Equinometry 101

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Equinometry 101

The Dirt on Keeneland's Dirt

Keeneland is running its third meet over its new dirt course that will host the Breeders' Cup for the first time. Here's a look back at how the dirt track played during the 2015 Spring meet. It included 103 races, and it is worth looking at those dirt races to see how the track played. This is especially important this year because for the first time the Breeders' Cup will be run at Keeneland.

Dirt Track Distances

Keeneland carded races on the main track this past Spring at eight different distances. For the purposes of this discussion races at 4 1/2 furlongs will be omitted since they were restricted to two year olds and will not be carded at the upcoming meet. The remaining sprint races were run at 6 furlongs, 6 1/2 furlongs, 7 furlongs and about 7 furlongs (7 furlongs and 184 feet to be exact). The route races were run at 1 1/16 miles, 1 1/8 miles and 1 3/16 miles. There were 96 races run at those distances.

Track Conditions

Keeneland experienced more rain than usual during the Spring meet, which resulted in the majority of the turf races being run over a wet track. Fortunately the dirt course fared better with 80 of the 96 races being run over a fast track.

Fast track races were favorable to front runners and pace pressers in sprint races. Front runners (on the lead or less than 1 length behind after the first quarter mile) won 45% of all sprint races and pace pressers (between 1 and 2 3/4 lengths behind the leader after the first quarter mile) won 37% of all sprint races. Of special note all races run over a fast track at the about 7 furlong distance were won by front runners or pace pressers.

Route races run over a fast track were also kind to up close runners but not as much as the sprint races. Front runners (on the lead or less than 1 length behind after the first half mile) won 35% of fast track route races and pace pressers (between 1 and 2 3/4 lengths behind the leader after the first half mile) won 39% of those races. Closers (3 lengths or more behind the leader after the first half mile) won 26% of fast track route races.

As mentioned above the sample size for off track dirt races was small (16) so not much can be confidently gleaned from it. In the 9 sprint races run over a wet track, an off the pace running style was slightly more favorable. In the 7 wet track route races, a pace pressing running style fared best.

Field Size and Post Positions

Sprint races on the main track averaged 7.7 horses per race at the Keeneland Spring meet. The most popular distance for those races was not surprisingly 6 furlongs. In those races there was no edge in post positions as the inside (1-4), middle (5-8) and outside (9-12) all had similar win rates.

Races at 6 1/2 furlongs (of which there were only 6) were all won by horses in posts 3 to 5. The extremely small sample size makes this information almost irrelevant but it will be worth watching going forward to see if this trend continues.

The second most popular distance for dirt sprints was 7 furlongs and again there was no bias toward any post position although it should be noted that nearly 75% of the races had 8 or less horses so the outside post positions didn't have many runners exiting from them.

Lastly races on at about 7 furlongs (of which there were 10) favored inside and middle posts with post positions 8 through 10 producing no winners from 6 starters.

Dirt route races averaged 7.1 horses per race during the Spring meet. Three quarters of the route races were run at 1 1/16 miles. In those races there was no bias toward inside, middle or outside post positions.

In the longer route races (1 1/8 miles and 1 3/16 miles) only 1 of the 27 horses exiting the inside three posts won. Posts 4 and out produced 8 winners from 33 starters. Again a small sample size as there were only 9 races run between these two distances but it will be worth watching in the coming weeks especially with the much anticipated Breeders' Cup Classic being run over this course on Halloween.

How the Favorites Fared

The average win rate of post time favorites is around 33%. The polytrack era at Keeneland saw many crazy results and unexpected form reversals. For those that did well handicapping that all weather surface the return to dirt was a system shock. Overall the post time favorite won 41% of main track races at the Spring meet. Sprint races were in line with the expected long term trend as favorites won 34% of the time but routes make chalk players happy as half of them were won by the post time favorite.

Looking at how the favorites did by class level produced logical results. The lowest class (and least dependable) races, Maiden Claiming, had the lowest win rate of 25% while the highest class (and most dependable), Stakes, had the highest win rate of 50%. In between were Maiden Special Weights at 38%, Claiming (to include Starter Allowances) at 46% and Allowance races (to include Allowance/Optional Claiming races) at 44%.

The average $2 win mutuel for the different classes was:

Maiden Claiming: $15.81
Maiden Special Weight: $12.34
Claiming: $10.14
Allowance: $9.19
Stakes: $8.08

The takeaway here is if you are fishing for a price focus on the lowest class races while giving serious consideration to the horses taking the most money in the highest class races.

Key Points to Remember

The number one thing to takeaway here is the sample size of races isn't large enough to make strong opinions. Instead it's a starting point that should be looked at from day to day as the Fall meet progresses towards the Breeders' Cup. By the end of this meet the sample size will be twice as large and the confidence factor should increase proportionally.

Number two is to eliminate any preconceived notions you have about the old Keeneland dirt track. Everyone who was around during that time remembers the inside speed bias that seemed to be present more often than not. This is a new track and your handicapping of the races must take that into account. Perhaps a speed bias will materialize and if so jump on it but go in with a clear mind and you will fare much better.

Number three keep your own track profile so you can see if and when the track changes. The weather in Lexington can be chaotic and knowing how the track will play if its dry or wet especially with the two best betting days of the year coming up at the end of the month is critical. For those that don't have the time to keep their own track profile you can check out mine which will updated daily starting on opening day throughout the meet here.

Last but certainly not least (and this wasn't mentioned until now) please support Keeneland with your wagering dollars. Along with Kentucky Downs it is the only track in North America to offer 100% of its wagering options with takeout rates under 20%. Keeneland gets it. They treat the horseplayer as a prime customer while other tracks toss us to the curb. Show them and those that ignore us that takeout rates do matter and that we will support the tracks that show they care about us.


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About The Blog

 Lenny Moon is the founder of Equinometry.com where he shares his thoughts on handicapping and betting horses and handicapping contests and WagerLogged.com a site designed to take the hassle out of one of the most important parts of being a profitable horseplayer: record keeping. You can also occasionally find him in the grandstand of Laurel Park and more often in a handicapping contest on Derby Wars.  He can also be found on Twitter @Equinometry.

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