Pages

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Keeneland Recap: It Just Didn't Feel Right

The 2014 October meet is now finished at Keeneland, and the highlight of course was the brand new dirt surface, replacing the polytrack that bettors had grown to love (or hate) since it's introduction in 2006. Now I, just like everyone else, love Keeneland, but this meet left a bitter taste in my mouth. It just didn't feel right.
   
      I've been in racing my entire life, but I've only been handicapping and betting for about four years now, so the only Keeneland I've ever known is polytrack Keeneland. I was never bothered by handicapping polytrack; my home track is Woodbine so polytrack is what I learned on. I've written about my concerns regarding the true safety of polytrack in the past (not a fan) but as a horseplayer, it has never bothered me. Keeneland always had huge fields, and the races were not easy. It was a lot of fun. The new dirt track wasn't as difficult, and it shows in the field sizes and win payouts.
   
     Last year's fall meet had an average field size of 9.85, but this year that fell almost a horse and a half per race to 8.42, a 14.6% drop. The average $2 win return last year was $17.14, but with the smaller fields and simpler handicapping that came with this meet, that dropped to $11.60, a decline of 32.4%. The value in betting Keeneland's races went down significantly, and that showed in the handle.
   
     This meet mirrored last year's in terms of number of races, with 160 races held over 17 days. In 2013 handle totaled $139,667,317, with a daily average of $8,215,724 and $872,920 per race. This year, the total handle was $122,904,389, a decline of 12.1%. Almost $17 million in handle lost. That's a very significant number. Excuses have been made, most notably possible loss of some major players, which I cannot verify, and the weather, which is just ridiculous. If it is the loss of a whale, step back and ask yourself: why did he/she stop playing? The answer is simple: the value was gone. This isn't necessarily a case of all-weather being "better" than dirt or people betting all-weather because it's all-weather. This is a case of value being better than no value, and the bigger fields that all-weather attracted created the value.
   
     Briefly touching on the weather idea, one of the concerns voiced by horseplayers before the meet was how dirt would affect off-turf races, so I took a look at that. In 2013, there were six races moved from turf to the polytrack. Six horses were listed as off-turf scratches in those races. This year, five races were moved from the turf to the dirt, and 20 horses were listed as off-turf scratches. We've gone from losing one horse per race to four horses per race when the turf is rained off. So that was a valid concern.
   
     Perhaps the most frustrating part about this meet was the fact that there was really nothing that made it stand out, nothing that you couldn't find at other tracks. Instead of a continuation of the player friendly Kentucky Downs, this year's fall-meet felt more like Santa Anita, with the shorter field sizes and speed favouring dirt sprints. An average field size of 8.42 isn't special; Hawthorne's current average field size is 8.68. Keeneland is well regarded for their low takeout, but they're only the lowest with triactors and superfectas. Win/Place/Show are lower at Northlands, Woodbine, Hastings and in California, Exactors are lower at Kentucky Downs and NYRA, and when it comes to multi-race wagers you can get lower prices at Houston, Retama, Northlands, Tampa, the Meadowlands, NYRA, and several more depending on which specific Pick X wager you're looking for. Now that their field sizes don't reign supreme, Keeneland is no longer the best.
   
     Going back to "speed favouring dirt sprints," one thing that was frequently discussed over the meet was how fair the track was. A lot of people claimed it was too speed favouring, others claimed it was very fair. Well, I have the break down. Seventy-five dirt sprints were run, of which 35 were won by speed, 28 were won by stalkers, and 12 were won by closers. Speed won 46.6% of the sprints. That's a pro-speed bias. Routes played fairer, with speed winning 14 of 46, stalkers winning 22, and closers winning 10. On the turf, there were only four sprints run, with two speed winners and two closing winners. Turf routes were about as fair to speed as dirt sprints were to closers. Speed went four for 35, with stalkers winning 20 and closers winning 11.
         
     Now, was everything about this meet bad? Absolutely not. Despite what I've been told was one of poorest meets weather-wise, average daily attendence was 14,798, only a 5.6% drop from last year and live handle was down only 3%. As racing fans, we witnessed a terrific Fall Stars weekend, with several Breeders' Cup contenders making their final preps. We could talk about how great they all are, but I think we should take a moment to appreciate the one and only Wise Dan, who will miss this year's Breeders' Cup Mile due to an injury. Wise Dan's win in the Shadwell Turf Mile was easily my favourite Wise Dan race. Nothing went well trip-wise for the veteran gelding, and down the stretch I was sure he would be off the board, but in the fashion of truely great racehorses, he fought back and won nicely. There aren't many horses as great as Wise Dan, and he deserves his place in history.
   
     With this meet in the books, we're left waiting until April for the Spring meet to see if the new dirt track will be the beginning of a trend of lower handles and field sizes, or if Keeneland can attract more horses and turn things around. Keeneland is still a top-class track that tries to act with both horseplayers and horsemen in mind, and it deserves praise for that. This was certainly an interesting meet. It just wasn't as interesting as we have gotten used to.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Favourites in the Breeders' Cup Pt 2

We recently looked at the performance of favourites in the original Breeders' Cup races, now it's time to look at the races that have been added to the Championship event since then.

YEAR - ODDS OF FAV - FAV FINISH POSITION - FIELD SIZE - $2 WIN RETURN

BC Filly & Mare Turf
2013 - 1.5 - 1st - 10 - $5
2012 - 1.6 - 3rd - 11 - $20.40
2011 - 1.9 - 10th - 11 - $57.60
2010 - 0.9 - 2nd - 11 - $94
2009 - 2.2 - 3rd - 8 - $6.60
2008 - 2.6 - 7th - 10 - $11.80
2007 - 2.8 - 3rd - 11 - $25.40
2006 - 1.4 - 1st - 10 - $4.80
2005 - 2.3 - 2nd - 14 - $32.20
2004 - 0.9 - 1st - 12 - $3.80
2003 - 2.9- 1st - 12 - $7.80
2002 - 2.8 - 4th - 12 - $28.40
2001 - 2.65 - 11th - 12 - $14
2000 - 1.4 - 5th - 14 - $12
1999 - 3.6 - 1st - 14 - $9.20
# of winning favs - 5
Average odds of winning favs - 2.06
Average odds of favs - 2.09
Median odds of favs - 2.2
Average finish position of favs - 3.6 (4th)
Average field size - 11.46
Average field size when fav wins - 11.6
Average $2 win payout - $22.20
# of NA bred winners - 5
# of non-NA bred winners - 10

BC Turf Sprint
2013 - 2.7 - 1st - 13 - $7.40
2012 - 4.7 - 2nd - 14 - $15.80
2011 - 2.3 - 1st - 14 - $6.60
2010 - 3 - 5th - 14 - $15.80
2009 - 3.4 - 1st - 14 - $8.80
2008 - 4.4 - 4th - 14 - $36.50
# of winning favs - 3
Average odds of winning favs - 2.8
Average odds of favs - 3.41
Median odds of favs - 3.2
Average finish position of favs - 2.3 (2nd)
Average field size - 13.83
Average field size when fav wins - 13.66
Average $2 win payout - $15.15

