The #1 Reason to Play the 2015 Kentucky Downs Meet (plus 5 more in case you need more convincing)

Saturday September 5th marks the opening of the five day 2015 Kentucky Downs meet which will provide 50 of the best betting races of the year.

This year marks the first time the track reached the top spot in the HANA Track Ratings and for good reason.

Kentucky Downs is the most horseplayer friendly racetrack in North America.

While other tracks care about corporate profits Kentucky Downs thinks about you first because they know that without you they would not be in business.

For some that might reason enough to dive into the past performances and prepare a wagering strategy but if it’s not here are five more reasons you won’t want to miss the 2015 Kentucky Downs meet.

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Handicapping 2.0: The Next Generation of Handicapping Horse Races

Evolve or be left behind applies to many situations in life and handicapping horse races is no different.

It is becoming increasingly more difficult to maintain an edge over the parimutuel competition, which means turning a profit is not getting any easier.

For that reason we, as horseplayers, must always be tweaking our handicapping process looking for any edge we can find.

Enter what I call “Handicapping 2.0.”

Handicapping 2.0 incorporates advanced handicapping techniques and handicapping tools with fundamental handicapping (what I refer to as the Pillars of Handicapping).

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2015 Belmont Stakes Picks and Pondering’s

American Pharoah is twelve furlongs away from ending the longest drought between Triple Crown winners.

He is a deserving favorite but he is not a standout like some of the recent horses that were in the same position that have come up short in the Belmont Stakes.

I will get to my thoughts on the Belmont Stakes shortly but first I want to take a brief look at the different wagering options on the Belmont Stakes card as well as the supporting races.

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Will American Pharoah Capture the Crown?

In 1978 Affirmed swept America’s Triple Crown and what once looked like an impossible task was becoming routine.

The year before Seattle Slew accomplished the same feat and only four years earlier Secretariat ended the longest drought between Triple Crown winners.

Three times in six years the most difficult challenge in sports had been conquered.

As the decade came to an end it looked like a lock that the Triple Crown would be won for a fourth time as Spectacular Bid swept the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and headed to Belmont as an odds on favorite.

He would become the first of thirteen horses to fall short in a bid for racing immortality after Affirmed last earned that honor.

On June 6th American Pharoah will enter the starting gate of the Belmont Stakes as an odds on favorite to end the now longest drought between Triple Crown winners.

Can he win it?

He surely has the talent to do so but so did most of the baker’s dozen that have failed before him.

Let’s take a look at those thirteen and maybe you’ll see exactly why winning the Triple Crown is truly the hardest thing to do in American sports.

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2015 Kentucky Derby: Big Figs, Big Price?

Kentucky Oaks day proved to be a day of frustration for me.

The day started off great as Molly Morgan and Protonico won the first two legs of the Pick 5 as “A’s” and the latter the first leg of the Pick 4 as an “A.”

In the Turf Sprint Power Alert changed tactics and won gate to wire as a “B” in both my Pick 5 and Pick 4 plays.

So far so good as I was alive to my standout single in the penultimate race.

The 4/1 morning line on Enchanting Lady was never going to happen and she was sent off as the favorite at 5/2.

She projected to be very close to the lead early but she never ran a step at any point and crossed the line in 9th beaten 14 lengths.

The Pick 5 and Pick 4 were both done with that result but the Oaks could erase the sting if it played out like I expected.

My top choice Shook Up opened up at 27/1 and held there until the gates opened closing at 26/1.

I bet her to win, in an exacta with favorite Stellar Wind and keyed both on top in a trifecta.

I also bet a few Oaks/Derby doubles and the Oaks/Woodford Reserve/Derby Pick 3.

Shook Up sat a perfect trip behind dueling leaders, angled out at the top of the stretch and for a moment looked like she might blow by the three horses in front of her.

Unfortunately Lovely Maria had more in the tank and drew off while Shook Up got up for second.

My 26/1 long shot ran extremely well and was surrounded by 4 of the 5 other horses I used in the Pick 5 and Pick 4.

