With the power of Excel/Access at my fingertips, and a wealth of Keeneland data to wade through, I thought I would look at first-time starters (specifically two-year-old FTS) and their performance at Keeneland since the conversion to Polytrack in the fall of 2006.
Since fall of 2006, there have been 236 races on the Polytrack for two-year-old horses, with a total of 2,580 runners to contest those races. 1,103 of those horses were first-time-starters (42.8%). Juvenile first-time-starters have a record of 1103-83-93-93 during that time frame, winning at a 35.2% clip.
A first-time-starter has gone off as the betting favorite 79 times in those 256 races, and won 38 of them (48.1%). The overall record for favorite first-time-starters is 79-38-11-7; if a FTS is the crowd choice, they seem to either win or miss the board entirely.
Something to think about with juvenile firsters that go off as the favorite on Poly: They represent 33.5% of all favorites, but only 14.8% of all winners (and only 4.3% of all Place horses and 2.5% of all Show horses). That's nothing earth-shattering (first-time-starters are volatile, unpredictable plays) but it re-enforces the notion that low odds on unknowns is a risky play. Sometimes the risk is rewarded, and sometimes it isn't.
Is there a time that a FTS is a slam dunk? Well, you could say that an "odds-on" FTS starter is almost a lock. There have been 13 juvenile first-time-starters to go off at odds of even money or less over the Polytrack since fall of 2006. Seven have won, three finished 2nd, one 3rd, one 4th, and one finished 6th (13-7-3-1).
Odds-on juvenile firsters represent 15.2% of all FTS favorites, and 18.4% of the winners (if my numbers are correct).
Looking at those 83 first-time-starter winners on the Polytrack with an eye on pedigree, here are the top 10 sires for those winners:
Top Ten Sires of Juvenile FTS winners on Polytrack at Keeneland:
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Top 10 Sire of Sires of FTS Juvenile winners at Keeneland on the Poly::
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And finally, the top 10 Dam Sires of FTS Juvenile winners at Keeneland on the Poly: