- Keeneland opens on Friday, and for bettors such as the Form’s Steve Klein, the author of The Power of Early Speed, it’s the last shot at Keeneland's speed bias. It’s expected that Polytrack will be installed in time for the fall meet in October, and though Klein claims that the synthetic surface is often speed-favoring, it certainly can’t be like Keeneland (and certainly doesn't seem that way based on my limited observations). Even yours truly, who is as skeptical as anyone of the constant cries of “speed bias" one hears nearly every visit to every track, is hard-pressed to argue with the strategy at the beautiful Lexington track.
What’s surprising though, are these stats presented by Klein that indicate that you can still make money betting front-runners there, even though everyone claims to know what’s coming. (Note that he does not specify in this article what the sampling period for his stats are.)
The first-call leader wins 35 percent of [six furlong] races, with an excellent $4.01 ROI. The win rate drops to 26 percent with a $3.12 return at 6 1/2 furlongs. Longer sprints (the seven-furlong and about seven furlong distances were combined) are the least profitable, with 24 percent wins and a $2.38 ROI.David Hofman’s magnificent filly Balance (Thunder Gulch) will head the Grade 1 Ashland on Saturday at Keeneland, and she’ll be a heavy favorite. Hofmans had talked about training her up to the Oaks, but he told the Form: "She's tough to hold on the ground. She's only run twice this year, and we felt we really needed to run her again before the Kentucky Oaks." Balance has been installed as the solid 7-2 morning line choice in Pool 3 of the Oaks futures pool. The “all others” is 5-1; and Wild Fit, who has shown little inclination to win around two turns, is tabbed as the third choice at 8-1. Whatsmore, trainer Patrick Biancone will send Wild Fit into the Oaks off a nearly eight week layoff.
Horses with early speed are very profitable in 1 1/16-mile races. The early leader won 27 percent of those races, and bettors more than doubled their money at an ROI of $4.04. At 1 1/8 miles, the win rate was similar, at nearly 29 percent, but the ROI was lower though still strong at $3.24.
- If you thought that the stallion Fusaichi Pegasus has been a bit quiet this year, it’s because he has. Bandini was his first North American stakes winner of the year, though he has four in Australia. Whereas at various times last year, sons of his such as Bandini, Roman Ruler, Fusaichi Samurai (briefly), and Andromeda’s Hero were considered to be top Derby contenders, his second crop, three year-olds this year, hasn’t produced a single one as far as I can recall, unless you were ever hepped up on Superfly. In fact, the blurb in the Stallion Register says: 2nd crop has 18 juvenile winners & some exciting prospects for 2006. That’s not high praise in stud-speak. His 2006 fee of $125,000 is down from $150,000.
If you go to this page, you can watch what is an increasingly rare sight - a Derby winner coming back to win his return in the fall; in this case, the Jerome Handicap at Belmont. (Fusaichi Pegasus' next, and last race was the Breeders Cup Classic, in which he finished 6th at 6-5.) That’s El Corredor whose rally he held off to take the Jerome.
El Corredor (Mr. Greeley), who stands for $30,000, scored his third stakes winner of the year when Wanna Runner took the Sunland Derby. He dominated an overmatched field in that race, which isn’t really saying too much for the field. Wanna Runner is out of a mare by Mt. Magazine, an unraced Mr. Prospector colt; he’s inbred 4x5x3 to Mr. P, and 5x3 to the Canadian-bred sire Vice Regent. In fact, he’s a Canadian-bred himself; so when Baffert, with a smile described as “goofy” by the local El Paso Times, said afterwards that he had Derby fever, let’s hope he was really referring to the Queen’s Plate, the Canadian version, so that we don’t have to dial 1-800-NODERBY to vote him out. Of 191 horses nominated for the Queen's Plate, Wanna Runner is the second-favorite in the Winterbook odds at 6-1, trailing only Unification (4-1). [El Paso Times]
- And, I hope you don’t mind if I mention here that my beloved New York Rangers, who were about 500-1 in the futures book before the season, will compete for the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1997, as they clinched a playoff spot and widened their first place lead with a scintillating 3-2 shootout win over the Flyers at the Garden last night. Let’s Go Rangers!!!!