BC Juvenile Turf
2013 - 1.3 - 3rd - 13 - $14
2012 - 3.9 - 2nd - 14 - $20.60
2011 - 4 - 7th - 14 - $25.20
2010 - 3.7 - 6th - 12 - $14.80
2009 - 2.4 - 1st - 12 - $6.80
2008 - 3.3 - 2nd - 12 - $13.60
2007 - 2.8 - 2nd - 12 - $27.20
# of winning favs - 1
Average finish position of favs - 3.3 (3rd)
Average odds of favs - 3.05
Median odds of favs - 3.3
Average field size - 12.71
Average $2 win payout - $17.45
# of NA bred winners - 4
# of non-NA bred winners - 3

BC Juvenile Fillies Turf
2013 - 2.8 - 7th - 14 - $15.80
2012 - 2.7 - 8th - 14 - $24.80
2011 - 2.8 - 8th - 14 - $14.20
2010 - 1.1 - 2nd - 14 - $29.20
2009 - 1.5 - 8th - 12 - $21.60
2008 - 2.6 - 3rd - 12 - $24.20
Average finish position of favs - 6th
Average odds of favs - 2.25
Median odds of favs - 2.65
Average field size - 13.33
Average $2 win payout - $21.63
# of NA bred winners - 4
# of non-NA bred winners - 2

BC Fillies & Mares Sprint
2013 - 3 - 1st - 12 - $8
2012 - 0.7 - 1st - 10 - $3.40
2011 - 1.4 - 5th - 12 - $42.40
2010 - 4.4 - 4th - 13 - $19.20
2009 - 0.8 - 2nd - 9 - $8.80
2008 - 1.8 - 2nd - 13 - $7.60
2007 - 2.1 - 6th - 10 - $18
# of winning favs - 2
Average odds of winning favs - 1.85
Average odds of favs - 2.02
Median odds of favs - 1.8
Average finish position of favs - 3rd
Average field size - 11.28
Average field size when fav wins - 11
Average $2 win payout - $15.34

BC Dirt Mile
2013 - 2.5 - 4th - 11 - $9.60
2012 - 2.6 - 6th - 9 - $32.60
2011 - 2.6 - 7th - 9 - $15.60
2010 - 2.7 - 11th - 12 - $77.40
2009 - 1.4 - 4th - 10 - $44.60
2008 - 1.2 - 9th - 12 - $14.60
2007 - 1.5 - 3rd - 8 - $9.40
Average finish position of favs - 6.3 (6th)
Average odds of favs - 2.07
Median odds of favs - 2.5
Average field size - 10.14
Average $2 win payout - $29.11

     In these races shorter histories, we see that the Dirt Mile and the two Juvenile Turf races are very good for chalk-faders, while the Turf Sprint and Filly and Mare Turf have been quite chalky. We also see that North American breds still tend to win the majority of the turf races, the Filly and Mare Turf being the exception.

     Again, use these numbers how you will. Have a great night!

Quarter Horse Racing to Return to Kentucky

Keeneland has reached an agreement to purchase Thunder Ridge Raceway, a harness track near Prestonburg, Ky., with plans to replace the raceway with a Quarter Horse track offering Instant Racing machines in Corbin, Ky.

      Regulatory approval is still required before the plan can be made official, but Keeneland chief operating officer Vince Gaffert has said that a short meeting could be held 18 months after final approval. This could mean that Quarter Horse racing will be held in the state as soon as 2016.

     Quarter Horse racing has not been held in Kentucky since 2010, when the Red Mile held a two-day summer meet. The Red Mile had been hosting the meet since 2004. The meet was planned in 2011, but was cancelled due to a lack of horses. Quarter Horse racing had previously been popular in the state, peaking in 1988 with 140 dates split between Bluegrass Downs and Riverside Downs.

     With the continued growth of the Hialeah Park winter meet in Florida, a spring Quarter Horse meet in Kentucky could prove to be successful. With it's location near the Tennessee border, the Instant Racing machines should surely be able to create a strong purse structure.

     Keeneland plans on hosting harness racing at Thunder Ridge in 2015 before shuttering the raceway. Hopefully Keeneland will be sure to keep integrity standards high as they revive Kentucky Quarter Horse racing.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Average Daily Handle Down at Hawthorne

After the first ten days of live racing, average daily handle at Hawthorne Racecourse is down.

     So far this meet, the Cicero oval has handled $18,299,111, a daily average of $1,829,911. At this point last of the meet last year, 13 cards of racing had been held, with a total handle of $27,044,679, averaging $2,080,359/day. The average daily handle has fallen 12.1%. Average field size this year has been 8.64, up very slightly from 8.58 at this point last year.

     Hawthorne made some changes coming into this meet. First, Sunday racing has been removed from the schedule. Second, $.20 minimums are now offered on all Triactors, Superfectas, Pick 3s, Pick 4s and Pick 5s. While most of these wagers have seen decreases similar to the total handle, Pick 4s are about even with last year and the Pick 5 has seen very significant growth, with it's average daily pool rising from $9,160 to $18,710, an increase of 104%.

     The drop in handle may be explained by theories that high-handle players are beginning to leave the game. Field size can't be blamed, and one would normally assume that handle losses at Keeneland would lead to higher handles at other tracks. This does not appear to be the case.

     Hawthorne races Wednesday through Saturday. Their average field size is actually slightly higher than Keeneland's currently is, and if you like low bet minimums they are worth checking out.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Favourites in the Breeders' Cup Part 1

Here's something I thought was worth doing a bit of studying into: how do favourites perform in the Breeders' Cup? Which races are most likely to come up with a price? Which ones are more likely to come up chalky? Here's the first part of these stats, looking at the original six Breeders' Cup races. A second entry containing the rest of the races will be up likely tomorrow. Please note that for these stats I have only gone back to 1991 because I used Equibase results charts.

BC Classic
Year - Odds of fav - finish position - field size - $2 win payout
2013 - 1.7 - 9th - 11 - $10
2012 - 1.3 - 7th - 12 - $20.80
2011 - 3.6 - 5th - 12 - $31.60
2010 - 1 - 2nd - 12 - $12.40
2009 - 2.8 - 1st - 12 - $7.60
2008 - 0.9 - 4th - 12 - $29
2007 - 2.5 - 4th - 9 - $10.80
2006 - 1.1 - 2nd - 13 - $15.40
2005 - 2.4 - 1st - 13 - $6.80
2004 - 2.5 - 1st - 13 - $7
2003 - 2.6 - 2nd - 10 - $30.40
2002 - 2.7 - 2nd - 12 - $89
2001 - 2.35 - 8th - 13 - $15.80
2000 - 1.2 - 6th - 13 - $20.40
1999 - 2.3 - 7th - 14 - $41.20
1998 - 1.9 - 6th - 10 - $11.40
1997 - 1.8 - 1st - 9 - $5.60
1996 - 0.65 - 3rd - 13 - $41.70
1995 - 0.7 - 1st - 11 - $3.40
1994 - 3.5 - 2nd - 14 - $17
1993 - 1.2 - 2nd, 4th, 11th (entry) - 13 - $269.20
1992 - 2.1 - 1st - 14 - $6.20
1991 - 3.1 - 6th - 11 - $10
# of winning favs - 6
Average odds of winning favs - 2.05
Average odds of fav - 2.08
Average favourite finish position - 3.77 (4th)
Average field size - 12.54
Average field size when favs win - 10.5
Average $2 win payout - $32.39
Median win payout - $13.90

