Updated on 09/15/2011 1:34PM

How to deal with Fair Grounds's golden rail


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Some handicapping trends disappear overnight. Others take months before changing.

And some - like the post position bias at Fair Grounds - never seem to go away. For the third consecutive year, the inside is the place to be in main-track sprints there.

This season horses breaking from post 1 in sprints have won 25 percent of their races. Those starting from posts 2 and 3 have also performed well, each having won at a 16 percent rate.

In contrast, sprinters starting from just two other posts - 7 and 11 - have recorded double-digit win percentages.

Are these numbers insignificant, mere statistical aberrations? Doubtful.

The trend of inside dominance has played out at Fair Grounds in past years over hundreds of races, and with the current meet two weeks old, a 56-race sample of rail starters in sprints provides a meaningful number of races from which to draw a conclusion.

Did you know, for example, that a $2 wager on every sprinter breaking from the rail this season would have yielded a profit of nearly $50? That is nearly a 45-percent profit.

No other post has shown a profit in sprints this meet, not even post 10 - which had three winners from 10 starters (all short-priced winners).

Will the inside continue to succeed at a 25-percent rate? Probably not.

As with a baseball player starting the season batting .400, hot streaks are rarely maintained over the course of an entire year.

Also, a large number of five- and six-horse fields this meet at Fair Grounds have boosted the win percentages of inside runners, simply because of less competition.

But using past seasons as a guideline, a 20-percent win clip for the fence is to be expected. Post 2 shouldn't be too far behind.

Unfortunately, the profits are also likely to diminish. As the public becomes aware of a trend, more money will pour in on horses breaking from the fence.

If these rail runners begin starting as underlays, value seekers might wish to try playing those starting from post 2. In recent seasons, these runners have generated a profit or come close to breaking even. They have benefited from the inside bias, but haven't been hammered at the betting windows like those breaking from post 1.

The difficulty when handicapping with post position trends is that it is difficult to know how much emphasis to place on the draw. Do you play every runner breaking from the inside? Or do you only play those that fit on class and other key factors? What if you love a horse in post 8? What do you do?

Those are tough questions to which there are no easy answers. Betting on every rail starter is simple, and to this point, successful. Picking and choosing can work at times, but there is a large element of frustration when a bias-aided runner wins at $20, yet wasn't deemed worthy enough from other handicapping angles.

One thing that doesn't seem appropriate is to not bet an attractive prospect merely because the horse has an outside draw. Penalize him. Just don't draw a line through him.

Even if horses starting from the rail continue to win 25 percent of the races, that still leaves three-quarters of the races to be won by other runners.

One post angle to strongly support is to play against rail horses coming off strong efforts, particularly winners. They capitalized on the bias, and will be overbet when they return. If these types move off the rail to the middle or outside portions of the track, they will lose their edge. Meanwhile, others will be taking advantage.

Avoid these "rail-off" horses. Many will be trying tougher company following victories, and without the fence to carry them, their chances of repeating will be greatly diminished.



1-56 -25

2-56 - 16

3- 56 - 16

4- 56 - 11

5- 56 - 2

6-52 -8

7-43 - 19

8-31 -0

9-21 -5

10-14 -7

11-10 -30

12-3 -0