04/02/2015 3:11PM

Bet This, Not That: Keeneland trainer angles


For racing fans, few things mark the start of spring more than the Keeneland meet, a tradition that stretches back almost 80 years. This three-week meet lures many of the best horses in North America and most of the top trainers competing for lucrative purses, led by 15 graded stakes races. Prior to the fall meet last year, Keeneland replaced its Polytrack main surface with a new dirt track, meaning that that meet marked the first races on dirt at Keeneland since the spring 2006 meet.

Since DRF Formulator gives you full access to all of a trainer’s runners over the past five years, the main-track races at Keeneland in that database are mostly synthetic races. Still, we can use Formulator to focus on the class and type of horses whom a trainer has sent to Keeneland in that time, and which ones have been more successful than others. Let’s use Formulator to look at a few trainers who have been players at Keeneland over the past five years and see which trends have emerged. Which are the best betting opportunities and which are best to avoid? Below are a few of our favorites, and at the bottom of this article, you’ll find a code to try Formulator to find your own betting opportunities.

Bet This: Todd Pletcher at odds of 5-1 and up with John Velazquez or Javier Castellano aboard. Over the past five years, no trainer has a higher winning percentage at Keeneland (minimum 100 starts) than Pletcher’s 27.4 percent strike rate (197-54-28-18 record), and only Al Stall and Wesley Ward have higher $2 returns on investment than Pletcher’s $2.44 on all runners there in that time. When Pletcher’s horses go off as the favorite, his win rate jumps to a remarkable 44.3 percent (70-31-6-7), and the ROI for those runners is still a healthy $2.22. Those numbers might make you think that betting Pletcher longshots at Keeneland is not the way to go, and you’d be partly right, but when you can get a price on Pletcher at Keeneland with Castellano or Johnny V. aboard, bet. He’s 20-6-1-0 for a $6.41 ROI there over the last five years when they ride horses whose final odds are 5-1 or higher (and 5 for 11, $9.69 ROI at the spring meet), and he’s 54-4-4-10 with all other jocks.

Not That: Mike Maker in turf races. No trainer has had more starters or winners at Keeneland over the past five years than Mike Maker (497-91-79-56, 18.3 percent wins, 45.5 percent in the money, $1.70 ROI), and Maker has a reputation for being strong with turf runners. At Keeneland, though, his turf runners have won only 11.2 percent of the time and returned just $1.15 for each $2 win bet. That amounts to a record of 89-10-13-10 over the past five years on the Keeneland turf, and 37-5-5-6, $1.35 ROI with those runners at the spring meet. His 2013 spring meet was an outlier, when he went 13-4-3-0 with turf runners, so that means his cumulative record in those other meets with turf starters was 24-1-2-6.

Bet This: Larry Jones on dirt. Arguably no trainer is happier to see the return of a dirt main track to Keeneland than Larry Jones. Over the past five years, he has won 22 percent of all races he’s entered and hit the board 53 percent of the time (212 for 946, $1.74 ROI). For such a strong trainer, his lack of success on the Keeneland Polytrack is notable. In the past five years on that surface, Jones managed only a 38-1-3-4 record, for a $0.47 ROI. Last fall, in the first meet since Keeneland replaced the Polytrack, he notched a 14-3-2-3 record in dirt races. Though the ROI was only $1.10 in those races, it seems a sign that Jones is embracing the new track and likely will send some live dirt horses to Keeneland for this meet.

Not That: Ian Wilkes in maiden special weights. Ian Wilkes calls Kentucky home, so his lack of success at Keeneland over the past five years (188-10-16-26, $0.92 ROI) is a bit eye-opening. In Keeneland maiden special weight races, it’s even worse, as he’s 73-2-7-9 for a $0.49 ROI over the past five years and 44-0-3-5 over the past three. Oh, and at the spring meet for the past two years, his combined record with all runners is 25-0-5-2.

Bet This: Al Stall with first-time starters. No trainer with at least 100 runners at Keeneland over the past five years has a higher ROI than Al Stall’s $2.93. (He’s 116-25-21-15 with all runners there in that time.) When he debuts horses at Keeneland, he’s been phenomenal, racking up a record of 15-5-1-4 for a $4.09 ROI. Plus, those runners debuting at the spring meet over the past five years went 5-3-0-1 for a $6.84 ROI.

Not That: Mark Casse in turf races. Mark Casse compiled a record of 140-28-17-14, $2.00 ROI, at Keeneland over the past five years, but the bulk of that success came on the Polytrack. In turf races there, he’s only 41-3-5-3 for just a $0.82 ROI over the past five years.

Bet This: Ken McPeek with last-out maiden winners in routes, fewer than 45 days since win. Only Mike Maker has had more starters at Keeneland over the past five years than Ken McPeek, who has compiled a record of 444-77-78-55, $1.94 ROI, there in that time. McPeek does especially well with horses coming off a maiden victory, as long as it’s been fewer than 45 days since that last start. With those runners, he’s 18-5-2-5 for a $3.49 ROI at Keeneland in the past five years, and when those horses are not entered for a tag, he’s even better: 12-4-1-2.

Bet This: Dale Romans in routes with 31 to 44 days since previous start. At Keeneland especially, count the days between starts for Dale Romans’s horses. With all runners there, he’s been average at best over the past five years, going 198-20-22-24 for a $1.69 ROI. His numbers in routes races are better, and there appears to be a sweet spot for those runners in terms of how many days they’ve had since their prior start. If he brings them back in 30 days or fewer, it’s a modest 75-9-10-12 record, with a $1.83 ROI that’s inflated by Moonwalk, who paid $74 in winning the 2012 Jessamine Stakes. The “just right” time seems to be between 31 and 44 days, where he’s won 24.3 percent and has returned a gaudy $4.32 ROI over the past five years at Keeneland (37-9-6-5 record). If the horse is coming off a layoff of 45 days or more, though, beware.

Not That: Romans following a layoff of 45 days or more. Over the past five years, Dale Romans’s horses running at Keeneland following a layoff of 45 days or more have compiled a record of 62-2-3-6 and returned an ROI of just $0.60. In that time, he has not had a runner win a race at the spring meet following a layoff of that length, which equates to a record of 22-0-1-5 with those runners.

These are just a few examples of great bets to target as well as ones to avoid. Every day, at every track, you will find many examples of these kinds of great (or awful) opportunities. DRF Formulator gives you the keys to find these angles, and it could very well lead you to a winner who is overlooked by much of the betting public. Check out the different Formulator plans available, priced for every budget. Better yet, try it for yourself; get two Formulator cards for a penny by using code BETTHIS at checkout.