BC Distaff
2013 - 1.4 - 4th - 6 - $7.60
2012 - 1.7 - 1st - 8 - $5.40
2011 - 2.2 - 1st - 9 - $6.40
2010 - 1.5 - 2nd - 11 - $17
2009 - 1.9 - 8th - 8 - $18.20
2008 - 0.5 - 1st - 8 - $3
2007 - 4.5 - 1st/10th(co-faves) - 12 - $11
2006 - 2.7 - DNF (13th) - 14 - $29.80
2005 - 2.25 - 3rd - 13 - $63.50
2004 - 2 - 1st - 11 - $6
2003 - 0.6 - 4th - 7 - $83.40
2002 - 1.8 - 1st - 8 - $5.60
2001 - 1.15 - 7th - 11 - $26.60
2000 - 0.4 - 7th - 9 - $113.80
1999 - 1.6 - 6th - 8 - $8
1998 - 0.8 - 2nd - 8 - $8
1997 - 1 - 2nd - 8 -$11.60
1996 - 1.3 - 3rd - 6 - $6.80
1995 - 0.8 - 1st - 10 - $3.60
1994 - 1.8 - 6th - 9 - $96.20
1993 - 1.3 - 1st - 8 - $4.60
1992 - 2 - 12th - 14 - $7.40
1991 - 0.5 - 1st - 13 - $3
# of winning favs - 9
Average odds of winning favs - 1.7
Average odds of fav - 1.62
Average fav finish position - 4.2 (4th)
Average field size - 9.95
Average field size when fav wins - 9.66
Average $2 win payout - $25.13
Median win payout - $7.80

BC Turf
2013 - 1.5 - 2nd - 12 - $27
2012 - 2.4 - 2nd - 12 - $36.60
2011 - 2.1 - 4th - 9 - $15.60
2010 - 1.1 - 4th - 7 - $19
2009 - 0.9 - 1st - 7 - $3.80
2008 - 1.6 - 4th - 11 - $13.60
2007 - 0.9 - 5th - 8 - $8
2006 - 2.9 - 6th - 11 - $23.60
2005 - 3.65 - 3rd - 13 - $19.60
2004 - 0.7 - 2nd - 8 - $57.80
2003 - 2 - 7th - 9 - $6.40, $13.60 (DH)
2002 - 0.9 - 1st - 8 - $3.80
2001 - 1.4 - 1st - 11 - $4.80
2000 - 3.2 - 7th - 13 - $11.20
1999 - 1.6 - 1st - 14 - $5.20
1998 - 2.7 - 7th - 13 - $9.20
1997 - 1.9 - 1st - 11 - $5.80
1996 - 1.1 - 2nd,3rd,4th(entry) - 14 - $29.40
1995 - 3.75 - 3rd,4th(entry) - 13 - $9.90
1994 - 0.8 - 3rd - 14 - $35.20
1993 - 1.5 - 1st - 14 - $5
1992 - 0.9 - 2nd - 10 - $30
1991 - 2.8 - 5th - 13 - $86.20
# of winning favs - 6
Average odds of winning favs - 1.36
Average odds of fav - 1.92
Average fav finish position - 3.36 (3rd)
Average field size - 11.5
Average field size when fav wins - 10.83
Average $2 win payout - $21.83
Median win payout - $13.60
# of NA Bred winners - 11
# of non-NA Bred winners - 11

BC Sprint
2013 - 2.5 -1st - 12 - $7
2012 - 3.5 - 8th - 14 - $29.40
2011 - 2.8 - 3rd - 9 - $17.80
2010 - 4.1 - 11th - 12 - $12.40
2009 - 1.8 - 5th - 9 - $52.60
2008 - 2.1 - 3rd - 8 - $7.40
2007 - 2.5 - 1st - 10 - $7
2006 - 1.6 - 14th - 14 - $33.20
2005 - 0.7 - 7th - 11 - $25.80
2004 - 3.6 - 10th - 13 - $9.40
2003 - 2.1 - 6th - 13 - $47.60
2002 - 2.7 - 1st - 13 - $7.40
2001 - 3.5 - 7th - 14 - $21.20
2000 - 1.7 - 1st - 14 - $5.40
1999 - 3.7 - 1st,4th(co-faves) - 14 - $9.40
1998 - 2.5 - 6th - 14 - $9.60
1997 - 3.4 - 6th,13th(co-faves) - 14 - $35.20
1996 - 4.0 - 1st - 13 - $10
1995 - 3.3 - 4th - 13 - $31
1994 - 2.8 - 1st - 14 - $7.60
1993 - 3.2 - 11th - 14 - $12.60
1992 - 2.1 - 3rd - 14 - $39.40
1991 - 0.4 - 9th - 11 - $54.60
# of winning favs - 7
Average odds of winning favs - 2.84
Average odds of favs - 2.75
Average finish position of fav - 5.7 (6th)
Average field size - 13.04
Average field size when fav wins - 12.86
Average $2 win payout - $22.41
Median win payout - $11.20

BC Mile
2013 - 0.8 - 1st - 10 - $3.60
2012 - 1.8 - 1st - 9 - $5.60
2011 - 1.3 - 3rd - 13 - $131.60
2010 - 1.3 - 1st - 11 - $4.60
2009 - 1.4 -1st - 11 - $4.80
2008 - 1.8 - 1st - 11 - $5.60
2007 - 2.1 - 2nd - 13 - $18.40
2006 - 3 - 9th - 14 - $50.60
2005 - 1.35 - 2nd - 12 - $13.20
2004 - 3.8 - 12th - 14 - $35
2003 - 3.1 - 13th - 13 - $12.60
2002 - 0.8 - 2nd - 14 - $54
2001 - 4.1 - 7th - 12 - $12.20
2000 - 3.5 - 1st - 14 - $9
1999 - 3.7 - 5th - 14 - $16.40
1998 - 2.6 - 8th - 14 - $25.20
1997 - 2.1 - 1st - 12 - $6.20
1996 - 1.25 - 9th - 14 - $18.90
1995 - 2.55 - 1st - 13 - $7.10
1994 - 0.9 - 9th - 14 - $22.80
1993 - 1.3 - 1st - 13 - $4.60
1992 - 1.5 - 11th - 14 -$12.80
1991 - 2.2 - 9th - 14 - $55.40
# of winning favs - 9
Average odds of winning favs- 1.83
Average odds of favs - 2.17
Average finish position of favs - 5th
Average field size - 13.32
Average field size when fav wins - 12.89
Average $2 win payout - $24.10
Median win payout - $13
# of NA bred winners - 14
# of non NA bred winners - 8

BC Juvenile
2013 - 2.6 - 2nd - 13 - $23
2012 - 1.3 - 1st - 9 - $4.60
2011 - 1.1 - 2nd - 13 - $16.20
2010 - 1.4 - 1st - 10 - $4.80
2009 - 2.2 - 2nd - 13 - $63.20
2008 - 3.5 - 2nd - 12 - $9.20
2007 - 2.2 - 1st - 11 - $6.40
2006 - 3 - 2nd - 13 - $32.40
2005 - 1.3 - 3rd - 14 - $11
2004 - 2 - 5th - 8 - $58.60
2003 - 1.6 - 12th - 12 - $55.60
2002 - 2.5 - 10th - 13 - $10.20
2001 - 0.75 - 5th - 12 - $16.40
2000 - 2.4 - 14th - 14 - $14.60
1999 - 2.7 - 6th - 14 - $62.60
1998 - 2.7 - 1st - 13 - $7.40
1997 - 1.2 - 1st - 8 - $4.40
1996 - 1.4 - 3rd - 10 - $6.80
1995 - 2.1 - 4th - 13 - $12.40
1994 - 2.4 - 1st - 13 - $6.80
1993 - 0.7 - 8th - 11 - $8
1992 - 2 - 1st - 13 - $6
1991 - 2.1 - 1st - 14 - $6.20
# of winning favs - 8
Average odds of winning favs - 1.91
Average odds of favs - 2.01
Average finish position of fav - 4th
Average field size - 11.91
Average field size when fav wins - 11.37
Average $2 win payout - $20.31
Median win payout - $9.70

