Seven Reasons to Tackle Keeneland

Know thy Keeneland Trainers By Rich Nilsen

Gracing a picturesque stretch of Kentucky bluegrass that is surrounded by some of the country’s most beautiful farms, Keeneland Racecourse is unique in its beauty and history.  Visit Keeneland once and you will quickly see that it is an incredible social event. Every day, weekend or weekday, hundreds of co-eds, mostly from the University of Kentucky, make their way to their local track for an afternoon of partying.  Visitors come from all over the country.  Although they all make for a very crowded atmosphere, the hundreds of inexperienced racegoers present at Keeneland contribute to large wagering pools as well as the occasional overlay.

However, as handicappers, we require more than aesthetics when choosing which tracks to invest in.  We shouldn’t be playing a track just because it is glamorous or popular.  As handicappers looking to turn a profit, we need solid reasons to tackle a track that could easily be dubbed “the Saratoga of the Midwest.”

As Keeneland offers a unique meet, handicappers should first understand how the 16-day condition book is written. The racing cards cater to the high profile barns that ship in from out of state for the short meet. There are a few claiming races written, and the ones that are offer small purses in comparison to other tracks. The real reward to the Thoroughbred owner is winning a race at prestigious Keeneland.

The Racing Secretary does not card claiming races on the turf despite the fact that demand is high for these events. The only turf races are allowance events, maiden special weights and stakes. In addition to the winner’s purse, a pewter julep cup is given to the winning connections of all such races. To many owners, winning a race at Keeneland is equivalent to getting multiple pictures taken at another track.

Let’s look at a few of the valid reasons why we would want to tackle this oftentimes challenging meet.

 1- Low Takeout

Kentucky racing offers one of the best takeout structures in the country. Straight wagers (win, place, show) are ‘taxed’ at only 16%, meaning 84% of the handle is returned to the betting public. Where it really gets good is with the exotics, especially multi-race wagers. All exotic wagers have a low 19-percent takeout, well below the national average. Compare this to the fact that many of the top tracks in the nation have takeouts of 23% or higher for wagers such as Trifectas, Superfectas, Pick-4’s and Pick-6’s. Keeneland is bargain hunting for the shrewd horseplayers who factor in the price of their wagers.  This is one of the major reasons that Keeneland always ranks very highly in the annual HANA Track Ranking report.

 2- Quality Racing

Keeneland offers a 15-day condition book this spring that is jam-packed with great racing. In fact there are 16 stakes races totaling $3.75 million in purses. As mentioned, the racing cards cater to the high profile barns that ship in from out of state, so the condition book and daily cards reflect this. There is a stakes race nearly every day, always part of the popular late Pick-4 wager.

The Central Bank Ashland and Toyota Blue Grass are worth a hefty 100 points each to the winners on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Road to the Kentucky Derby (G1), respectively.

 “Our number one goal is to provide the best racing program in the country,” stated Vice President of Racing W.B. Rogers Beasley. “We are exceptionally proud of this schedule and the exciting racing and wagering opportunities it offers our horsemen and fans.”

Five graded stakes, including three Grade 1 events, worth a total of $1,625,000 will rank Toyota Blue Grass Day as one of the nation’s strongest race cards. The undercard will feature the $300,000 Madison (G1), for older fillies and mares going seven furlongs; the $300,000 Jenny Wiley (G1), for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the turf; the $175,000 Commonwealth (G3), for older horses at seven furlongs; and the $100,000 Shakertown (G3), for older horses at 5½ furlongs on the turf.  Racing cards don’t get a whole lot better than this.

3- Turf Racing

Opened in 1984, the beautiful Keeneland turf course is one of the few sand-based turf courses in United States along with Churchill Downs, Tampa Bay Downs and Turf Paradise.

The Keeneland grass course consistently benefits closers. One must be an exceptional horse, or find the rare field with absolutely no pace, in order to wire a turf field here. Most front-runners collapse at the 1/8th pole while the winner is often seen making a sweeping, strong rally on the outside.

Always be on the lookout for runners from top turf barns such as Glen Hills Farm and Augustin Stables.  It’s surprising how often they will score at a price.

