10/18/2006 12:00AM

Ground loss in races no longer matter of guesswork


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Keeneland has become the first American track to make public the tracking and recording of the precise footage a horse actually runs in a race. As of Wednesday, the track is regularly displaying the results of the Trakus technology that computes those numbers shortly after the running of each race.

Until Trakus, an independent company that also has introduced other new racing technologies at the Keeneland fall meet, there had been no methodology for accurately gauging the distance a horse traveled in a race. But by employing sensor chips carried in saddlecloths that are detected by antennas positioned around the racetrack, those distances are now available, and the process of developing that breakthrough technology has reached the point where Keeneland is now able to disseminate the information through its in-house television network and on its website, keeneland.com.

The ontrack displays show the number of feet a winner traveled, while the distances that also-rans completed are displayed as a differential versus the winner. For example, in the first race Wednesday, the winner, Pure Classy, took 5,682.6 feet to run the 1 1/16-mile race, while the runner-up, Trio, took 5,710.1, or an extra 27.5 feet in running the same race - so the distance for Trio was displayed as a "plus 27." Conversely, several other also-rans traveled a lesser distance than Pure Classy, and so those were displayed as a "minus."

On the website, the raw distance-traveled numbers are assigned to each runner, without differentials behind the winner.

Officials with Trakus and Keeneland have said the information could prove highly useful to handicappers who want to definitively know how much ground a horse saved or lost during the unfolding of a race.

"It's got to be a great thing, if only because it's another useful tool for horseplayers," said longtime Kentucky handicapper Mike Battaglia.

The distance-traveled numbers are retroactive to the Oct. 11 program on the Keeneland website. The information is available under a Trakus designation after clicking onto the "Race Day Information" category.

Raven Run a good betting race

A full and very well-matched field of 14 3-year-olds has been entered in the stakes highlight of this week at Keeneland, the $300,000 Raven Run on Saturday.

Major contenders in the Grade 2, seven-furlong Raven Run include Cherokee Jewel, Capote's Crown, Windy, and My Lucky Free, although the closing price on the actual favorite might well be in the 4-1 range.

From the rail out, this is the complete lineup: Lake Alice, Cherokee Jewel, Capote's Crown, Windy, Vestrey Lady, Leah's Secret, Sabatini, Starry Pie, My Lucky Free, Morner, Original Spin, Ex Caelis, Chandelle No. Five, and Jazzy Okie.

The Sunday feature will be the $150,000 Dowager Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/2 miles on the turf.

No breakdowns so far

As the 17-day Keeneland fall meet hit its midway point Wednesday, horsemen and officials were thankful that still no catastrophic breakdowns had occurred. Many attributed this higher standard of safety to the installation of the Polytrack surface being used for the first meet.

"That actually was kind of the point, to improve the safety element," said Keeneland racing secretary Ben Huffman. "Obviously we are delighted about how it's gone so far."

"A lot of guys think they did a great job with the track, including me," said Dale Romans, who, as usual, ranks among the track's most active trainers. "It's all positive."

According to Kentucky Horse Racing Authority statistics, fatal breakdowns had occurred at a rate of slightly more than three per meet since spring 2003.

Lava Man on the grounds

Candidates for the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup have been trickling into Keeneland and Churchill in recent weeks, with the most notable new arrival being Lava Man, who has joined his Doug O-Neill-trained stablemate, Great Hunter, at Keeneland.

Lava Man, one of the favorites for the BC Classic, is scheduled to work over the Keeneland Polytrack this coming weekend. Another major BC contender, Cacique (Turf), had his first work over Polytrack last weekend after arriving here from Belmont Park for trainer Bobby Frankel.

Can lightning strike twice?

Trainer Ron Moquett is hoping to accomplish at the Churchill fall meet what he got done at the spring meet - and that is, pull a major upset in the premier handicap race for older horses with Seek Gold.

Toward that end, Seek Gold will make his first start since early July when he runs a week from Saturday, closing day of the Keeneland fall meet, in the $150,000 Fayette Stakes. Moquett said the 1 1/8-mile Fayette will serve as a stepping-stone for the $500,000 Clark Handicap on Nov. 24 at Churchill.

Seek Gold was 91-1 when he captured the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap on June 17 at Churchill.

* Seventy-six races were run during the first eight days of this meet, and of those, 38 - or exactly half - had been won by this trio of leading jockeys: Rafael Bejarano (17), Julien Leparoux (13), and Garrett Gomez (8).