BC Juvenile Fillies
2013 - 2.9 - 4th - 10 - $66.60
2012 - 1.5 - 2nd - 8 - $9.80
2011 - 2.1 - 1st - 14 - $6.20
2010 - 4.2 - 1st,12th(co-faves) - 12 - $10.40
2009 - 3.7 - 3rd - 12 - $16.80
2008 - 1.6 - 1st - 13 - $5.20
2007 - 1.7 - 1st - 13 - $5.40
2006 - 2.6 - 1st - 14 - $7.20
2005 - 2.35 - 1st - 10 - $6.70
2004 - 2.3 - 1st - 12 - $6.60
2003 - 2.3 - 1st - 14 - $6.60
2002 - 0.8 - 1st - 10 - $3.60
2001 - 0.95 - 4th - 9 - $25.80
2000 - 2.5 - 6th - 12 - $96
1999 - 1.5 - 2nd - 9 - $67
1998 - 0.8 - 1st - 10 - $3.60
1997 - 2 - 1st - 14 -  $6
1996 - 1.6 - 1st - 12 - $5.20
1995 - 1.1 - 3rd - 8 - $9
1994 - 0.4 - 1st - 13 - $2.80
1993 - 1.9 - 3rd - 8 - $6.60
1992 - 1.2 - 1st - 12 - $4.40
1991 - 2.4 - 7th - 14 - $13.60
# of winning favs - 14
Average odds of winning favs - 1.85
Average odds of favs - 2.02
Average finish position of favs - 2.6 (3rd)
Average field size - 11.95
Average field size when fav wins - 12.36
Average $2 win payout - $17.54
Median win payout - $6.60

     Looking at these numbers, it's pretty obvious that the Juvenile Fillies is the most chalky of the original six. Favourites have won 63% of the past 22 runnings, have a median win payout of $6.60. The Distaff isn't much better, with a median payout of $7.80 and an average boosted by more >$50 winners than any other race. Value-wise, the Classic, Turf, Sprint and Mile look like races to target, with solid average win payouts, and medians that show the averages aren't strongly altered by bombs.

     Do what you will with these numbers. Have a great evening!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Ajax Downs Closing Day Selections

Well, we're finally at the end of the road of the 2014 racing season at Ajax Downs. It's been a lot of fun, the racing has been exciting, everything has been amazing. We really appreciate everyone who has joined us this year, and we hope everyone will be back in 2015! For the final time in 2014, here are my program selections.


Race 1: 4-2-5
Welcome to the final day of the 2014 live racing season! We've got a great eight race card to wrap up the meet today. #4 Wild Roze kicked off 2014 with a maiden win, but has been 0-for-six since trying to get her second win. Her speed figures have been consistently higher than the rest of this group's, and she has been in some far tougher spots than this. #2 Imaflysmashingbaby exits a third place finish in a fairly weak Speed Index race last week. He did get a win three starts back, but you have to concerned with his inconsistency. #5 Another Shark dropped in for a $5,000 claiming tag two back and that was all he needed to get the win.He then tried non winners of two on September 30 but did not run very well. He's been on the board in seven of 13 starts and this is a soft bunch, so I think he can round it out. Remember that Early Double wagering is available here!

Race 2: 1-6-5
This race is the start of the Early Pick 3. #1 On The Edge of Glory closed very fast in his second career start to be second by a head. Today he gets an extra 30 yards to work with and has potential to continue to improve with more experience. #6 Dick Greyson has yet to run a bad race in his six race career, but just hasn't been able to get the job done. He exits a good second with a 47 speed figure, a number that makes him look like a big player in this race; he just needs to run like that again. #5 Chicks Kisses has been very close in her last two starts, but is 0-for-17 in her career and is just tough to take as a win proposition. I can definitely see her rounding things out.

Race 3: 3-7-6
#3 Nemos Angle doesn't run very often, but she usually runs very well; she's been second or third in six of her last seven starts. She's a bit win-shy, as are most of her competitors, but she's been earning solid speed figures and has been so close so many times I have to think she's due for a win. #7 I Like Chics has already won twice in only five starts, making him easily the winningest horses in this race percentage wise. He exits a handy win at this distance, albeit against a softer group of horses; has potential to double up today. #6 Oh Gary finished second to Storytime Blue last time, a mare who has some talent. This gelding has been put in some ridiculously tough races that he never belonged in this year, but when he faces these conditioned allowance types he's usually competitive.

Race 4: 6-3-4
This race is the start of the $.20 Pick 4! #6 Ttt Kellys Regan broke his maiden over the sloppy going last week. He had run some good races at tougher tracks like Hialeah and Louisiana Downs prior to his maiden score, and has the highest class rating of the group. #3 Winners Spirit also raced last week, finishing a good second in a weak Speed Index race. He hasn't won since July 2013, but he's been in some tougher groups than he's facing today. #4 I Am Perfect exits a respectable fifth place finish against allowance company. He's not a horse with a lot of ability, but he's maiden win last year came at the end of the meet; we'll see if he runs any better on the class drop.

Race 5: 2-7-6
Tough group of starter allowance horses go to gate here. #2 Jj Maxwell exits back to back wins at this level with very strong speed figures to back it up. He's a horse who knows how to win, with seven victories under his belt and has to be respected here. #7 Channelislandflyer has been in solid form, with three seconds and two wins in his last five starts. He was second to Jj Maxwell last time, defeated the talented Eyesa Zoomn two back, and three back was second to Jj Maxwell again. We'll see if he can turn the tables today. #6 Storytime Blue won very nicely in an Ontario Bred $5,000 claiming race last time, closing late with her ears pointed forward. This is a significantly tougher field, but I think she has the ability to put in a respectable effort.

Race 6: 5-2-4
Co-featured on today's card is this open allowance for older horses going 400 yards. #5 Feature My News is a horse I was high on when he first came here to Ajax, but disappointed me in his first few starts. He then broke through with a great runner up finish in the Bank of America Challenge behind a talented American shipper, and then took an effortless victory in an allowance event. He's a multiple Stakes winner in the States who raced well all over the country, and I think he'll be tough here. #2 One Famous Glass looked very much the one to beat in the Alex Picov Memorial Championship, but didn't get away well and had his running path cut off, resulting in an okay fifth place finish. When this horse is on his game he's extremely tough; he finished fourth in the Grade I Leo Stakes at Remington Park earlier this year. He can certainly rebound today. #4 What Ta Wear was having a great 2014 with three wins and some very good efforts in Stakes company, but then went down to Hazel Park for a small Stakes race ten days ago. In that race she broke great, but took a bad bump, lost her footing and was pulled up. That race is not a reflection of her ability at all, she can rebound at a price. Don't discount #6 First Down the Track either, she is very live and has a big shot to win this. This is one of the most competitive six horse races I've seen in a long time. Remember that the Late Pick 3 starts here.