Had she won the day would have been extremely profitable, instead I got blanked.

On a positive note, however, the fact that she outran her odds and I was right in the other 3 legs of the Pick 5 may be a sign that my betting slump is about to come to an end and I cannot think of a better day for that to happen than Kentucky Derby day.

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2015 Kentucky Oaks: I’m All Shook Up

It’s not often that the outcome of a race can be heavily influenced by a 50/1 outsider but that’s how I see the 2015 Kentucky Oaks.

Normally in a full field there are several front runners but not in this race.

Co-second choice on the morning line (#5) Condo Commando is the only “need the lead” front runner in the field.

She is 5/5 when setting the pace and 0/1 when denied the early lead.

She is the only filly with a win at the distance (2/2 at 1 1/8 miles).

Combining an uncontested lead with her class and proven ability at the distance she looks, at first glance, like an obvious choice to win the Kentucky Oaks.

Digging a little deeper and relying on nearly two decades of handicapping experience reveals a potential spoiler for our front running heroin.

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Shopping for Value in Online NHC Qualifiers

Horseplayers are getting smarter and smarter each year.

When a track raises its takeout rates they stop betting and when a track offers player friendly takeout rates they bet with both hands.

Recently this behavior has been on display in online handicapping contests as well.

More specifically for those online qualifying contests that award seats to the National Handicapping Championship (NHC) those that offer player friendly rates are selling out and those that are not are being ignored by many.

In the online NHC qualifying arena there are two major players that award most of the seats: NHC Qualify and Horse Tourneys.

The former is the “official online qualifying site of the NHC” and awards more seats than any other host (both online and brick and mortar).

The latter is (and this is my name for it) “the player friendly online qualifying site for the NHC.”

Here’s a quick comparison of the two and it’s easy to see which is offering far better value for those trying to earn a seat in Las Vegas next January.

NHC Qualify

Horse Tourneys

Entry Fee



Entries per NHC Seat



Cost per NHC Seat



Contribution to NHC



Travel Voucher



Hotel Room



Total Seat Value




$2,265 (20.80%)

$1,550 (14.29%)

NHC Qualify has a takeout rate of 20.80% while Horse Tourneys has a takeout rate of 14.29%.

Both are awarding seats to the same major handicapping contest but one has a takeout rate that is 46% higher than the other.

To compare this to race tracks NHC Qualify is like Parx while Horse Tourneys is like Kentucky Downs.

Which track would you rather bet on?

Like I said before players are taking notice of this discrepancy in pricing and here’s the proof:

  • Through March NHC Qualify has hosted 9 NHC qualifiers and only 2 sold out. Only 88% of the entries have been sold and that number would be lower had they not reduced the maximum number of entries from 396 to 330 per qualifier. Additionally they have only awarded 83% of the potential NHC seats during this time.
  • Through March Horse Tourneys has hosted 4 NHC qualifiers and has sold out all 4. They have awarded 100% of the potential NHC seats during this time.

I have two questions, one for those participating in these contests and one for those operating the NHC.

For the players why would any of you try to qualify via NHC Qualify when they are clearly gouging you?

You have Horse Tourneys as well as several other online sites (such as Derby Wars and HP Qualify) that offer NHC seats with a much lower takeout rate.

You also have the brick and mortar qualifying sites, most of which have zero percent takeout rates.

For those operating the NHC (NTRA and DRF) why don’t you let the market decide which online site(s) award the most seats?

It doesn’t take an economics major to see that if you let the host with the better value (Horse Tourneys) award the most seats you would end up with more players in Las Vegas next January.

Clearly many of you already know the facts listed above because you are investing your time and money in the site with the better value.

For those that weren’t aware of these facts now you know and I hope that you will seek value in handicapping contests just as you do when deciding which tracks and pools to wager into.

Note: Throughout the year I will be tracking the NHC qualifying events on the major online qualifying sites to see how they rank in terms of entries sold and seats awarded.  You can find the tracking sheet on the Contest Central page.  It will be updated weekly.