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The Top Horse Racing Track Bias in the United States

Nov. 30, 2010

http://saratogaspringshome.blogspot.com/

In the 21st century of horse racing there is no downplaying the importance of track bias. The condition of the horse racing track and the affect weather has on it can turn a favorite into a loser and a long shot into a potential winner.

If you go to Vegas and they say there is a fix on roulette and it rarely hits above 22 would you believe them? Well this actually happens at particular races in horse racing and this is called track bias.

In Pilmlico in Baltimore, MD where the first turn is less than a small throw away from the starting gate in 1 1/16 mile races. Horses with sprint speed and inside post positions have a clear cut winning edge. Conversely horses forced to break from the post positions 9-> 12 have to be far more superior and perfectly ridden to have a prayer. Horse tracks that are sealed usually promote early speed. That is just one example here are a summary of the best tracks in the US and their own Bias~ Enjoy!!

Aqueduct

Located in Ozone Park, New York this track was rebuilt in 1959 and has 1 1/8 mile dirt oval for the spring and fall meets with a smaller one mile dirt track for the winter.

The main dirt track seems to favor the inside speed at full 1 1/8 distance. Inside speeds also tend to do well at 5 and 5 1/2 furlongs. There is not true build in bias that has been apparent at 6 furlongs although early speed is always an advantage to 6 furlongs on NYRA tracks. In the 6 1/2 furlongs to one mile distances it appears the outer post positions are a plus with the starting gate is in the back stretch being a long way from the far turn. A Horse that has tactical speed is another plus at these distances.

On the one mile inner dirt track for the winter meets the inside rail has been historically important at all distances especially the 1 mile 70 yards with 2 turns. They have changed the track a little bit in 2008-2009 if the track is thawing out after a good freeze a surprising edge goes to horses using mid track lanes off the pace. Its important to take notes of a particular track to view upcoming changes in bias or grounds keeper shifting things up but these bias are up to date.

Belmont Park

Located in Belmont, New York this is the largest track in America. Belmont has 2 important race meets: the spring/summer meet, which has the famous Belmont Stakes and the Fall Championship meet.

In the Spring the main track tends to favor the early speed at distances up to seven furlongs, while the races that are run up to 1 1/8 tend to be won by stalkers and middle running stretch-runners. In one turn races stalkers who have the outer post positions tend to have an edge due to the nice sweeping turns. These big wide turns also tend to favor the large body horses who may not have the quickness of more compact runners but are capable of sustained runs at above average rate of speed.

In the Fall the rail becomes deeper and slower than the rest of the strip, which improves the changes of stalkers and closers even more. At the distance of 1 1/4 mile distances the outer post positions are forced to overcome and avoid problems with this wide trip. This is true for the Belmont at this distance regardless the time of year.

Belmont’s 2 turf courses have portable rails to protect the inside paths from being used to much. Most turf races are won by horses with solid late speed burst with this track front runners tend to improve their overall stats here.

Churchill Downs

Located in Louisville, KY with the famous Kentucky Derby being raced here yearly this track has some identifiable features as well.

The inside posts have an edge on this track in two turn races at 1 1/16 miles and at 7 furlongs along with one mile distances out of the backstretch are prime for deep closers. Churchill’s dirt racing surface is actually made differently than any other track in America. Most tracks have limestone and then dirt built on top of it Churchill has no such base. This track is mixed with a deep layer of soil, clay and organic materials packed down several feet below the surface.

When wet the main track actually becomes faster and in hours or a day after the rainstorm the surface could become the best racing surface available in horse racing. However when Churchill is dry it pays to keep track of the horses that do not like this unusual deep strip it will save you some cash in the long run.

Fair Grounds

Located in New Orleans, Louisiana this track was reopened in 2003 after being burned to the ground in 1993. With the new slots being added to the track the purses have raised at the fairgrounds giving New Orleans a good source of revenue.

With a long stretch that comes in to play at the Fair Grounds the inside posts do not have sufficient speed to take advantage of the short run to the first turn and affects routes along with sprints. However after a good rain the inside rail can be a big advantage due to unusual drainage patterns.

