Keeneland Offers 'PolyCapping' Database
by Tom LaMarra
Date Posted: 9/23/2008 11:36:18 AM
Last Updated: 9/24/2008 10:48:43 AM

Keeneland handicappers will have new information at their disposal when the Fall Meet begins Oct. 3.
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

Keeneland, whose fall meet begins Oct. 3, is launching a “PolyCapping” online database to provide more information for handicappers.

The database, which will allow users to select various criteria, will be part of a redesigned Web site to be unveiled before the fall meet. Keeneland officials said Sept. 23 they solicited feedback from handicappers after this year’s spring meet and were told players want more information made available to them.

Julie Balog, digital marketing manager at Keeneland, said thus far about 25 categories of data have been created for every horse that has won a race at the Lexington track since October 2006, when the synthetic Polytrack was first used for racing. The database includes turf races as well.

The database, not unexpectedly, is broad—and more information will be added. Among the categories are rainfall, field size, lengths in front or behind at the half-mile pole, and whether the “Gallop Master” maintenance equipment was used on the surface before a race. Handicapper Jeremy Plonk devised the template for the program.

“We found that everybody has their own theory about what’s important (regarding handicapping),” Balog said.

The Polytrack surface at Keeneland has changed over time, as evidenced by the data for lengths behind at the half-mile pole in each race. During the first two meets with the synthetic surface, it wasn’t unusual to see horses circle the field from well back; in spring 2008, many horses still came from off the pace but were much closer when they launched their rallies.

Synthetic surfaces have led to some myths since they were first used for racing in North America in 2005 at Turfway Park. They don’t necessarily kill speed or give an edge to horses that previously raced on the grass.

Turfway, which will host the Kentucky Cup Day of Champions Sept. 27, is running a  program advertisement that shows its percentage of winning favorites is 32%, while the national average is 33%. The track indicated in the ad it has been negatively tagged as a “graveyard of favorites,” though more than a few of those favorites could be considered false.

Handicappers who were critical when Keeneland had a dirt surface with an inside speed bias later objected when the Polytrack allowed for horses to come from anywhere and win. Keeneland officials acknowledged it’s impossible to satisfy everyone, but they can provide as much data as possible for handicappers to use.

The “PolyCapping” database will be updated after each racing day, Balog said. Keeneland also will add to its Web site blogs related to racing trends and analysis, she said.

The Keeneland meet kicks off with “FallStars Weekend” Oct. 3-5 with nine stakes, seven of them graded. A few years ago, Keeneland began packaging major races on opening weekend to serve as preps for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

“I think it’s shaping up to be a very interesting race meet,” Keeneland president Nick Nicholson said. “The FallStars Weekend concept is beginning to mature. It’s getting imbedded in the fall calendar.”

Nicholson said the Polytrack surface is worked once every 24 hours, not including the in-between-race use of the Gallop Master. The machine fluffs up the top couple of inches of the synthetic material.
 



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