The Factors That Factored: What Won In Week One At Keeneland

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Ed DeRosa

October 7th, 2014

We’re between races at Keeneland, so what better time than the dawn of week 2 to see what types of handicapping angles have performed well at the meeting so far?

There were 30 races on opening weekend with 24 on dirt and six on turf. Of those 24 on dirt, eight were on off tracks. There have been 11 dirt sprints (four on an off track), 13 dirt routes (four off), five turf routes, and a turf sprint.

The dirt is new, but the way it plays isn’t. That was my hypothesis, at least, going into the meeting, and I think the opening weekend numbers show that. Sadly, I did not put my theories into solid enough practice, and I enter week 2 in the red for the meeting.

Still, I think the decision to focus on horses with solid last-out Speed Ratings and Prime Power (good advice for any circuit and/or surface, really) was a good one.

Here are some handicapping nuggets based on information found in’s Ultimate Past Performances as distilled by ALL-WAYS software:

  • The top last-out Speed Rating won 11 of 30 races, had an impact value of 2.63, and an ROI of a respectable -6.5%;
  • The top Prime Power horse won nine of 30 races, had a 2.79 impact value, and an ROI of -7.5%;
  • The top-two-ranked Prime Power horses won 18 of 30 races with  an ROI of +13%;
  • The top-ranked horse on what ALL-Ways defines as recent Class had an impact value of 2.63 and an ROI of -9.5%, but expanding it to the top-two-ranked horses  makes the Impact Value 1.89 but the ROI +18.5%;
  • Of the 24 main track races (i.e., those on the new dirt surface), six winners had a work over the track, including Grade 1 winners Peace And War and Don’t Tell Sophia

So how do we use this information going forward? Even given positive ROI information, I have a hard time betting single handicapping factors by rote, though I’ll certainly make an action play if the price is right.

Still, if you’re getting a high percentage of wins AND a decent ROI, then as a multi-race player I feel as if I have to include any horse who fits one of the above bullet points on all spread tickets.

My spot plays were sharp throughout the weekend -- three-for-six with my Byk picks for a positive ROI, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that my two strongest leans -- Naval Command in the Darley Alcibiades and Marchman in the turf sprint stakes -- were both off the board.

Before we start handicapping week 2, a negative handicapping factor of note: Don’t come to Keeneland trying to win on past success. While last-out Speed and Current Class are formidable angles, Back Speed and Back Class are not. The former has a negative 44% ROI and the latter is a similarly bad -46%.

So… if you’re getting a good price on an in-form horse with a work over the track, then definitely take it!