A good note on this track is the turf course~ It has deep roots and quite different from other Turf horse racing tracks. You want to continue to look at a horses form but the horses that like to race on this turf tend to replicate their performance when they returning to it.

Fairplex Park

Located in Pomona, CA this small 5 furlong track was open back in 1932. The tight turns nullify the logical advantage that inside post should have and has a opposite bias in the opposite directing in 3 turn races beyond a mile.

As a main rule the track is fair but the horses do not handle the sharp turns well and the jockey who has a special skill in the area plays a big factor. A recent jockey Martin Pedroza is a dominator at this park and has this very skill.

GulfStream Park

Located in Hallandale, FA this park was completely rebuilt during 2004-2006 with the track enlarged and a small seating capacity that is controversial. The Gulfsteream has a strong speed bias during the winter-springs meets. In route races horses in outer post positions have little chance to win. In 2006 and 2008 Big Brown and Barbaro overcame outer post positions and they went on to be great.

Watch for the cooler than usual weather this speed bias can be overcame. The widely discussed speed bias can play in your favor the other way as well. It pays to bet against the bias when a suicidal speed seems likely to occur. A sharp handicapping ability trumps everything else.

Laurel Park

Located in Laurel, Maryland~Opened in 1911 this track which has a long stretch run of 1344 feet is generally free of bias, although stretch runners and stalking type tend to do a little better here than most tracks. The only thing we have seen is that on this track horses that make above average “turn moves” or show a faster than average burst of speed through the middle portion in 6 and 7 furlongs races do frequently improve their next outing.

Louisiana Downs

Bossier City, Louisiana opened up in 1974 has a relatively fast one mile racing surface and a stretch run of 1010 feet that frequently produces a big inside speed bias. The tendency is even more prevalent in holiday, weekend or stakes days. Look for horses that can gain possession of the lead and on the rail for a big edge at this track. On the turf course the opposite is true as we see closers from the mid pack win more than their front running rivals.

Monmouth Park

Located in Oceanport New Jersey.. A Track with a one mile oval and a short 985 stretch run. Generally speaking this track favors front runners and early speed types on the inside rail at all distances during the summer. One big exception is when it rains the track can have a dead rail for a day or so especially after a good rain so be on the look out for the storms.

Philadelphia Park

In Bensalem, PA.. This track features a one mile main track with a 7 furlong backstretch the likes to favor stalk-n-go types. This track is a little different than most and does like the deep closers as well which is unique when speed is king on most tracks.

Pimlico

Located in Baltimore Maryland this track is the second oldest track in America. This track with its long history is blessed with some of the best trainers out there. The one mile oval with a stretch of 1162 feet has traditionally favored horses with good early speed who take control of the inside running lanes. That particular bias used to be widely know but the renovation helped quiet it some but it still comes into play at times so be on the look out.

Saratoga Race Course

In New York at Saratoga Springs opened back in 1864 this has a rich historical ambiance that can be felt in the grandstands. The quality of horses is awesome here during the 6 week Summer meet.

The 1 1/8 mile oval with a 7 furlong backstretch of 1144 is made up of dirt, clay and sandy loam with a limestone base. That composition makes it one of the fastest tracks in the country. The race course also has 2 turf tracks as well. Watch the inside post on 1 1/8 as they seem to have a good bias here. Early speed is usually good at sprint distances the outer post do really well at 6 to 7 furlongs especially when the track is drying out after a substantial rain.

Synthetic Tracks~ the new wave of Horse Racing

Keeneland

Here in Lexington, Kentucky this track has been around since 1936. Here are some key points to look for:

When lacking clear evidence of a pronounced bias, players should only slightly favor stalkers over front runners and deep closers. Horses that perform well on other synthetic surfaces tend to do very well here. We have also seen that horses that run well on dirt tracks in FLA, NY, and New Orleans bring to Keeneland good stamina and will hold as well as improve their dirt form here.

