01/09/2009 12:00AM

Turfway wipes slate, but bettors shouldn't

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Turfway Park's holiday race meet ran from Nov. 30 through Dec. 31. So when the horses crossed the finish line at 5:51 p.m. in the 11th race on closing day of that holiday meet, everyone who worked at Turfway had a decision to make. How would they choose to spend their free time until the beginning of the upcoming Turfway winter/spring meet?

Unfortunately, their options were limited. No weeklong cruises. No time to go to the beach, or to go skiing. The gap between the end of the holiday meet and the beginning of the winter/spring meet was only 19 hours and 20 minutes. The new meet began when the horses broke from the gate for the first race at 1:11 p.m. on Jan. 1.

And when the results of that race were declared official, all of the accumulated jockey and trainer statistics for the holiday meet disappeared. Why? The standard policy at Turfway is that when the holiday meet ends, the slate is wiped clean for all jockey and trainer standings, and other statistics.

What sense does this make? You have the same jockeys, trainers, and horses competing at the same track, and then suddenly one day a month of statistical data evaporates into thin air.

I'm not a fan of this type of record-keeping. But I've found a way to turn the situation to my advantage. A second, more recent set of jockey or trainer statistics can either confirm that a trend I have observed is still in force, or point out that it is no longer present.

Jockey Victor Lebron is a good example. He rode 10 winners from 43 mounts at Turfway during the holiday meet. That's a strong 23 percent winners, and he was overlooked by some bettors while producing an impressive $3.12 return on investment. Through Thursday, Lebron has since won with 12 of 50 mounts during the winter/spring meet, for a similar 24 percent wins. But now that he is attracting more attention at the top of the jockey standings, with a decisive five-win edge over his closest rival, his winners aren't paying as much as they did at the holiday meet. His ROI is a more common $1.78 at the current meet.

Leandro Goncalves finished seventh in the jockey standings with 11 winners from 78 rides at the holiday meet. His 14 percent wins, with a $2.25 ROI, has made him worth keeping an eye on at the new meet. He has been even more impressive while winning with 6 of the 19 horses he has ridden since Jan. 1. That's 31 percent, more than double his previous rate of success, with a remarkable $5.92 ROI. When you see Goncalves on a longshot at Turfway his horse deserves a second look, and if he appears to have any kind of a chance, watch out.

Pablo Tolentino kept a low profile in the jockey standings during the holiday meet with 4 wins from 41 mounts, just less than 10 percent. But they paid well enough to generate a large $3.56 ROI. That made him worth following at the current meet, where he has won with 2 of 5 mounts, with a $2.64 ROI.

Jockey Richard Monterrey won 8 of 53 rides, a good 15 percent, at the holiday meet. He had enough longshot winners to nearly double your money with a $3.92 ROI. He seems poised to score on another winning longshot soon. He has had five mounts so far at the new meet, and finished second twice.

And what about Tom Pompell, who was the leading rider at the holiday meet? His victory in the standings was more a result of riding a large number of horses than it was a result of having a high win percentage. He won with 20 of 168 of his mounts, for just a shade less than 12 percent wins. His ROI was a moderate $1.70. He has been aboard just 44 horses at this meet, with a lower win rate at 9 percent, and a modest $1.41 ROI.

Here's my suggestion to Turfway. When the holiday race meet ends, keep a set of jockey and trainer standings for the combined holiday and winter/spring meets. And also keep a set of standings for just the winter/spring meet. That way handicappers can compare the overall standings with the more recent numbers and come to their own conclusions.