneland. The ideal candidate is a horse by a Polysire who worked over dirt in 1:02 or slower and who finished mid-pack in his attempts on dirt. At Keeneland this is a totally different animal. They'll breeze in 1:00 or less. These are the kind that pay $20-40 and are just gimmes. And that extends far beyond three year olds as 7 year old Golden Yank proved last April – he had never run on Poly and was entered in a race with Successful Dan. Golden Yank was completely forgotten about and ended up going off at 56/1. The exacta with Successful Dan paid a mind blowing $211.

FEEDER TRACKS:
 
Keeneland is the place to be in the spring and fall. Horses from New York to California and everywhere inbetween took part in the meet. Horses from some tracks fared great in the maiden class but not so good at the allowance level. Shippers from some tracks couldn't win over the Poly, but constantly hit the board over the lawn...and vice versa.


Maiden Claiming/Special Weight:
Horses shipping from Gulfstream, Oaklawn (especially past a mile) and first time starters won the most races. Horses from Churchill making a start off of a layoff were also good plays. Over the lawn, it was Gulfstream and Oaklawn runners who fared best. Tampa Bay and Turfway horses didn't perform so well. Over the lawn, Fairgrounds shippers and first time starters were cold, with a combined 17 starters and zero wins. Here are the stats from last year's spring meet:
 

HRN Keeneland mcl stats
 
 
 
HRN Keeneland MSW Stats


Claiming/Starter Allowance:
 
Gulfstream and Fair Grounds shippers naturally made up the bulk of the claiming ranks at Keeneland last spring. Both were represented by 16% winners and Fair Grounds runners finished in the money more often at 43% compared to Gulfstream's 36%. Runners from Keeneland won only 18% of the time, but placed or showed 55% over Polytrack. They fared better over the lawn, with nine of 20 starters hitting the board. Shippers from Mountaineer were 0-14 and Churchill runners coming off of a layoff were suprisingly 0-5. Keep an eye on those Woodbine horses. Only five started, but three finished in the money.
 

HRN Keeneland CLSA stats




 
 
 
Allowance:
 
24 Fair Grounds shippers competed at Keeneland last spring in sprinting allowance races. They performed poorly, with only one winner and seven in the money. Gulfstream runners prefered main track routes over sprints and loved the lawn. Watch out for those Churchill shippers in main track allowance sprints. Six of eight runners hit the board.
 

HRN Keeneland allowance stats




 
 
 
Stakes:

Horses whose last start was at Churchill are an automatic play in Keeneland stakes races. Out of eight horses sent over for feature events, only one failed to hit the board. Gulfstream shippers love the Keeneland turf. Out of 18 starters in turf routes, three won and seven completed the exacta/trifectas.
 

HRN Keeneland stakes stats




 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
JOCKEYS:
 
72 riders joined Keeneland's jockey colony last spring.
 
Main track sprints:
68 sprint races were conducted over the main track during last year's Keeneland spring meet.

Jocks who hit with 17% or higher with five or more starters:
John Velazquez – 42% wins, 67% ITM
Julio Garcia – 40% wins, 60% ITM
Javier Castellano, Manoel Cruz – 29% wins, 64% ITM
Jose Lezcano, Joel Rosario – 20% wins, 60% ITM
Julien Leparoux – 20% wins, 46% ITM
Jeffrey Sanchez – 18% wins, 64% ITM
Mark Guidry – 17% wins, 33% ITM

Main track routes:
40 races were contested over the main track. Leparoux rode the most horses in races a mile or farther with 35 mounts. He won with 17%, 54% ITM. James Graham rode 24 mounts for 17% wins and 29% ITM. Javier Castellano was also hot, with 13 mounts, 23% wins and 64% ITM. James Graham is a better turf jock. From 47 main track sprint mounts, he won at 9% with 38% ITM.

Other riders with a decent percentage were:
John Velazquez – 13% wins, 38% ITM
Kent Desormeaux - 6 mounts, 2 wins, 1 ITM
Jesus Castanon – 9 mounts, 2 wins, 3 ITM

Turf Sprints:
With only 5 turf sprints conducted during last year's meet, many jockeys were lucky to get a ride. Julien Leparoux went 0-5 in the win department, but hit the board with three of them. Javier Castellano was the best bet for a turf sprint. From only four mounts, he won once and placed twice. Robbie Alberado had three mounts, winning with one and placing with one. Edgar Prado also had three mounts. He was win-less, but two of the three hit the board.

Turf Routes:
30 races were held at a mile or longer over the lawn. Whose the best rider? No surprise here. Julien Leparoux, hogging 29 mounts and running the tally to 31% wins and 55% ITM. James Graham was popular, earning four wins and three seconds with 22 mounts. Edgar Prado rode very strong, winning or hitting the board with half of his 16 horses. Johnny V. showed his typical strength with three wins, five ITM from 13 mounts. Garret Gomez was good for the exotics. He was 0-15, but finished ITM with 40%. Javier Castellano was worth a play too. From 12 mounts, he hit the winners' circle only once, but lit the tote with 67% ITM.
 

 
TRAINERS:
 
300 trainers sent 631 horses into competition last year.

Main track sprints:
Ten trainers sent ten or more horses to the post in the main track sprints. Wesley Ward and Wayne Catalano were the busiest, saddling 24 runners a piece. That's where their similarities ended. Ward's charges hit the finish line first 33% of the time and were in the money 67%. Catallano had only two winners and 29% in the money.

One of the most overlooked trainers was Andrew McKeever, who raced ten horses. Three won and four hit the board. Mike Maker and Charles Lopresti also had their charges prepared. Each sent out ten horses, and hit the board with half of them. Todd Pletcher did his usual thing. He only raced three horses, but made it count, with a win and two in the money finishes. Christophe Clement is best known for prowess with turf runners. Don't dismiss him with main track sprinters. He sent out five runners, one had it's picture taken while two others hit the board. Graham Motion equaled Clement's feat. Tom Amoss ran eight horses, two won and four hit the board.

Main track routes:
Mike Maker excelled with two-turn types. He sent out 29 runners, the most of any trainer. Four won (14%), and 13 (59%) were ITM. Trainers with large barns didn't fare as well as the little guys. Vicky Foley hit with all three of her runners, getting two victories and a runner-up. Ian Wilks was heard from too. Three of his four representatives hit the board. Alex Clarkson's two runners hit the board as well.

So how did the popular trainers fare? Pletcher sent out five runners, one winner, one placed. Mott had four starters, one placed. Baffert went 0-2.

Turf Sprints:
Few trainers sent more than one horse to the post in turf sprints. Wesley Wart sent three, one hit the board. Steve Asmussen sent out two runners, both finished in the money.

Turf Routes:
277 horses competed for 30 winners' circle photos.

Roger Attfield's name appeared most in past performances for horses running a mile or farther over the Keeneland lawn. Only one of his 17 starters won, but five finished in the exotics. Graham Motion and Shug McGaughey sent out 13 and 12 runners respectively, 50% or more earning checks. Bill Mott sent out 11 horses, only one returned a win, but five finished in the money. Barkley Tagg on turf? Yep, out of five runners, two won and two placed. Todd Pletcher sent out four runners with one winner and two in the money. Chad Brown, known for his turf prowness, sent out nine runners, one earned a victory while one placed. Christophe Clement surprisingly had only one winner from nine starters, but five of those nine hit the place/show spot.
 

WINNERS RUNNING STYLE:
 
Yes, Keeneland is known as a Polytrack merry-go-round. No surprise that 43% of the the sprinters that set/pressed the pace won the race. But not so fast, 35% were closers. It didn't matter if the race was six furlongs or 1 1/8 miles. Route runners carried their speed to 40% wins, with 38% closers.

What about the turf? The rail has two settings. 15' or 0'.

Turf Sprints:
Only three races were held when the rail was at 0'. Two horses won from the back of the pack and a mid-pack runner won the third race.

Turf Routes:
When the rail wasn't set out, ten front runners were successful, with six winning from the back of the pack. However, when the rail was set at 15', the closers had the advantage with six wins while only two front runners got the job done. Mid-pack runners didn't care either way, three each won when the rail was at 0 and 15'.
 

POST POSITION:

Main track sprints:
Post five is the place to be. An overwhelming 26% win and 56% ITM runners scored from the middle. The rest of the posts were averaging between 6 – 10% wins, execpt post 7, which had only 3% winners. Other than post 5, post three hit second/third place with a large 40%.

Main track routes:
Post 5 was NOT the place to be going a mile or farther – only 5% won. Post 4 has the greatest impact with 23% winners. Posts 1 and 11 each scored with 20% winners.