Watch this track for bias to show up because some will show out of nowhere and really stand out for awhile due to the maintenance of these synthetic surfaces. Watch for shifts to a preferred running style. One last tip is that horses bred to handle grass especially races beyond one mile on grass do very well on this track.

Turfway Park

In Florence Kentucky this track can produce different biases due to seasonal changes.

During the late summer/early fall meets the come before the three week fall meet at Keeneland this track does not have any major bias at all.
During the Winter session this track can go through radical shifts favoring speed horses to a track in which the horse that moves last wins so watch carefully. Some handicappers will get frustrated at the flip flops with bias but it can be some of the best long shots tracks around.

Woodbine

Rexdale, in Ontarion Canada this old track has been around since 1874 right by downtown Toronto. Some Key points to follow are:

The horses run from April to December and through the cold weather months you will not see much bias at all. Expect some periods of uneven days during the warmest Summer days. The maintenance can send a bias into a extreme condition so just watch the races and take notes when this happens. Another key note is that horses that transfer from this track to Gulfstream or Fair Grounds in New Orleans tend to hold their form very well.

Arlington Park

Located in Arlington Heights Illinois this track burned to the ground in 1985 and was rebuilt in 1989 into a beautiful track.

Arlington should expect mid pack closers along with stalkers to maintain a built in edge at all distances. Over the last decade the beautiful grass course has favored horses with tactical speed more than confirmed stretch runners that dominate grass racing on the majority turf courses.

Santa Anita Park

In Arcadia California a one mile oval with a small stretch of 900 feet has a surface that favors outside lane bias. The 2008 Breeders cup proved that this surface can be manipulated to present a strong closers track bias without an precondition caused by weather.

Pay close attention to any sudden shifts that will provide a deep closer with the advantage that is not found at most synthetic tracks.

Hollywood Park

In Inglewood CA there are a few key points to consider at this horse racing track. Through the prior seasons of dirt racing Hollywood has had a dead rail or a sticky inside post position issue especially in sprints. On the cushion track there was no bias on inside post.

Del Mar

In Del Mar California this seaside track was open in 1937. The better maintained track of the years to come should favor mid pack closers and deep closers through much of the meet at all distances.

Golden Gate Fields

In Albany CA will have more racing dates than previous years with Bay Meadows shutting down. There is not a big bias at this track but some things to note are when the track has played a noticeable bias the trend has been to favor stretch running horses and in some cases stretch runners in the middle of the pack. Take note of the leading Jockey there Russell Blaze as he approaches the race and how he rides he is a great indicator of bias. You can use this tip for any track because some of the top jockeys can tell the biases quickly.

Use these tips the next time you are handicapping a track and you will see your profits soar. Always be on the look out for new biases that appear and watch the race closely to see what the winning horses are doing. Good Luck and Happy Handicapping.

Posted by epicbehr at 9:37 AM

Geelong surface may lead to more engineered surfaces in Victoria

More synthetic tracks for Victoria?

http://www.justhorseracing.com.au/news/racing-industry/more-synthetic-tracks-for-victoria/

Following the success of the artificial surface at Geelong, several Victorian country race clubs have made submissions to have their courses ripped up and replaced with synthetic tracks.

Rob Hines, Racing Victoria’s chief executive, said there were “at least a half a dozen options” for new synthetic tracks across the state.

Hines continued stating that if a new track were to be installed it would need to be near the bulk of the horse population and also be a training centre.

Hines didn’t rule out the option of an inside synthetic track similar to the one at Geelong being built at either Flemington or Caulfield, but if one were to be installed in the country, the synthetic track would replace the course proper.

“Depending on where we might put this second track, there may be only five or 10 meetings scheduled on the synthetic a year and it might be home for 10 to 20 transferred meetings as required.

“There are at least half a dozen options where this could go but we want a full size synthetic track”.

A proposal for a new synthetic track would be submitted to the Racing Victoria board and infrastructure committee as early as next March.

After a review of the Geelong synthetic track was conducted, it found that the overall performance of the track was “very good” in terms of turnover, field sizes and feedback from the trainers and jockeys.

