Keeneland races over a three-week period in April and October and the 15-day Spring Meet begins Friday with a 10-race program. It’s a dynamite opening weekend, with seven graded stakes offering $2.55 million in purses, and top quality racing is a staple at the Lexington, Kentucky venue.
Lower takeout yields higher payouts and Keeneland is one of the best tracks in North America when it comes to takeout structure, with a 16% rake for Win-Place-Show and 19% for all exotic bets. Coupled with a strong purse structure, it’s popular for both horsemen and horse-players. The 2016 Spring Meet produced increases in on-track and all-sources wagering.
Payouts are often generous and bettors don’t have to worry about the action not being formful as favorites won at a 35% clip last fall. The average trifecta returned $914.11 and Pick 3 $992.89 and both wagers are available for a 50-cent minimum. And the 10-cent superfecta allows bettors to play many combinations for a small investment.
The Pace, Speed and Class numbers in Brisnet.com’s Ultimate Past Performances can provide valuable insight for Keeneland and let’s take a look at the Track Bias Stats available in each Race Summary for sprints.
Horses breaking from the rail post did well in sprint races last fall, generating a fine 1.23 impact value (greater than 1.00 indicates it wins more than fair share) from 72 sprint races. That comes as no surprise – the innermost starting position is the shortest way to the finish line – but the success of outside posts was unexpected.
Horses breaking from gate 8 and beyond had a whopping 1.39 impact value in sprints at the end of the meet and the bias was at its peak during the third and final week of the session, with outside posts accounting for nearly 25% of the races.
And one never expects to see outside posts win at a high rate in 1 1/16-mile races. With a short run to the first turn and an abbreviated stretch drive with the first finish line in play, 1 1/16-mile races at Keeneland have been conducive to horses breaking from inside posts historically, especially on days when speed is playing favorably.
That surprisingly wasn’t the case last fall.
I will be keeping a close eye on how outside posts perform at all distances early in the meet.
As the Race Summaries above showed, Early (E) and Early/Presser (E/P) runners won at a combined 71 rate in sprints last fall, with a 28% wire-to-wire clip. 6 ½ furlongs had the highest wire-to-wire rate at 42% (8-for-19).
Horses with at least some tactical speed also performed well in dirt routes, but closers weren’t at an extreme disadvantage as Sustained (S) types won 7-of-29 races at 1 1/16 miles.
Ken Ramsey plays the game at all levels and spots his horses where they can win. The familiar silks of Ramsey Farm are often found in the winner’s circle and Ramsey has captured a record 18 meet titles at Keeneland including eight in the spring.
He employs multiple trainers and Mike Maker can be classified as the main man. The leading conditioner last spring, Maker will be seeking his fifth overall title.
We can expect to see Ramsey and Maker win plenty of races.
Wesley Ward’s domination of 4 ½-furlong maiden races for 2-year-olds is another staple at Keeneland. Ward finished second in the 2016 Sprint Meet standings with a total of eight wins and appears to have a stocked hand once again according to noted clocker Bruno De Julio, who sells his “Bruno with the Works” report offering insights, analysis and selections every day during the Keeneland meet and highlighted Ward’s (WW) deep roster in a recent tweet:
Multi-race bettors must be willing to accept Ramsey, Maker and Ward at short prices because they can still be key to cashing lucrative tickets.
Mark Casse topped all trainers last fall and will have a deep barn for the Spring Meet. It’s a strong trainer colony with Todd Pletcher, Chad Brown, Bill Mott, Steve Asmussen and Graham Motion among those stabling on the grounds.
Javier Castellano won his fourth straight Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey and part of his success has come at Keeneland where he’s been the leading rider the past two Spring Meets. It’s a talented jocks’ room and Julien Leparoux is always prominent at Keeneland, picking up his 11th title last fall.
Finding a Single
As my colleague Ed DeRosa pointed out last fall, “a well-leveraged single can be the key to unlocking multi-race overlays.”
And when it comes to finding a single at Keeneland, Prime Power rankings and last-out BRIS Speed Ratings can identify the most likely winner on a card. The information is located in the Race Summary section of the Ultimate Past Performances.
A 5-point BRIS Speed Rating edge (Speed Last Race) and 11-point Prime Power advantage in dirt races has proven to be a lethal combination at Keeneland in recent meetings. No horses on the opening-day program meet the parameters but keep an eye out for this criteria going forward.
Good luck playing Keeneland!