Turf sprints:
Only five races were held, no horse won more than once from any post. Two horses each finished in the money from posts 4 and 5.

Turf Routes:
Posts 5 and 7 proved to be the most profitable for winners, with 23 and 21% wins. Post four was the worst spot, 0-30 in the win department. Post 12 also fared poorly with a 0-7 rating. Definate bias agasint the 9 – 11 posts. Only one winner in double digit starts.
 
 
Special Thanks to Steve Thygersen for the Keeneland Spreadsheets. 


 

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Older Comments about Key Factors to Winning at Keeneland...

Jackob Bournoulli, many years ago, discovered one of the basics of statistics in his Goldern Theorem or the theory of large numbers with the basic idea that "in order to establish an idea what predicited probabilities of a particular event happening, the larger the number of observations, the better." NO evidence of that well know statistical law hereabouts.
Really excellent content here to get us all prepared for this powerful Keeneland meet. Thanks Laurie!
I backed the very first Polytrack winner here, I studied the three differing formulae of Polytrack and have discovered it is the drianage beneath it that is just as much responsible for daily changes as the surface itself. A group of us made a small fortune when it was first installed here since the Jelly cord did not bind the surface as it should, kick back was significant to the point that no horses would come around the rooster tail of the pacesetters and it was an early bias for the ages...The contract with the parent company outlined that they would modify the surface to the satisfaction of the clients, so they came in Spring the next season with a ton of Jelly cord and calmed it down...read all about it and my friend Jamie who officially brought it to the attention of the supplier...http://www.horse-canada.com/horse-news/troubles-with-polytrack-at-woodbine/
Funny since I work each day at Woodbine.
Travel Vic, spoken like someone who doesn't know the first thing about 'capping on the Poly. Bias can cange during every meet, be it dirt, turf or synthetic tracks. A good example is this year's GP turf.
many horses have the specific running style that flowers in poly, so there actions on dirt courses (they do not take their courses with them you know), have little relevance to this quirky surface. Of all the polys this one (and I am told Del Mar) are the most variable with speed biases at the end of a program that were not there at the start.......I suggest most people leave the main track races alone and only conentrate on the common factor, the turf.
Oh my ....the horses run against one another, thats amazingly it
Travel Vic, Space here doesn't allow for me to show/write regarding all of the data that has been compiled. I have over 5 years of data for the Keeneland spring & fall meets on tue subjects listed above. These factors are just something for 'cappers to keep in mind while they play the Keeneland meet. If you happen to have detailed stats/spreadsheets on Keeneland, I'd enjoy reviewing it.
I welcome you to misunderstand statistics as much as you would like but if you read the great best seller THE DRUNKARD'S Walk, you will see how full of holes misguided and poorly designed statistical analysis can be.
This guy can turn a cure for cancer into bad news.
Many of the data determinations are what, made on a single or two races? Go to the insurance company actuarials to see how real data analysis is done with adequate sampling numbers and random selections.
Data is pitiful, small samplings allow huge sample errors. This track is strange anyway you look at if with very few commonalities to compare to other than what happens there.
Great info here, Laurie ... readers are sure to profit!

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Meet Laurie Ross
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I've been around horses for most of my life, working in racing stables as a hot walker and exercise rider in my teenage years, and later as a volunteer with rescued and retired racehorses. I became interested in pedigree when the sons and daughters of my favorite horses started their racing careers.   

 

For more than a decade, I've passionately studied pedigree, how it applies to handicapping and breeding theories. In 2010, I joined Horse Racing Nation as their Pedigree Analyst, focusing on juvenile stakes winners, Triple Crown contenders and first crop sires from a handicapping perspective.   

 

In 2011, I accepted the role of South Florida Coordinator and Advisory Board Member for the national non-profit Thoroughbred Racing Fan Association (ThoroFan). Working closely with Gulfstream Park management and other race fans, we created a ThoroFan Chapter at Gulfstream Race Track. Our main project is assisting Thoroughbred rescue and re-training groups.

 

I continue to maintain my website Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds and blog of the same name. As a pedigree consultant, I specialize in assisting small to mid-size breeding/training operations with broodmare breeding reports, sales catalog analysis and recommendations on claims and private sales. 10 - 20% of all proceeds are donated to Thoroughbred rescue and retraining groups.
 
I welcome your questions regarding pedigree, handicapping and breeding. If you would like me to cover a specific topic please contact me at lross@horseracingnation.com.