Race 7: 8-4-1
The other featured race of the day is this open allowance for two year olds going 330 yards. #8 Selective Memory was fourth in the Alex Picov Memorial Futurity two starts back before exploding to win a maiden event very nicely. He has the highest class rating of the bunch and I think there's a good shot that he will double up. #4 Fiesty Icon broke his maiden two back in Ontario Sired company and came back to pull an upset win at this open allowance level. He certainly looked good in that win and he has a big shot to do it again. #1 Speed of Life was second to Fiesty Icon in that open allowance two weeks ago, fighting gamely from the rail but coming out second best. I don't know that she can rebound and get the win today, but I wouldn't totally discount it as a possibility. Be sure to play the Late Double!

Race 8: 6-8-10
Two year old maidens go to gate for the final race of 2014! #6 Chik Flick qualified to the Alex Picov Memorial Futurity, where he ran an okay sixth. He then went into the maiden ranks and finished a good second, but was DQd for veering out and bothering a foe. He seems to be the most talented of this bunch. #8 Fearghas is the foe who was bothered by Chik Flick. This gelding debuted in the race where Chik Flick was second but DQd, and was running fairly well before Chik Flick veered out, causing the rider to have to check, finishing fifth but bumped up to fourth. He can improve second time out with (hopefully) a clear running path. #10 Arctic Gate debuted with a good second in Ontario Sired company before coming back to finish fourth (DQd to ninth after bothering a foe) in a trial for the Ontario Sires Stakes Futurity. She has been running well and deserves a look. The outside post could be beneficial. Thank you to everyone who joined us here at Ajax Downs for this fantastic season of Quarter Horse racing! See you all in 2015!

Good luck to everyone playing today! Thanks again from all of us here at Ajax Downs!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Thanksgiving Monday Ajax Downs Selections

We're in the final week of racing at Ajax Downs, so today we have a special 10 race Thanksgiving card. The feature today is the $95,600 Ontario Sires Stakes Futurity. We've got plenty of full fields today, so be sure to have a play! Here are my program selections.


Race 1: 5-2-4
Happy Thanksgiving! Welcome to a terrific 10 race holiday card here at Ajax Downs! #5 Jesse James Alibi raced a very game third last week, breaking from gate #3 on a day that was very outside favouring. Forgetting the race in which she dropped the rider, she has been in very good form and deserves a look here. It's also worth noting that she always races well at the end of the season. #2 Shake Pretty Baby led most of the way in a 350 yard race against Storytime Blue last time, but was run down late to finish fourth, but quite close to being second. Today she drops in class down to $3,000 claiming. #4 Kool N Kinda Special exits the same race as Jesse James Alibi from last week. This gelding broke from the outside post that day and got up in the final stride to win by a nose. The outside post certainly aided him, but he's in good form and has a shot at doubling up. This race starts the Early Double.

Race 2: 7-4-6
This race kicks off the Early Pick 3. #7 Memories Times Six raced in this condition two weeks ago, leading most of the way but getting caught very late to be beaten a head at 350 yards. Today he cuts back to 250 yards, a cutback that I think will be very beneficial. #4 Jess Carolina kicked off 2014 with two runner up finishes, including one against the top level mares, but trailed in her most recent start in top level allowance company. She's had some time off and returns now in softer company. We'll see how she does. #6 A Plain Brown Rapper finished third last time, the same race where Memories Times Six was second. This gelding has talent, he was a Graded Stakes winner at 2 and was beaten a nose in a Grade II in Iowa last September, but after a long 2013 season that included a trip to California and a campaign in Florida, he hasn't been as good this year. He does like 250 yards; let's see if he can get his first 2014 victory. Note that he was a vet scratch last week.

Race 3: 2-6-1
#2 Probie ran alright facing some tough horses in a starter allowance race last time. His three efforts prior, which include a win over a nice horse named Cat Vision and two seconds behind Sign It Down and Bold Six Love were all very respectable efforts. I like the class drop and this is a horse who has been good at the end of the season for the past two years. #6 Catch a Heart was a Stakes winner at Delta Downs when he was two. Since coming to Ajax he has been okay, most recently finishing third against Speed Index company. This horse is capable of winning this race, but he frequently throws clunkers. Which Catch a Heart will we get today? #1 Cameron Dash started the season off with a second and two  wins, but his three most recent performances have all been poor. He does drop  from top level allowance to this non-earners allowance, so improvement is expected. 

Race 4: 7-3-4
The $.20 Pick 4 starts here! #7 Waitin for Momma was beaten only a nose against NW2 allowance company two weeks back, earning a 52 speed figure. He now takes a sideways class move into Speed Index and could be tough breaking from the outside post. #3 Crazy Hearted ran a decent third against NW2 allowance last time back on August 26. Last year her form was strong at the end of the season, we'll see if that pattern continues. #4 Cash In For Sugar was fifth beaten 3/4 of a length in a Speed Index race last time. Most of her races this year have been decent and this is not a tough group.

Race 5: 5-7-8
This race is a 110 yard 'Gridiron Gallop,' so you'll want to be watching this one from the rail! #5 Dm Paid In Cash is one of only two in here who has raced at 110 yards before. He tried the distance on Canada Day, broke very fast and lead most of the way, but was caught late by One Kool Wave, who is a 110 yard specialist. Then on September 1, in a 250 yard allowance, he broke very well again and led most of the way but weakened late. I think 110 yards fits him very well. #7 Pegasos One Underpar is the only other member of this field to try 110 yards, finishing third in the same Canada Day race as Dm Paid In Cash. Last week he ran a very good second behind the very talented Jesskissmytexas. I expect a good run today. #8 Cruwysn the Arctic also ran in the Jesskissmytexas race last week, finishing last. I feel he did not like the sloppy going. He is four-for-eight this year and usually breaks very quickly; 110 yards should work for him.

Race 6: 4-3-6
#4 Red Kelly has a class rating of 59.76, which is 13 points higher than the second highest class rating of this field. He won an Ontario Sired starter allowance two starts back, then finished third behind Channelislandflyer and Eyesa Zoomn last time. This field is significantly easier, and this gelding is a six time winner facing a bunch of non winners of two. Looks very tough to me. #3 Jess What to Wear has been game in her last two starts, races which were won by Noisyboy and I Like Chics, both respectable horses. She should race well here. #6 Sofar Gone broke his maiden by an open length two starts back and came back to be a good third. The runner up in that race, Ssc Eye Get It, came back to win two weeks ago. He may like the outside post.

Race 7: 4-5-6
This race is an open allowance for three year olds going 350 yards. #4 Zoomin On Ice looked like a winner almost the entire time in the Ontario Sires Stakes Derby, but was run down in the final stride by the talented Reckless an Wild. His recent form has been very strong and I'm expecting a good run today. #5 Streakinshagginwagon kicked off the year with wins in a trial for and the final of the Picov Derby, and has continued to be solid. Most recently he finished a good third in an open allowance open to older horses, which was won by talented four year old mare What Ta Wear. He is the highest earner of the field with $69,899 in the bank. #6 Mr Victory Six exits a fourth place finish against older horses in a trial for the Alex Picov Memorial Championship. He did qualify for the final, but flipped in the starting gate and was a late vet scratch. This gelding clearly has plenty of talent, but watch his behavior in the paddock and in the warm up. He may not perform as well after his flip.

