How to attack wagering at Kentucky Downs

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TwinSpires Staff

August 29th, 2018

by Joe Kristufek

Full fields of talented horses on grass and low takeout rates. When it comes to racing, wagering and, most importantly, profit potential, those are a few of my favorite things!

Hidden in Franklin, Kentucky, but just miles from Nashville, Kentucky Downs is beyond unique. Being dialed into the track's idiosyncrasies can be a huge advantage over the short, five-day meet (Saturday, September 1; Thursday, September 6; Saturday, September 8; Sunday, September 9; and Thursday, September 13).

America's only Euro style course, the circumference of the Kentucky Downs turf is 1 5/16 miles. There is a steep rise then downhill run on a right-handed dogleg around the six furlong mark, a sweeping turn into the stretch, and a seemingly endless quarter-mile sprint home. Kentucky Downs has a portable rail, which can certainly come in handy.

The official morning-line maker at Kentucky Downs the past few years, I also handicapped, and wagered, on their cards daily, and there are several tips I can offer.

  • Due in part to the configuration of the course and a slight downhill at the six furlong start that can work to the advantage of horses with early hoof, speed typically holds better in sprints than it does in routes.
  • When the course is super dry, inside speed dominates. The course plays much more fairly, and can even tilt toward outside and off the pace, when there is give in the ground. Rain is in the forecast the remainder of the week, including opening day Saturday. If there is a measurable rainfall, tilt your advance handicapping toward outside and off the pace.
  • As a morning-line maker who takes a lot of pride in his work, I kept track of the lines that I felt I "missed." Over three years, there were 24 times when a horse was bet down fairly significantly from my original odds. Ten of those horses won, four ran second and four others ran third. That's significant. Track announcer John Lies is reportedly taking over the morning-line duties for this meet and I am confident he will do an excellent job (it's not easy). The point I'm trying to make is, even more so than other tracks, watch the toteboard for clues. With the lucrative purses offered, trainers certainly point to the Kentucky Downs meet.
  • With 44 wins from 230 lifetime starts (19.1 percent), Brian Hernandez Jr. is the all-time leading jockey at Kentucky Downs. However, in recent years, Florent Geroux (33 for 115 = 28.7 percent) and last year's champion Julien Leparoux (25 for 140 = 17.9 percent) have enjoyed lots of success. Leparoux's return on investment in 2017 was $2.85.
  • On the opposite end of the spectrum, Corey Lanerie, who has dominated the Bluegrass State for the better part of a decade, has not done his best work at Kentucky Downs (18 for 225 = 8 percent).
  • In his first season at Kentucky Downs, Eclipse Award winner Jose Ortiz was four for 26, but with a meet under his belt, he could be even more dangerous this season.
  • The top two trainers in the history of Kentucky Downs are Mike Maker (42 for 209 = 20.1 percent) and Wesley Ward (25 for 109 = 22.9 percent), and they both point for the meet. Others to watch include Bill Mott (who was three for five when he employed Jose Lezcano in 2017), Kenny McPeek, Rusty Arnold and Wayne Catalano (15 for 47 = 31.9 percent).
  • Steve Asmussen is just eight for 70 (11.4 percent) lifetime at Kentucky Downs, but his crop of two-year-olds has never been deeper, so expect him to be very prominent in those races. He was two for four with his Kentucky Downs babies in 2017.
  • Kentucky Downs has not been kind to Dale Romans (10 for 141 = 7.1 percent).
  • The rates are lower than the national average across the board, but multi-race players take note that the the Pick Four and Pick Five takeout is a mere 14 percent (minimum wager 50 cents).
  • Some fans gravitate towards their favorite riders, so if you plot out live mounts, the Jockey Wager can be very playable. The small betting pool is limiting, so it doesn't make sense to bet too much.
  • Get your bet back on every stakes race up to $5 if the horse you bet to win runs second. For more information and Opt IN to the Kentucky Downs "All Stakes Bet Back" promotion at

    I'm looking very forward to providing Kentucky Downs' daily selections, so stay tuned, and let's cash some tickets!