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Homeracing

Kentucky Downs 2021 Meet Preview

Profile Picture: Joe Kristufek

September 4th, 2021

It’s that time of year again.

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, KY, but just miles from Nashville, TN, Kentucky Downs is beyond unique, and being dialed in to the track’s idiosyncrasies can be a huge advantage at the betting windows over the short, six-day “all turf” meet (Sept. 5, 6, 8, 9, 11 and 12). First post is 12:20 p.m. CT (1:20 p.m. EDT) each day.

America's only European-style course, the almost pear-shaped Kentucky Downs turf is 1 5/16ths miles in circumference.  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 of a mile sprint home. Kentucky Downs has a portable rail, which can certainly come in handy.

Over $15 million in purses will be offered over the six racing days. The racing schedule is highlighted by 16 stakes (six graded) and four “win and you’re in” races for the Claiming Crown.

The Sunday, Sept. 5 opening day card averages 13.2 horses per event, including also eligibles. There are two stakes on the program – namely the $500,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks, and the $750,000 Big Ass Fans Dueling Grounds Derby. 

The takeout rates are lower than the national average across the board, but multi-race players take note that the Pick Four (14%) and Pick Five (15%) takeout is extremely kind to the horseplayer. The Wagering Menu (bet, with minimum wager and takeout rate) is as follows: Exacta ($1, 18.25%), Trifecta ($0.50, 19%), Superfecta ($0.10, 19%); rolling Double ($1, 19%); rolling Pick 3 ($0.50, 19%); Pick 4 ($0.50, 14%); Pick 5 ($0.50, 15%) and Super Hi-5 ($0.50, 19%).

Here are some important handicapping angles to take advantage of:

  • Horses with early speed typically have an advantage in sprints (6 and 6 ½ furlongs). The run from the 3/4-pole to the turn is mostly downhill, which allows speed horses to gain momentum without having to expend too much energy. The stretch gradually slopes uphill, which in a short race can take some of the steam out of the closers.
  • Because the initial run on the backstretch is uphill over the undulating course, late runners typically have an advantage in routes (a mile or further). Speed horses have to work harder early on, and the long stretch often proves daunting.
  • In all races, the winning move is often made on the wide, sweeping turn for home.
  • When the course is super dry, inside speed dominates. The course plays much more fairly, and can even tilt towards outside and off the pace, when there is give in the ground. If there is a measurable rainfall, tilt your advance handicapping towards outside and off the pace. The opening day forecast call for a 60% chance of rain, but the remainder of the meet looks sunny and dry.
  • Mike Maker and Wesley Ward point to the Kentucky Downs meet and they are well represented on every card, while other prominent trainers don’t put nearly as much emphasis on it, or simply don’t perform up to their usual standards. Let’s go “Beyond the PPs” with some Brisnet stats:

Top Active Trainers by Kentucky Downs’ Win Percentage Last 10 Years

NameWin RatePercentage
1. Wayne Catalano
15/54
27.7%
2. Cristophe Clement
7/29
24.1%
3. Chris Block
6/28
21.4%
4. Wesley Ward
31/152
20.3%
5. Tom Proctor
10/50
20%
6. Eddie Kenneally
9/46
19.6%
7. Mike Maker
57/328
17.4%
8. Brad Cox
12/70
17.1%

Prominent Active Trainers Who Have Not Fared well at Kentucky Downs Last 10 Years

NameWin RatePercentage
1. Greg Foley
1/36
2.8%
2. Chris Hartman
1/32
3.1%
3. Dale Romans
3/88
3.4%
4. Vickie Oliver
5/88
5.7%
5. Mike Stidham
4/46
8.7%
6. Ken McPeek
7/76
9.2%
7. Steve Asmussen
14/131
10.7%
  • Although Brian Hernandez, Jr. is the leading rider in the history of Kentucky Downs with 52 wins from 302 mounts (17.2), in recent years Florent Geroux, Tyler Gaffalione and the Ortiz brothers have been front and center. Irad Ortiz, Jr. was 6 for 30 last year in what was his first meet riding regularly in Franklin. Joel Rosario is just 3 for 28 over the past two years at Kentucky Downs, but he appears to have a plethora of live mounts on the opening day card. With just 2 wins from 39 starts in 2020, Geroux did not enjoy his typical Kentucky Downs success. Let’s go “Beyond the PPs” with some Brisnet stats:

Top Active Jockeys by Kentucky Downs’ Win Percentage Last 10 Years

NameWin RatePercentage
1. Jose Ortiz
30/128
23.4%
2. Drayden Van Dyke
12/61
19.7%
3. Florent Geroux
44/235
19.7%
4. Tyler Gaffalione
25/145
17.2%
5. Julien Leparoux
40/236
16.9%
6. Brian Hernandez, Jr.
29/217
13.4%

Prominent Active Jockeys Who Have Not Fared well at Kentucky Downs Last 10 Years

NameWin RatePercentage
1. Declan Cannon
2/75
2.7%
2. Ricardo Santana, Jr.
5/93
5.4%
3. Flavien Prat
3/49
6.1%
4. Chris Landeros
7/114
6.1%
5. James Graham
16/246
6.5%
6. Miguel Mena
7/107
6.5%
7. Corey Lanerie
16/223
7.2%
8. Adam Beschizza
8/111
7.2%

If you swing for the fences, you have a chance to knock one out of the park, but there will also be quite a few swings and misses. If you take this approach, you don’t have to be right too often in order to have a big day at the windows. Last year’s average return for a $1 exacta at Kentucky Downs was $65.32, $75.99 for the $1 double, $269.20 for the 50-cent trifecta, $374.06 for the 50-cent Pick 3, $3,295 for the 50-cent Pick 4 and $23,076 for the 50-cent Pick 5.

That being said, the average win, place and show prices last year were $16.73, $7.60 and $5.02, so if you like a horse, bet that horse. There is no worse feeling as a horseplayer than liking an individual runner, watching them win, and losing money!

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