Race 8: 1-3-7
#1 This Chics Leavin debuted back on September 16 and finished fourth. She weaved in and out a bit in that race and likely would have been second or third had she stayed straight. I'm looking for some second time out improvement from this mare. #3 Random Audit was at a big disadvantage last week, breaking from the rail post on the sloppy track. She raced an okay third. Her two prior efforts were a close second and a close third. She's been knocking on the door, but just needs to open it. #7 The Diamond Cartel finished second in a maiden $5,000 claiming race last time, and was claimed by Renee Wilson. You don't see many claims here, and the return to a straight maiden as opposed to a claiming event makes me think the new connections think this horse will be alright. We'll see how she does. Remember that the Late Pick 3 begins here.

Race 9: 4-3-9
Today's featured event is the $95,400 Ontario Sires Stakes Futurity. #4 Arctic Special debuted in his trial for this race, and won by an impressive length. He weaved in and out but still drew off late. If he had stayed straight he would have posted the fastest qualifying time. Let's see if we get some second time out improvement. #3 Arizona Bennie broke his maiden in a trial for the Alex Picov Memorial Futurity, and came back to finish second in the final behind the super-tough Jumping Guitar. In his trial for this race he was off a half step slow and took a light bump early but ran on nicely to be second, while the winner, Wild Boyz Victory, had a clean break and a totally clear running path. With a clean break things should work better for this gelding. #9 George Is Dashing was beaten a nose in a maiden race on September 1 and came back to win his trial for this race by a nose. He fought nicely to hold for the win in that race. I don't think he's the fastest in this race, but he does appear to have a lot of try in him. Remember to play the Late Double!

Race 10: 4-7-1
#4 Fool On Fire broke very alertly in his debut but was run down late. He now cuts back 30 yards which should be beneficial if he breaks as well as he did on debut. #7 Okey Dokey Fast exits a third behind Arctic Special in a trial for the Ontario Sires Stakes Futurity. She has also raced well against Sassy N Ready, who's a filly with some talent. She's likely going to be the favourite, and she does deserve it. #1 Fames Winner was third behind Fool On Fire last time. He has been decent so far in his career, and should run well today.

Good luck to everyone playing today, and have a happy Thanksgiving!

Numbers from Gulfstream Park West

After five days of racing at the newly dubbed Gulfstream Park West (Calder) I figured we should take a few minutes to compare the handle to the head-to-head Gulfstream vs. Calder of last year, and to the standalone Calder dates of 2012. Take a look.

2014

GPW Wed Oct 8 - $1,434,678 - 10 races
GPW Thu Oct 9 - $2,192,435 - 10 races
GPW Fri Oct 10 - $2,930,049 - 10 races
GPW Sat Oct 11 - $3,475,300 - 10 races
GPW Sun Oct 12 - $2,630,470 - 10 races
Total - $12,663,080 - 50 races - $253,261.60/race
Fri/Sat/Sun - $9,035,819 - 30 races - $301,193.96/race

2013

CRC Fri Oct 11 - $1,130,032 - 8 races
GP Sat Oct 12 - $2,167,441 - 8 races
CRC Sat Oct 12 - $1,881,575 - 9 races
GP Sun Oct 13 - $1,898,563 - 8 races
CRC Sun Oct 13 - $986,411 - 8 races
CRC Total - $3,998,018 - 25 races - $159,920.72/race
GP Total - $4,066,004 - 16 races - $254,125.25/race

Total - $8,064,022 - 41 races - $196,683.46/race

2012

CRC Wed Oct 10 - $1,243,043 - 8 races
CRC Thu Oct 11 - $935,972 - 9 races
CRC Fri Oct 12 - $1,129,669 - 10 races
CRC Sat Oct 13 - $1,858,535 - 12 races
CRC Sun Oct 14 - $1,075,987 - 8 races
Total - $6,243,206 - 47 races - $132,834.17/race


     First off, I'm completely baffled that Calder was doing better handles in 2013 going to head to head with Gulfstream than they were alone in 2012. Saturday 13, 2012 and Saturday 12, 2013 were Florida Sires Stakes day at Calder, and 2013 completely crushed 2012. But I digress.

     Average daily handle at Gulfstream Park West is practically on par with Gulfstream 2013, and if we look at Friday/Saturday/Sunday handle (the only days there was racing in Florida in 2013) Gulfstream Park West is doing 15.7% more handle per race than Gulfstream was last year.

    One thing we can gather from these numbers is that venue is not as important as brand. Calder and Gulfstream West are the same thing, but bettors respond better to the Gulfstream brand than they did to Calder. The name "Gulfstream" brings to mind a classic, championship winter meet, while "Calder" is a name associated with lower level racing overshadowed by more popular summer meets like Saratoga and Del Mar. If Golden Gate was rebranded as "Santa Anita North," handle would probably go up. People like big name branding.

      People are betting on the Gulfstream Park West races, and they're betting more than they were on Florida racing at this time of year in the past. Racing needs people to bet more money, and in the midst of some disheartening meets elsewhere (which I will cover at a later date) Gulfstream Park West is encouraging. Further updates on the Gulfstream Park West numbers will be provided in the future.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Tuesday Ajax Downs Selections

We're down to the final two weeks and three cards of racing at Ajax Downs. Time flies when you're having fun! This week's Tuesday card consists of nine races headlined by an open allowance for Ontario Sired runners. Here are my program selections.

Race 1: 2-5-1
Welcome back to another great card of racing here at Ajax Downs! #2 Mr Eazy looks very tough in the opener. He exits a pair of good third place finishes with solid speed figures. Back in July he qualified to the Adequan Derby Challenge. It's his race to lose. #5 Chissled and Fiesty is a six year old mare who's the queen of finishing second; 12 runner up finishes in 33 starts. She ran a decent third last time, and prior to that she was second to Code 36 who has been very tough in the Speed Index ranks lately. #1 Theydontlikemyname has finished behind Mr Eazy in her last two starts. Most recently she ran a very even seventh, but she doesn't need to be much better to be third today. Be sure to play the Early Double!

Race 2: 6-1-3
Early Pick 3 wagering is offered here, and we have another one who looks like she should not lose. #6 Sugarspicenotsonice was in way too tough in her last two starts, a trial and the final for the Alex Picov Memorial Champioship, where she ran against the best Quarter Horses in the province. She's about 15 speed figure points the best here. #1 Lose Your Wranglers is the clear second fastest horse in this race according to the speed figures, about 15-20 points faster than everybody except Sugarspicenotsonice. His lone start of 2014 was a trailing effort, but he can improve second off the bench and the rest of the competition is not tough at all. #3 Make Me Caliente raced evenly for $3,000 claiming last time. He's a very average horse, but he hits the board in over half of his starts so he can round things out here.

Race 3: 3-1-4
#3 Ttt Kellys Regan exits a good second behind Runaway Cause, who has since won a NW3 Allowance while he was still eligible for NW2. This gelding has raced well at Louisiana Downs and Hialeah, and today he has found a field that certainly looks beatable. #1 Random Audit has been facing Ontario Sired company and has been racing very well, getting beat only a nose two back and a neck last out. This is a tougher assignment but I think he is capable of running a respectable race here. #4 Tresseis Royal Fame exits the same race as Ttt Kellys Regan, where he finished fourth. He has only raced twice, so some improvement can be expected as he gains more experience.

