2019 Kentucky Downs Handicapping Preview

Profile Picture: Noel Michaels

August 29th, 2019

The 2019 Kentucky Downs meet is ready to begin with five rich racing dates scheduled from August 31 to September 12. Expect big fields and big purses for all of the five days, because Kentucky Downs averages 11 starters per race and leads the nation with average daily purses of $2.3 million. Any meet, no matter how good it is, can always be made better when you are winning races and cashing bets. Here is a brief handicapping preview of who and what horseplayers should look out for at the short, but sweet, meet at Kentucky Downs. Kentucky Downs Jockeys and Trainers In the jockey colony, Jose Ortiz was dedicated to the Kentucky Downs meet last season and earned the riding title with 9 wins from 31 mounts (29%). Julien Leparoux, the winner of the Kentucky Downs riding title in 2014 and 2017, was second in the standings with 7 wins from 40 mounts for 18% after riding 6 winners in 2017 (4 of those 6 wins came on one day). Florent Geroux and Julien Leparoux shared the riding title in 2016, but Geroux was only 4-for-39 (10%) last season at Kentucky Downs. Joe Bravo (6-2-3-0) did great at the 2018 meet with only a handful of mounts. A jockey who has done well at Kentucky Downs in the past is James Graham, but Graham comes off a disaster season in 2018 when he went 1-for-32. Other jockeys who burned the most money in 2018 included Chris Landeros (1-for-24, 4%), Edgar Morales (0-for-27), Jack Gilligan (1-for-21, 5%), Joe Rocco (1-for-21, 5%), and Adam Beschizza, who was in the money 33% of the time but won only 2 of 33 mounts for 6%. Flaven Prat was in town for seven mostly high-profile mounts, but he tallied 0 wins and just 2 shows at the meet. The 2019 meet training title is likely to be dominated by Mike Maker, who is the Kentucky Downs all-time leading trainer and winner of four straight trainer titles. He’ll probably enter the most horses, too. Maker has won nine races, eight races, and eight races in the past three seasons at Kentucky Downs, including four stakes wins in 2017. One of the reasons Maker rules Kentucky Downs is that he trains for the Kentucky Downs all-time leading owners, Ken and Sarah Ramsey. The Ramseys have won seven Kentucky Downs owners titles in a row and nine overall. Other top trainers to watch at Kentucky Downs are likely to include Mark Casse (4-for-17, 24% in 2018), Wesley Ward (3-for-21, 14%), Eddie Kenneally (2-for-5, 40%), and Brad Cox (2-for-12, 17%). Richard Baltas came in with two starters and won with both in 2018. Trainers looking to rebound from tough Kentucky Downs seasons in 2018 include Ian Wilkes (1-for-21, 5%), Joe Sharp (1-for-13, 8%), and Victoria Oliver (0-for-10). Kentucky Downs Track Profile In terms of winning post positons, it should be noted that horses breaking from the rail Post #1 won a combined 0 one-turn races from 82 starters in 2017-18 in one-turn races up to 1 mile & 70 yards (not including 1 1/2 miles and 1 5/16 miles). So don’t bet the rail except in the longer races. Other than the rail in one-turn races, there really are no other post positon biases to note. Winners regularly come from all posts all the way out to post 12. When looking for the preferred running style at Kentucky Downs, the answer seems to have the most to do with the course condition – whether it is firm or less-than-firm turf. When the Kentucky Downs turf is firm, early speed and front-end horses tend to outperform stalkers and closers. In terms of post positions, horses breaking from the inside half of the field (posts 1-6) are preferred on firm turf at Kentucky Downs. Please note, however, that the Kentucky Downs course tends to totally change to the opposite trends in less-than-firm tur course conditions. When it rains and the course is good, yielding, or soft, it is the closers and late runners that do the best and have the advantage. The post position preference also switches on less-than-firm turf. When the turf is not firm, horses breaking from the posts in the outside half of the field (posts 7-12) win more often than inside horses. The inside part of the track dries out slower than the outside. Therefore, if there is one mantra you need to repeat to yourself when betting Kentucky Downs one-turn races up to and including 1 mile & 70 yards, it is to bet inside posts and front-end horses on firm turf, and favor the outside posts and/or stalkers and closers on less-than-firm turf. Other than that, just keep pounding away with Mike Maker/Ken and Sarah Ramsey/Kitten’s Joy horses. Also, since half of the total amount of races run at the meet are normally won by horses that last raced at Saratoga or Ellis Park, focus on horses coming from Saratoga or coming in off good efforts on the grass at Ellis. With those simple tips, you will be well on your way to having a successful turf-only wagering experience at Kentucky Downs. Best of luck! PHOTO: Kentucky Downs (c) Coady Photography/Kentucky Downs