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Horse Racing, Kentucky Derby at The Downey Profile®
 
 
FAVORITES AT KENTUCKY DOWNS

By Dick Downey
Originally posted Sept. 4, 2012
Last updated Sept. 15, 2017

 
In July, 2012, I was with a group talking about the upcoming Kentucky Downs meet, and the discussion turned to short-priced horses-- and how it seemed they had been winning a lot more in recent times. One of our group, a longshot bettor, rolled her eyes -- she knew from experience that it had to be true. Her husband wisely said, "Maybe as time has passed, horsemen and jockeys have finally figured out what it takes to win at Kentucky Downs."
 
As time has passed, I've also thought that maybe the BETTORS have also figured out what it takes to win at this unique track.
 
Statistics we've mined show the above discussion was pretty much on target. NOTE: This study utilizes post-time odds shown on the tote board. Occasionally, one horse will be favored slightly over another, but they show the same odds on the tote board. By way of example, one horse could be 5.20-1 and another horse could be 5.90-1, but they are both seen on the tote board by the betting public as 5-1. We believe that the practical approach is the most realistic one, and so, for this study, statistics were compiled from odds that the betting public saw on the tote board at post time.
 
In 2010, favorites won races at Kentucky Downs at a 50% rate, and in 2011, it was 47%. In 2012, it was 37%. In 2013, favorites won 42% of the time, and in 2014, they won at a 44% clip. However, the trend was broken in 2015 when favorites won at a 27% rate.
 
National averages: The literature says 33% of favorites win, that 55% of winners come from the top two favorites, that 70% of winners come from the top three favorites, and that 80% of winners come from the top 4 favorites.
 

2017 - 50 total races

On day 1 of the meet, three favorites won.

On day 2, only two favorites on the post-time tote board won. Only one of those winners was the actual numerical favorite. The other one was a 7-2 co-favorite that took a tiny bit less money than the other horse. For our purposes, that 7-2 winner is counted as a favorite because the betting public saw it as a favorite on the tote board.

On day 3, the track was back to a firm rating after being good the first two days, and the racing results were more formful. Five horses were shown as favorites on the tote board at post time. Although three of them were co-favorites that took just a tiny bit less win money than their counterparts, for our purposes, they are considered favorites because the betting public saw them that way on the tote board.

On Day 4, three favorites won and two third choices won, but no winners were the second or fourth choice, meaning that only 50 percent of all winners were among the four lowest odds horses at post time. That is a remarkably low percentage. The track was firm and playing in favor of early speed, which often results in formful results at Kentucky Downs. But not on this day 4.

On Day 5, four favorites won, bringing the total meet numbers in line with the national average for winning favorites. In a couple of cases, favorites we counted for our purposes were not actual favorites but showed as co-favorites on the board to the betting public. Only six winners were among the lowest four odds horses. The meet concluded with only 68% of winners fitting that category, compared with a national average of 80%.

Won by Favorite Won by One of Top 2 Favorites Won by One of Top 3 Favorites Won by One of Top 4 Favorites
17 - 34% 22 - 44% 29 - 58% 34 - 68%
 
 

2016 - 50 total races - average field size was 10.96

The percentage of winning favorites rose to 38%, including one horse on the final day that was one of three horses showing at 4-1 on the board. The final day of the meet was feast or famine for those who prefer higher probabilities. Three favorites or co-favorites won, and three winners paid $20 or more, one of them $46.20.

Won by Favorite Won by One of Top 2 Favorites Won by One of Top 3 Favorites Won by One of Top 4 Favorites
38% 60% 70% 72%
 
 
2015 -- 48 total races - average field size was 10.60
 
The percentage of races won by the post-time favorite declined precipitously this year. In fact, favorites won at the lowest rate of our eight-year study. In 2008, favorites won 28% of the races; in 2009, they won at a 33.3% clip; in 2010, the win rate was 50%; in 2011 it was 47%; in 2012, it was 37%; in 2013, it was 42%; and in 2014, it was 44%.
 
Overall results
 
Won by Favorite Won by One of Top 2 Favorites Won by One of Top 3 Favorites Won by One of Top 4 Favorites
27% 60% 73% 75%
 
Day 1 results -- 10 races
 
Won by Favorite Won by One of Top 2 Favorites Won by One of Top 3 Favorites Won by One of Top 4 Favorites
20% 50% 70%

80%

 
Day 2 results -- two races
 
The day was shortened to two races because the track wasn't safe after overnight rain. Both races were won by favorites.
 