Betting turnover, which is central to the sport, was 20 per cent higher than on the corresponding turf meetings a year earlier.

“The track provided an even surface, consistency of form and really encouraged punting”, Racing Victoria’s chief strategy officer Paul Bittar said.

Written by Isaac Chaplin

16 Nov 2010

Keeneland Stands by Polytrack’s Success in Kentucky

Precarious Footing

As synthetic racetrack surfaces fail in California, Keeneland stands by PolyTrack’s success in Kentucky

http://www.bizlex.com/Articles-c-2010-11-10-95971.113117-Precarious-Footing.html

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Lexington, KY – Dirt has been making headlines lately. Santa Anita Racecourse, which replaced its dirt racetrack with a synthetic material after a state mandate in 2007, announced recently that after millions of dollars in renovation and lost racing days, it will be returning to a traditional dirt surface.

In the last several years, many major trainers have spoken out against synthetic surfaces of all kinds, which are supposed to reduce injuries and neutralize the effects of inclement weather. Synthetic racing surfaces have drawn criticism from trainers and racegoers alike; trainers have difficulty preparing horses to run on the surface, and handicappers complain that it is more difficult to predict the outcome of races over the surface.

Bob Baffert, Kentucky Derby-winning trainer and one of artificial surfaces’ top critics, was quoted in a recent ESPN article, saying he believes many owners and trainers with large stables have moved horses east strictly because of the synthetic mandate. Many trainers have publicly admitted to refusing to run at tracks that install an artificial surface, and a few include Keeneland in their blacklist. Keeneland installed a Polytrack surface in 2006.

Nick Nicholson, president of Keeneland, said that his choice of Polytrack over other artificial surfaces was based on its availability at the time, but Keeneland officials thought the material was best suited to Kentucky weather. In fact, he said, Keeneland so believed in Polytrack that it went into business with Martin Collins to help keep installation costs low and quality high.

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“It wasn’t something we ever intended to make money off of,” Nicholson said.

Nicholson said he believes that Keeneland’s Polytrack is different from the synthetics that failed in California. The surface, originally developed in England (where it is called an “all-weather surface”), was built to handle damp colds and rain. It is the main surface at Lingfield Racecourse and at Warren Hill, one of the training gallops in Newmarket.

Nicholson and Keeneland officials researched the surface for a year, with input from England’s Jockey Club, before installing it “as an experiment” on the training track. They found it remained consistent in all Kentucky’s seasons. After more study and engineering by experts in Lexington, the surface was added to the main track.

“By that time we put three years of thinking into it,” said Nicholson. “Now, counter that to what California did.”

The California Horse Racing Board mandated that racing surfaces be transitioned to polymer-based synthetics within 18 months in May 2006. Hollywood Park changed its surface in three months, and others followed suit, installing new surfaces as quickly as possible during breaks in the racing season. Some horsemen were resistant to the change, and others became critical when Santa Anita replaced its Cushion Track material with Pro-Ride, due to drainage issues, less than a year after the switch to synthetic.

The other difference, according to John Ward, Derby-winning trainer, is the composition of each surface. Polytrack, which has been installed in California at Del Mar in addition to Keeneland, and CushionTrack, which is used at Hollywood Park, are made of sand, recycled rubber and fiber, coated in wax. In contrast, Pro-Ride, the surface that will soon be removed from Santa Anita Park, is wax-free and is comprised of several sands coated in a binding agent and a cushioning agent. Pro-Ride is also installed on some Australian racetracks.

Ward pointed out that, because of California’s warm climate, more maintenance issues were encountered in that state than anticipated.

“Because synthetics contain wax in their makeup, the surfaces react to temperature changes just like a candle: You light it, it melts, and the wax is soft. It gets cold, and the wax becomes harder,” said Ward.

Both Ward and Nicholson questioned whether the hasty installation of the government-mandated track in California resulted in a less effective drainage system, which is critical to the maintenance of a consistent surface.

“If you were to make the pretense that all dirt tracks are the same, you’d be scoffed at … no one should expect that the all-weather tracks are the same,” Nicholson said.

