Updated on 09/17/2011 9:11PM

Bias continues at Keeneland

Bill Straus
More Smoke was one of three winners at Keeneland on April 10 who led at first call.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Is there a speed bias at the current Keeneland meet? It didn't take long to get an answer. The first four races on opening day were won by the first-call leader. Some observers discounted them by pointing out that the first three winners were chalky at $4.40, $3, and $5.40, but the fourth winner silenced them when she paid a more impressive $20.20.

The early leaders were blanked through the last three races, when two horses won from off the pace in third and fourth and one closer prevailed from eighth at the first call in a 10-horse field. Even so, four winners from seven races on the dirt equals a flashy 57 percent success rate, so fans of early speed were happy.

It was a different story Saturday, April 9, when the early leaders gave way in all seven of the main-track races. But horses with tactical speed picked up the slack that day, with six of the seven winners located in second, third, or fourth at the first call.

Front-runners rebounded April 10, winning both ends of the early double at $34.40 and $6.60. The double returned $137.60. More Smoke was the other winning first-call leader when he coasted on an uncontested lead, then drew off to win the six-furlong Lafayette by 14 lengths as the 3-1 second betting choice in that four-horse field.

The main track was muddy all day Wednesday, April 13, and a familiar pattern reappeared. The results were very similar to those we saw on the fast track on opening day. Early speed was best on the dirt during the first half of the card, with the first-call leader winning each of the first four races. Off-the-pace runners prevailed through the second half. The last three dirt races were won by horses who bid from eighth, third, and second.

There was a new wrinkle to the track bias on April 14. It didn't exist. The track played fair. It was labeled good during the first three races, but the fractions of those races were quick enough to suggest that it was closer to being fast. Three of the races on the dirt were won by horses who were up close early, in first, second, and third at the first call. The other four races were won by closers from the rear half of the pack. Remember that since an unbiased track is not the norm at Keeneland, or at most other tracks, the early leaders who tired on that day's card are likely to run better races next time out.

Overall, 12 of the 35 races run at Keeneland through Thursday were won by the first-call leader, a strong 34 percent.

The turf course at Keeneland usually favors horses who are fourth or farther back at the first call. That is the way it played on opening day when both of the turf routes were won from fourth.

The winners of the three turf routes on April 9 came from fourth, fifth, and last of seven. Closers won both of the turf routes on April 10, when they rallied from sixth. Following two dark days, and with the course rated good, horses with tactical speed fared better on the grass. The winners were in contention early in second and fourth in two turf routes on April 13. The results were mixed on April 14 with one winner up close in second at the first call, with the other coming from mid-pack in sixth.