Race 4: 5-4-1
This race kicks off the $.20 Pick 4, and I think we have a single to start things off. #5 Arctic Fame is in terrific form right now, exiting a second behind classy Stakes level runner Feature My News and a third in the Ontario Sires Stakes Derby. His class and his speed figures make him seem much the best here. #4 Make Me a Miracle finished a close second in her trial for the Ontario Sires Stakes Derby, but trailed in the final. I have no clue why she ran so poorly in that race, but she generally races well so I'll give her a chance to rebound here. #1 Hurricane Alexandra exits a fourth place finish in a trial for the Ontario Sires Stakes Maturity, and was meant to run in the final but was a steward's scratch. Her last wins come at the Speed Index level and she doesn't seem as fast as the favourite, but I think she'll race well today.

Race 5: 4-6-7
#4 Our General Grant exits a win at this $3,000 claiming level. He has run several very good races this year, and I don't see a start in 2014 that I would consider poor. At 7-1 I like him to double up. #6 Extravagant Moves has had a great 2014, compiling a record of 6-2-3-0. She looked like a winner in most of her last race but was just beaten by Hi N Dry. She's in fantastic form and has to be considered the one to beat. #7 Kool N Kinda Special was making up ground late last time to be third behind Extravagant Moves, and before that was second behind Our General Grant. He definitely fits in at this level and has a shot to turn the tables on the top two.

Race 6: 4-2-6
#4 Eye Select debuted against straight Maiden company and ran a decent 5th. She now drops in for the $5,000 claiming tag and looks to improve second time out. #2 Caraways Zoomto Fame dropped down for the tag last time and raced well to be third. He's run 10 times and really hasn't been that close so it's tough to back him to win, but he does usually race well. #6 Everything Fast is a professional maiden, still looking for the first win after 20 starts. He's run several good races this year that should make him competitive, but will he ever win? Will start #21 be the day things work out for him? I'm going with no.

Race 7: 3-6-8
#3 Shesastreakinchick had not been racing very well at all, but turned things around on September the 16th when finished third behind Code 36 and Cold Hearted Shark. This is a softer spot, the big question is will she run as well as she did last time or go back off form? #6 Carbello is quite similar, usually not racing well but exiting a good effort, a second behind Cold Hearted Shark. Just like Shesastreakinchick, he needs to prove that he can run that well again. #8 Yessir E Bob won a NW2 $5,000 claimer two back, but came back to run an even sixth in Shesastreakinchick's last race. Numbers-wise he fits here, we'll see what he does today. Late Pick 3 wagering is available here.

Race 8: 5-2-6
This is our featured race of the day, an open Allowance for Ontario Sired horses. It also kicks off the Late Double. #5 Jesskissmytexas is probably the best Ontario Sired horse currently racing and he's looking to prove it today. He exits an easy win in the Ontario Sires Stakes Maturity, never being challenged. He's won five of his last six, six of 12 lifetime, and has the figures to back it up. Very tough to beat. #2 Reckless an Wild exits a hard fought win in the Ontario Sires Stakes Derby. That was easily the best effort of his career, but he'll need to duplicate that to beat Jesskissmytexas. Talented horse for sure, but the waters are getting a bit deeper. #6 Pegasos One Underpar has hit the board in six of seven starts this year, exiting a second in a 250 yard Allowance. He's an eight time winner, making him the winningest horse in this field.

Race 9: 7-6-2
Ontario bred Maidens wrap up today's card. #7 Jess Fly N High took a couple of starts to get going, but ran a respectable fourth behind horses like Arizona Bennie and Sassy N Ready in an Ontario Sires Stakes Futurity trial. The class drop should be beneficial. #6 Situation Critical debuted against Jess Fly N High and slightly outran him. She hasn't raced since that debut back on August 26, likely because there was no race for her. We'll see if she improves second time out. #2 Mountain Cartel debuted on September 1st and ran an okay fifth. Much like Situation Cartel he is well bred and I'm expecting some second time out improvement.

Good luck to everyone playing today! Just a reminder that next week is our final week of racing, and we will have two cards of racing. There will be racing on Thanksgiving Monday and on Tuesday the 14th.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Some Keeneland Opening Weekend Observations

With opening weekend at Keeneland past us, I figured I should share some observations I made.

     First, let's look at the running styles that have been effective on the new dirt, looking at how speed, stalkers and closers do in sprints and routes. Speed is anything on or within a length of the lead at the 1/4, stalkers are anything 1 1/4-5 lengths at the 1/4 and closers are anything further than 5 lengths back at the 1/4.

     Sprints
     Speed - 6/6 on Friday, 1/3 on Saturday, 2/2 on Sunday, 9/11 (82%)
     Stalkers - 0/6 on Friday, 2/3 on Saturday, 0/2 on Sunday, 2/11 (18%)
     Closers - 0/6 on Friday, 0/3 on Saturday, 0/2 on Sunday, 0/11

     Routes
     Speed  - 0/4 on Friday, 1/4 on Saturday, 1/5 on Sunday, 2/13 (15.5%)
     Stalkers - 2/4 on Friday, 3/4 on Saturday, 2/5 on Sunday, 7/13 (54%)
     Closers - 2/4 on Friday, 0/4 on Saturday, 2/5 on Sunday, 4/13 (30.5%)

     Shockingly enough, if you're not on or near the front in a sprint, you're pretty much screwed. This is standard dirt stuff. Route races have not been very kind to speed at this point, which is somewhat surprising considering the short stretch in 8.5 furlong races.

     Handle has not been particularly stellar. At all. Opening day's handle totaled $7,530,007, down 24.2% from 2013's $9,931,006. Saturday's handle was $13,853,088, a 1.5% increase from 2013's $13,665,851. Sunday'd ten race card did $8,040,179 (according to my calculation), a 7% increase from the nine race 2013 $7,494,090. However, average handle per race on Sunday was down 3.5%. Total handle for opening weekend was $29,426,013 compared to 2013's $31,090,947, down 5.4%, with average handle per race totaling $980,867, a 9.5% drop.

     Field size has also taken a hit. Friday's average field size was 8.3, down from 10.8 last year. Saturday's average field size was 8.8, down from 9.3. Sunday's average field size was 8, down from 10.1. Total average field size in 8.35, a 17% drop from 10.05 at this point last year.

    While watching the races, I theorized that having a work over the new dirt surface would be a big advantage in the dirt races, as this surface is quite different to any other dirt surface in the world. So I decided to take a look at how many dirt races were won by horses with a work over the track. On opening Friday, four of ten winners had a workout on the surface. On Saturday, one of seven dirt winners had a workout over the surface. One out of seven dirt winners on Sunday had a workout over the surface. That's a total of six winners in 24 races, 25%, not as high as I had expected.

     Peace and War was very impressive in the Alcibiades. I know that the pace was very fast and quite contested, but she was nowhere in the early stages and had to steady at the 3/16ths. I was surprised at her odds as well. Sure, Euros coming over and trying dirt is a bit concerning, but she was bred in Florida, not Europe. A lot of American bred horses who race in Europe do perfectly fine when they come over and run on dirt. They do tend to be bred for it.

