Knowing When to Single Key to Betting Keeneland

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Ed DeRosa

October 4th, 2016

Admittedly, this headline has a bit of dog bites man vibe since singling is a powerful tool in any multi-race player’s arsenal, but some tracks favor coverage while others favor needing a strong lean, and since 2014 when Ken Ramsey won everything during the final Polytrack meeting (spring) and the main track returned to dirt in the fall, Keeneland has fallen into the latter category.

But they’re still good.

The average win payout of $12.78 at the April meeting is a three-race parlay of $521.83, making the average Pick 3 payout a 67.5% premium. The four-race parlay is $3,334.49, a 62.9% overlay versus the average Pick 4 payout. Even the rolling doubles hold their own at 25.6% better than the two-race win parlay (also of note is that the average double is 15% more than the exacta. It’s just 3% more at Belmont and at the recently concluded Churchill meeting the exacta averaged more than the double).

A well-leveraged single can be the key to unlocking these multi-race overlays. Conversely, beating underlaid horses is just as important.

Using ALL-Ways software to investigate what types of horses have been winning at Keeneland since a return to dirt indicates the strength of standout horses in dirt sprints. In 145 non-maiden dirt sprints (all one turn races at Keeneland), the top-ranked horse by last-out Speed Rating of at least  5 points has won 23 of 54 races with a +4% ROI, and it’s 10-for-18 when the advantage is at least 9 points with a +25% ROI.

Prime Power is similarly strong with a 33-for-56 strike rate with the top-ranked horse has at least a four-point advantage, and the ROI in that situation is +33%. When you combine the two factors—the horse in question has at least a 5-point Speed Rating advantage and a 4-point Prime Power advantage, then it’s a 13-for-18 strike rate with a +56% ROI.

Turf requires a bit more discretion, but the true standouts do perform well. Those with a Speed Rating advantage of at least 7 points won five of ten starts routing (two turn races) on the turf with +18% ROI while an advantage of at least 8 points on Prime Power netted 11 winners from 26 starters with a +6% ROI.

Do any horses on Friday’s 10-race opening day card meet these parameters? Yes.

With a five-point Speed Rating edge and an 11-point Prime Power benefit, A.P. Indian stands tallest as the most likely winner on the card. The rail, once a negative on the Keeneland track, might not be no longer, as that post position went 6-for-25 going six furlongs at the spring meeting with a 1.68 impact value (greater than 1.00 indicates that angle wins more than the odds would indicate).

Two to watch who didn’t quite make our lofty conditions are Union Label in the 2nd race (+13 Speed, +1.9 Prime Power) and Singleton in the 10th race (+4 Speed, +4.5 Prime Power).

Lastly, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that trainer Mike Maker has not cooled down with the surface change. The conditioner won 11 of 32 races at the spring meeting, and only 5 of those winners were favored, and he’s winning at a 20% clip over the past three meetings. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Ken McPeek and Wayne Rice were both winless in 11 starts last meeting while neither James Graham (20 starts) nor Sophie Doyle (16 mounts) won a race as jockeys.