By Jeremy Plonk @Horseplayernow
Racing This Week: Wednesday-Sunday, October 13-17
Hot Hands: Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. had the Midas Touch opening weekend with 5 victories, including 3 teamed with trainer Kenny McPeek. They won both the Breeders’ Futurity and Bourbon Stakes in tandem to kick-start their Fall Meet. Hernandez’s 5 wins, 28% win rate and $2.42 ROI for every $1 bet all led the jockey colony.
Ellis Park Surge: It may not have grabbed the opening weekend headlines, but the 5 wins opening weekend for horses exiting the Ellis Park meet were significant. They averaged more than 8-1 odds on the winners and literally came at every level – maiden, claiming, starter, allowance and the Grade 1 Alcibiades win by Juju’s Map. Ellis Park preppers had only 6 wins for the entire Fall Meet in 2020 and 2019 prior to that. The 15-year Fall Meet average is around 5 wins. This was significant movement and worth watching for the meet.
Kentucky Downs’ Green Team: Seven of the 11 turf races opening weekend were won by horses who last raced at Kentucky Downs. Three of the defeats came at the hooves of horses via Saratoga, but those were all in the stakes ranks. As the maiden and allowance races on grass continue over the next few weeks, the Kentucky Downs influence could continue to shine.
Maker Time: Trainer Mike Maker won 8 races here during Week 2 of the 2020 Fall Meet, and his 17 victories during this timeframe over the last 5 seasons easily is most of any other trainer. All 17 of those wins were 6-1 or less, so trust his runners to be well-spotted when expected to deliver.
How Much Longer Will Speed Hold?: The stranglehold early speed had on opening weekend races was noticeable on both dirt and turf. The average winner on dirt was a mere three-quarters of a length off the lead after the opening half-mile regardless of distance. The only closer to make up more than 3-1/2 lengths from that point was Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity winner Rattle N Roll from 6 lengths back. On turf, the speed factor was an identical average margin back of three-quarters of a length at all distances. Not a single turf race was won from farther than 4-1/4 lengths back after the opening half-mile (In Love, Grade 1 Keeneland Turf Mile). For comparison, Fall Meet averages since 2014 on dirt are -1-1/2 lengths and on turf a larger -3-1/4 lengths.