Won by Favorite Won by One of Top 2 Favorites Won by One of Top 3 Favorites Won by One of Top 4 Favorites
100% 100% 100% 100%
 
Day 3 results -- 10 races
 
Won by Favorite Won by One of Top 2 Favorites Won by One of Top 3 Favorites Won by One of Top 4 Favorites
30% 70% 80% 80%
 
Day 4 results -- 13 races
 
Won by Favorite Won by One of Top 2 Favorites Won by One of Top 3 Favorites Won by One of Top 4 Favorites
23% 62% 77% 77%
 
 
Day 5 results -- 13 races
 
Won by Favorite Won by One of Top 2 Favorites Won by One of Top 3 Favorites Won by One of Top 4 Favorites
23% 54% 62% 62%
 
___________________________________________________________________________
 
 
 
Data from 2008 through 2014
 
2008: Average field size was 9.09. This year was more like the Kentucky Downs we've known in the past -- sometimes a tough track to handicap.
 
Won by Favorite Won by One of Top 2 Favorites Won by One of Top 3 Favorites Won by One of Top 4 Favorites
28% 52% 67% 78%
 
 
2009: Average field size was 9.50. In 2009, results of favorites running at the track were pretty much in line with the national averages.
 
Won by Favorite Won by One of Top 2 Favorites Won by One of Top 3 Favorites Won by One of Top 4 Favorites
33.3% 37.5% 67% 79%
 
 
2010: Average field size was 9.26. In 2010, an amazing 50% of winners were favorites. Once you got past the two most-bet horses, longer-odds horses were only slightly more likely to win than the national average.
 
If you had bet $2.00 to win on every favorite, your investment would have been $62.00*, and your return would have been $86.80 -- an ROI of $2.80, or, put another way, a 40% profit.
 
*There were 30 races in 2010. One race had two favorites virtually tied on the tote board.
 
Won by Favorite Won by One of Top 2 Favorites Won by One of Top 3 Favorites Won by One of Top 4 Favorites
50% 67% 67% 73%
 
 
2011: Average field size was 8.76. In 2011, 47% of favorites won, and, amazingly, you didn't have to go beyond the top two favorites to get 77% of the winners and the top three favorites to get 87% of the winners. This well surpasses the national averages in each case. The literature says that over a given period of time at all tracks, about 55% of winners come from the top two favorites, about 70% of winners come from the top three favorites, and about 80% of winners come from the top 4 favorites.
 
In 2011, if you'd bet $2.00 to win on every favorite, your investment would have been $60.00, and your return would have been $66.80 -- an ROI of $2.22, or, put another way, an 11% profit.
 
Won by Favorite Won by One of Top 2 Favorites Won by One of Top 3 Favorites Won by One of Top 4 Favorites
47% 77% 87% 87%
 
Before the 2012 meet began, we noted that the addition of Instant Racing at Kentucky Downs in late 2011 spurred a rise in 2012 purses -- more than double the purse levels of 2010 and 2011. We wrote that, in theory, this should attract higher quality horses to Kentucky Downs; that good quality stock could make the outcome of races even more predictable; but that lucrative purses should increase field sizes; and that this could make outcomes more difficult to predict.
 
 
2012: Average field size was 9.56, the highest of our study so far. In 2012, 37% of favorites won, a decline from 2010 and 2011, but still above the national average -- and above the rate of winning favorites in 2008 and 2009. The top two favorites produced only 56% of the winners, a steep decline from the previous two years. The top three favorites got 63% of the winners, less than the national average, and 81% of winners came from the top four favorites, in line with the national average.
 
Won by Favorite Won by One of Top 2 Favorites Won by One of Top 3 Favorites Won by One of Top 4 Favorites
37% 56% 63% 81%

COMMENT: An influx of more starters per race in 2012, fueled by higher purses, may have contributed to the decline in the percentage of low-odds horses winning races compared to the previous two years. Further, heavy rains hit the track on multiple occasions just before and during the meet in 2012, which could have impacted form. BUT NOTE: Still, compared to 2008 and 2009, a higher percentage of favored horses won races at Kentucky Downs in 2012.
 
 
2013: Average field size was 9.96, the highest of our study so far. In 2013, more quality starters were attracted to the meet in response to substantial purses. From a total of 50 races, 42% of favorites won, an increase from 2012 and nine points above the national average. The top two favorites produced 58% of the winners, a little above average. The top three favorites got 74% of the winners, four points greater than the national average, and 82% of winners came from the top four favorites, just above the national average.
 
Won by Favorite Won by One of Top 2 Favorites Won by One of Top 3 Favorites Won by One of Top 4 Favorites
42% 58% 74% 82%
 
 
2014: Average field size was 10.02, the highest of our study so far. In 2014, more quality starters were attracted to the meet in response to substantial purse hikes. Over $5 million total was offered over a period of five days. From a total of 50 races, 44% of favorites won, a slight increase from 2013 and 11 points above the national average. Just like 2013, the top two favorites produced 58% of the winners, a little above average. The top three favorites got 82% of the winners, 12 points greater than the national average, and 86% of winners came from the top four favorites, six points above the national average.
 
Won by Favorite Won by One of Top 2 Favorites Won by One of Top 3 Favorites Won by One of Top 4 Favorites
44% 58% 82% 86%
 
 
 
 

 

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