From a horseman’s perspective, Ward said that training over synthetic surfaces is significantly different than training on dirt. In his experience, he reported that the surfaces neutralize the effects of rain and cold.

Ward and Nicholson also reported a “slingshot effect,” in which a horse training over synthetic surfaces, with their extra cushion, tends to have an excess of fitness when switching over to dirt. For this reason, both pointed out that horses preparing for Breeders’ Cup and other major races on dirt have had great success training at Keeneland.

“I think it’s a matter of whether or not a trainer wants to adjust,” said Ward. “I think it’s definitely a safer surface for human and horse. That’s not to say that dirt tracks can’t be safer.”

A 13-month study by the Jockey Club found a 40 percent drop in equine fatalities on synthetic surfaces as compared to dirt. It also ranked Keeneland first in the nation in fewest fatalities as well as career-ending injuries.

Nicholson was quick to emphasize that though the surface switch was “part of Keeneland’s commitment to safety,” there are plenty of safe and fair dirt surfaces in North America — notably Saratoga, which ranked No. 2 in the Jockey Club study.

“(This) does not mean that any racing jurisdiction not going to this doesn’t value safety … never once have I said that every track should do this,” said Nicholson. “We did what we felt was in the best interest of Kentucky and Keeneland.”

From his perspective, the negative press surrounding artificial surfaces can partially be attributed to frustrated gamblers venting in the media.

As for the surface being more difficult to handicap, “There’s logic behind that fact,” he said. Nicholson said the fields are harder to handicap because they are larger, which is a good thing for the racetrack. Keeneland provides a free online database of track conditions and detailed race information called Polycapping, which he hopes will help racegoers hone their handicapping skills.

“Our number one priority is safety, and we do not apologize for it, but we know gambling has to be part of the mix,” he said. “I think (Polycapping) is healthy. I love the openness of the data.”

Both Nicholson and Ward agree that the success of artificial surfaces is important for racing, both as a safety measure and an equalizer, and both are optimistic about their future.

“Our experience here has been nothing short of fantastic,” said Nicholson. “Safety is our number one priority; we’ll figure the rest out.”

Ward also said he sees synthetics as an opportunity for evolution within the sport.

“The surface you’re training over is only maybe five years old … people have been training over dirt for over 150 years and have been training over turf for an even longer period than that, so a lot of our traditional training methods have to be re-examined,” Ward said.

A Fair and Balanced Cup

Horses who made their final preps on dirt and synthetic surfaces fared equally well in the eight main-track Breeders’ Cup races this year, as opposed to the 0-for-43 collar that dirt horses took in the 2008 and 2009 editions over Pro-Ride at Santa Anita.

The chart below shows where each Cup starter made his final start before the Cup this year and last. Runners coming off dirt and synthetic races showed almost identical winning and in-the-money percentages in 2010, after a 2009 edition where dirt runners floundered badly:

[See full article and chart at: http://www.drf.com/blogs/fair-and-balanced-cup]

These results confirm what many handicappers and horsemen intuitively feel and have learned repeatedly in the last five years: It’s much easier for horses to transfer their form from synthetic to dirt surfaces than the other way around, much in the same way that grass races are frequently good preps for dirt races while a dirt race never seems to set up a grass horse for a peak performance on turf.

Especially with Santa Anita returning to dirt racing, Hollywood Park likely to close in the next few years, and no other American track even contemplating the installation of a synthetic surface, it appears that the main-track Breeders’ Cup races will continue to be run on dirt for the foreseeable future.  The results above suggest that is the fairest way to proceed.

Dwyre: Zenyatta both a tonic and a catalyst for her sport

LA Times’ Bill Dwyre re Zenyatta:

Her dash down the homestretch at Churchill Downs on Saturday, ending three inches short of the wonderful colt Blame, was both a tonic and a catalyst for her sport. So many more watched with so much more interest than would ever be imagined for a niche-audience event such as the Breeders’ Cup that the potential lasting residuals should not be underestimated.

Read the remainder of this article at: http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-dwyre-zenyatta-20101108,0,7052581.column?track=rss