There is still a conventional wisdom that synthetic surfaces (e.g. the Polytrack in place at Turfway Park) “plays like turf”, but handicappers expecting off-the-pace types to make bold runs at the Florence, Kentucky, oval should also be counting on a pace collapse regardless of distance.
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Data mined from Brisnet.com’s ALLWAYS software indicates that the eventual winner of dirt sprints is on the lead 34% of the time by the 2nd call of such races, and 85% of all winners are on the lead or within a length of it at the stretch call. “E” type running styles as found in the Ultimate Past Performances also account for 34% winners sprinting at Turfway.
Dirt routes are a little more forgiving to closers than sprints but not much. Eventual winners are only on the lead at the 2nd call 24% of the time, but they are on or within a length of the lead in the stretch call that same 85% as dirt sprints. I.e., you want horses capable of making a move down the backstretch or the farm turn versus a one-run late closer type.
It is also worth noting that 93% of winners are within 4 lengths of the lead at second call in dirt sprints and 80% of such winners in dirt routes. With all other variables being equal (including price), I will always favor a forwardly placed-type at Turfway Park than a closer.
That said, we learned last year that horses who have raced recently and gotten a workout before their Turfway bow can do well off the pace. The caution here is that off the pace can be more effective midpack than a slingshot move from the back.
What type of data can be trusted at Turfway Park? The racing is competitive enough that Brisnet.com’s proprietary ratings such as Speed and Prime Power don’t fare well from a top rank standpoint. When handicapping Turfway, I’m more likely to look for non favorites who have raced recently and whose aforementioned figures are competitive with favorites (e.g. within a few Speed Rating and/or Prime Power points).
Turfway can have a reputation as a “chalk or bomb” track, but bettors have learned to correctly lean on standout horses. Top-ranked horses with 8-point gaps in Speed Rating or Prime Power win more than 50% of the time yet still produce a negative ROI in the -10% range. These type of horses are worth using with true separator horses in multi-race bets (especially if there is a carryover), but otherwise proceed with caution.
The one category where I’d be most likely to lean on an “obvious” single is maidens routing. The ROI skews toward positive on the most obvious horses (i.e. big Prime Power and/or Speed Rating gaps to the second-ranked contender), and the public sometimes tries to get more creative in maiden races.
Here are some thoughts on various sires you might see in Turfway pedigrees:
Kitten’s Joy: Is the leading sire by wins with 79 at Turfway since Polytrack became the surface in September 2005. The win percentage is a decent 15.04%, but the ROI is a wretched -37.3%. I.e., these horses get bet–in part because Ken Ramsey owns many of them but overall don’t bet Kitten’s Joy “just because”.
Distorted Humor: Robust 18.4% win percentage from 375 starters and a +9.94% ROI flat bet profit to boot. Easily the biggest “move up” sire among the very well known names.
Cactus Ridge: 20.6% win percentage and a +60.2% ROI make this the best Turfway sire going. If I were playing the claiming game, I would definitely have Cactus Ridge on my short list of sires I’d target.
Indian Charlie: Of the 89 sires with at least 200 starters at Turfway Park, the late Indian Charlie leads them all with an average Speed Rating of 75.6 (the aforementioned Distorted Humor ranks 2nd at 74.7). Indian Charlie also sports a 19.9% win percentage but a break even ROI, meaning his horses do get bet.
Gold Case: Another low key successful sire with an 18.7% win rate and a +7.4% ROI to be attractive to bettors.
Mr. Prospector-line sires: Quiet American, Cryptoclearance, and Victory Gallop all rank in the bottom 6 of sires by win percentage in the 8 range.
Tale of the Cat: Leading sire by maiden special weight winners with 21 from only 75 starters for a crazy good 28% strike rate in this category and a +74.5% ROI. Tale of the Cat also ranks number one by average Brisnet Speed Rating in this class of race at 72.12.
TURFWAY PARK AT A GLANCE
|Avg. Winning Odds: 5.20 – 1
|Favorite Win%: 35%, Favorite Itm%: 69%
|Super High Five