Last day of the Keeneland spring meet and perhaps that's a good thing given the disaster that was yesterday. I was doing pretty well the first half of the meet and even when I wasn't cashing tickets my ideas and thoughts on the races were in the ballpark. I had a bunch of horses run second but at least it felt like I was going in the right direction. Yesterday (and the last couple of days)...not so much.
It's one thing to lose races because your horse just can't hold on or doesn't get the right trip. It's another when they are just flat out terrible and don't even threaten to finish in the top three. I'll spare the gory details except to say that the early races yesterday saw every horse I like spit the bit and run up the track.
With my hopes of a winning meet firmly in the rear-view mirror, I'll look to just finish up on a positive note on Day 15 which features some really interesting numbers on Wesley Ward in baby races in my analysis of race 4 and 6.
Race 1: $20K Maiden Claiming, 5 ½ furlongs, 3 & up, Fillies & Mares
7-Sparkle of Light (5/2) got knocked around a little bit in his first try over the Keeneland surface but he showed good tactical speed and gamely held on for third place money. Ward's been hot this meet and this filly looks like she could be ready to finally graduate.
Race 2: $30K Maiden Claiming, 1 1/8 Miles, 3 & up
Speed didn't fare so well in yesterday's main track route races but it's really been a hit-and-miss proposition all meet long. This race is completely devoid of horses that like to be at the front which could mean that 1-Gray (3/1) is going to find himself all alone in the early stages. I don't really like a colt to wire this field but at the same time, the only other horse that I think has a shot to win has a trainer and a jockey that are ice cold at the spring meet (7-Oak Bar, 4/1). Oak Bar is also coming off a lay-off of over a year and Dutrow doesn't exactly kill with that angle either (11%).
2-Party King (7/2) is dropping in for a tag for the first time for a trainer that hits at 15% with that move over the last five years (2-for-13). Both of those wins, however, were with turf horses.
Race 4: Maiden Special Weight, 4 ½ furlongs, 2 yo, Fillies
I haven't previewed a baby race all spring because I normally avoid them due to the tendency for these events to be extremely chalky or, on the other hand, a complete coin flip. I'm going to preview this one just to highlight the some of the spectacular numbers of trainers Wesley Ward in these races.
Over the last five years in races for two year olds in Maiden Special Weight races, Ward is 31-for-91 (34%) with an unbelievable ROI of $2.34. Yeah, that's right - you would have made a profit if you bet $2 on every single Ward 2 year old, Maiden Special Weight first time starter in the last five years. Not a big profit...but a profit just the same. That number shocked me. Perhaps I should have been playing every Ward firster in baby races this meet and left it at that, huh?
You what the most amazing thing about those numbers? There's a set of numbers even better:
Take those same races these last five years and eliminate races for colts and just focus on the fillies. You know what we find? Ward is 22-for-48 (46%) with a ROI of $3.26. So he's even better in races for fillies with an much better ROI. Really incredible.
After all that, here's my play in the fourth race: the Ward fillies (6-Tribal Strike, 3/1, and 7-Speed Has Value, 5/2). Bet the Ward filly in every baby race for the next year. Bet the Ward filly in your sleep. Bet the Ward fillies until betting the Ward fillies stops producing a flat bet profit.
Race 6: Maiden Special Weight, 4 ½ furlongs, 2 yo, Fillies
This race is a little more complicated that the other since the Ward filly (1-No More Yogi's, 8/5) is not a first time starter but a second timer (she lost by ¾ of a length in her debut try last Thursday).
So how does Ward do in the situation when he's wheeling back one of the 54% of his baby fillies that did't win at first asking in a Maiden Special Weight race? Let's first get a little deeper into those numbers:
Ward has had twenty-six (26) baby fillies that haven't won at first asking in the last five years. Of those twenty-six, seventeen (17) have come back to try again as two year olds in Maiden Special Weight races and his fillies have won six of those races (35%) with a $2.27 ROI (again, a flat bet profit).
These Ward babies don't go off at great prices, but when you factor in how frequently he hits, all of a sudden 5/2, 2/1 and 8/5 isn't that bad.
Race 7: N1X Allowance, 1 3/16 Miles (Turf), 4 & up
Since it's the final day of the spring meet I'm going to go with a pure "gut feeling" play in some of these races, especially this turf race. The 6-Rainbow's Arc (4/1) seems like a play in this spot not so much because of his race record, class, or trainer. Instead, I'm inclined to take a chance on jockey Rosemary Homeister, a jock that is very good specifically with horses on the turf. Recently she's been down in Tampa hitting at a 20% clip during their meet but she's up at Keeneland today.
This gelding might not get the trip he wants given the expected pace but I'm going to take a chance on Homeister grabbing a win on the lawn.
Race 9: Grade 2 Elkhorn, 1 ½ Miles (Turf), 4 & up
I completely misjudged the pace in yesterday mile and a half stakes race on the turf, and it cost me when my pick was too close to the front early on. We've got a similar stakes race today, only this time it's feature colts and geldings.
This race might not have a hot pace but I gotta believe that it will at least be an honest one (as honest as the pace can be in a mile and a half race on the grass). If we can get some decent fractions up front, then I believe the 5-Expansion (4/1) should be right there with a chance for the win. His last race at Gulfstream looks ugly but this horse generally performs much better in his second start after an extended layoff and he performed well over the Keeneland turf course in his one try over it. Leparoux is in the irons and I can't think of a better way to close out the Keeneland spring meet than to bet a horse that Julien is riding on the grass.