     Wise Dan's Shadwell Mile was probably the most impressive Wise Dan race I can think of. Nothing went his way trip wise, and down the stretch I thought he was going to be off the board, but he really looked fantastic rallying. He truly is a special horse.

     Ria Antonia impressed me running second to Don't Tell Sophia in the Spinster. I feel like Ria has gotten a lot of undeserved flack. Minus the Preakness I don't think she's been as poorly managed as people make it out to be, and her last couple of races before the Spinster weren't as bad as they looked when you consider some of the not so good trips she's gotten. She's definitely not a great filly, but she has more ability than people give her credit for. She put away Close Hatches yesterday and still got second. The Don't Tell Sophia story is pretty neat too. She was purchased for $1,000, and is now an 11 time winner in 22 starts with a Grade I and a Grade II to her name and almost $1,000,000 in earnings. When you look at her running lines you see that she can close into painfully slow fractions pretty easily. This is a nice mare. I can't wait to see how she does in the Breeder's Cup.

     Was this a great opening weekend? Product wise, not really. Quality of racing wise, absolutely. The big Stakes races were terrific. Was it interesting? Depends on your viewpoint. For bettors, not as interesting as it should have been. For observers, fascinating, at least to me. I really enjoyed watching the numbers and the new surface to see how it would compare to the polytrack and other dirt surfaces. It will certainly be fun to see how things change as more races are run over the new track.

     Have a great day!

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Some Raceday Pictures From Ajax Downs

I am currently in a photography class in school, but I've been a bit lacking in the picture taking. Today I decided to take the handy dandy camera out to Ajax Downs and shoot some pictures of the races to a) use for class and b) share with everybody. Ajax really is a very fun track to spend a day at.


  
Storytime Blue (6) and leading rider Cory Spataro rallied to win the 4th race
This is Leo Can Get It, who is the unusual Grullo colour. A fun colt just to look at

Selective Memory (2) and Brittany Vanden Berg rolled to victory in the 5th race
This shot is from the Storytime Blue race. Races like this, where several horses are contesting for the win are what make Quarter Horse racing a thrill to me


Storytime Blue in the Winner's Circle
Fiesty Icon and Tony Phillips coming back after winning the 6th


Ssc Eye Get It (4) got  up in the last stride to win the 7th by a nose

Country Boy Deluxe (1) and Cory Spataro winning the $133,050 Alex Picov Memorial Championship, Canada's richest Quarter Horse race
Country Boy Deluxe in the Winner's Circle with owner/trainer Stan Webb

L. Doug McPherson, Four-Forty
Varsity Lace (6) and Mike Holmes won the finale in a thriller over Memories Times Six (inside)
Ajax Downs is a great little track. You're up close to the horses, the atmosphere is great, it really is a great place to spend a day. We're back with a nine race card on Tuesday, so I hope everyone will tune in and enjoy some great Quarter Horse action from Ajax Downs!



Friday, 3 October 2014

The Dirt On Keeneland's Opening Day

I am so clever.

     The 2014 October meet at Keeneland kicked off today with the brand new, state of the art dirt course replacing the polytrack we've known and had mixed feelings about since 2006. Keeneland is fantastic, dirt or poly, but opening day was not exactly a big success.

     Handle for today's 10 race card (by my calculation, as it was not provided on the results charts) was $7,531,398. That's a 24.2% decrease from 2013 opening day's $9,931,006. That's not the way you want to start a meet.

    Field size took a hit, in part due to races being taken off the turf. Average field size today was 8.3. Opening day 2013's average was 10.8. That's a 23.2% drop. Payoffs took a hit as well. The average $2 win return today was $13.08, compared to last year's $19.02. Five of the winners last year paid between $10 and $20, while only one of today's winners was in that range, so you can figure out which year's average was boosted by bombs.

   Now, is the surface change the direct reason for this? No. Losing two and a half horses per race is. That's a big decline in field size. Of course, losing the added variable of the synthetic surface won't drive handle, but I don't think it's fair to say that losing that variable caused an opening day drop of almost 25%. The big problem with going back to dirt is that off the turf races will be decimated with scratches just like they are everywhere else that races on dirt. People are going to play Keeneland no matter what. If the fields get smaller, however, the people will bet a lot less, and they showed that today.

    Tomorrow will be an interesting day to look at things, assuming the races stay on the turf. Before scratches, average field size is slightly higher than this day last year. Hopefully the card doesn't have many scratches, and we'll get a good idea of how much people will bet on these new Keeneland races.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Racing Has Information Problems

As bettors, the most important thing we can have is accurate information. If you are going to make a wager, you need to have good info to make intelligent decisions on how you will play a race. Racing has a duty to its customers to give them the best information possible.

     Racing isn't doing a particularly great job.

     Over the summer Santa Anita resurfaced their main track with a new surface composed mostly of sand. It is very different than the previous dirt surface. But, when you crack open a racing form...
Yard Line is the morning line favourite in Friday's 8th race. His record over the Santa Anita surface is 4-1-2-1 with a 101 Beyer. The catch is, none of his runs at Santa Anita came over the current surface. For all I know, he will dislike the new sandy surface and race poorly. If a bettor does not know about the surface change, he/she may make his/her decision to bet on Yard Line based on his terrific record over the surface, and it could work against him/her. I'm by no means trying to say Yard Line will lose, I'm just using this as an example. This horse does NOT have a record of 4-1-2-1 over the current Santa Anita surface as the past performances would have you believe. He has a record of 0-0-0-0 over the surface. The past performances do NOTHING to inform the bettor that this is a new surface. Racing is treating this as "dirt is dirt and who cares if it's not the same." Who cares is a problematic attitude.

     Keeneland also did a change in surface over the summer. They tore out their all-weather Polytrack surface and switched it out for a conventional dirt surface. I figured that since these are literally completely different surfaces, there was no way that this mistake could have been made. So I opened my Keeneland form, and lo-and-behold...
Brand new surface. No more all-weather, we're back to dirt. But apparently, Hunting Hill here has made three starts over this track and grabbed a runner up finish. This is just blatantly false. This isn't even giving the public bad information, this might as well be lying. No horse has made a start over the Keeneland surface, so why are we still giving this stat? If it weren't for the little "all-weather" symbol in the running lines, the form would not give any indicators that anything had changed at all. And it's not just the DRF that's giving this stat. Here's a shot from Brisnet.
Southern Honey is one for one over the Keeneland dirt apparently. Speedinthruthecity failed to hit the board in two tries over the Keeneland dirt. This is entirely accurate information that the public can rely on. Not.

     There is one past performance distributor that hasn't screwed up the Keeneland information, however. Equibase has it right.
Conquest Tsunami is the only runner in the Breeder's Futurity who raced over the Keeneland polytrack, but Equibase is telling you he hasn't made a start over the current Keeneland surface, because he hasn't. This is the factual information that racing should be distributing to bettors.

     The Daily Racing Form and Brisnet have no excuse for this. I don't know how nobody caught this and thought to say "maybe we shouldn't publish this the way it is." But this is racing. Things never seem to be done properly. It's unfortunate and endlessly frustrating, but like I said, this is racing.

    If you're a bettor, you'd best be careful trusting what you read. It's as simple as that. We have a problem giving you truthful information.