Finally, look for horses that have run well over this grass course in the past. These horses for courses often run well again at Keeneland, winning or finding their way into the exotics at a price.

4- The Trainers

Many barns point for this meeting and arrive loaded for bear. There are also many fine local trainers who fare exceptionally well during the short meet, and knowing who they are behooves the horseplayer.  Every spring and fall, author and handicapper Art Parker updates his very comprehensive trainer database and he compiles the results in the bi-annual guide “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns.”

Parker’s digital book covers all the horsemen who have won races over the past eight Keeneland meets, and most importantly, how they did.  Were the winners making class changes?  Surface changes?  What kind of work pattern did they have coming into the race?  What jockey did they use and who were the owners? Parker details just how these horses were prepared by their winning trainer, providing players invaluable insight into the methods of these successful horsemen.

With Parker’s book, for example, you’ll learn not only how often trainer Tom Amoss wins with layoff horses (9 of his 17 winners), but also the workout patterns of those winning runners. Or how about local trainer Rick Hiles, whose three winners all sported the same handicapping pattern and won at odds of 9/2, 21-1, and 39-1, respectively.  If a trainer has won at Keeneland, you’ll gain insight into how they did it.  It’s a great guide for players that like to dive into the raw data.


5- Track Bias on the Main

Exploiting the Keeneland track biases used to be one of the many reasons that professional players salivated at the thought of opening day. The old dirt oval could be one of the most biased courses in the country and ‘being tuned into it’ proved to be very lucrative.  Many handicappers believe that went out the window when management switched to Polytrack.  That is not entirely true.  The Keeneland Polytrack can oftentimes be very biased, especially when weather changes in the Bluegrass state.

One factor you can almost always rely on involves two-turn races on the dirt, specifically the 1 1/16-mile events. The starting gate for this commonly run distance is close to the first turn and the stretch run is short, ending at the first finish line, making it conducive to horses with tactical speed breaking from inside posts.

  6- Focus on the Premier Jocks

At meets such as Keeneland, it is not surprising that the high-profile riders win most of the races. The best jockey agents get the best mounts for their riders, and the result is a lot of victories for a select few number of jockeys.

The first few days usually set the tone for the remainder of the meet. Stay away jockeys who start off cold. These jockeys rarely recover from a poor start at Keeneland and will subsequently burn a lot of money.

7- Wagering Menu

If there is a wager you like, Keeneland pretty much has it. With rolling Pick-3s, dime Superfectas, and early and late Pick-4 wagers with guaranteed pools, Keeneland offers a comprehensive wagering menu.  It’s a far cry from one of the first times I visited the track in the late 1980s.  In one race I liked two horses ridden by Pat Day and Randy Romero, respectively, and both were juicy odds of 8-1.  Needless to say, this was a rare occurrence at this track for either rider.  There was no exacta in the race, and I had to sit there in frustration as the future Hall of Fame riders ran one-two.


Keeneland offer the best of everything, from low takeouts to just overall great racing.  If you are fortunate enough to attend this track in person, you’ll likely enjoy a wonderful day of horse racing.  Spending an afternoon in Lexington attending live racing can remind us why we fell in love with this sport in the first place.  Best of luck!


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Two Races In and We Have a Winning Pattern at Keeneland

SAILORS PASTTIIME scored a mild upset at odds of 6-1 in the 2nd race at Keeneland, opening day on Friday. Trained by J. Michael Rogers, this winner fit a similar pattern to his winner last fall in Lexington, based on “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns – 2012 fall meet edition”:

Rogers, Michael (2)

Back in 27 days, Shipper from PID, work 6 days prior to race day @KEE, same. TF=11. Odds: 4.50. Owner: Daniel Feiss. Jockey: Baird, E.T. (Day 6) F/11

SAILORS PASTTIIME was shipping in from Presque Isle, off a 21 day rest and taking a nice drop in class from allowance to starter allowance. She had 11 furlongs in works/races over the past 30 days, and she had a work 6 days prior to the race, just like last year. Whereas Rogers’ winner paid $11 for every $2 bet, this six-year-old mare returned a very nice $14.20. [I had the $49.80 exacta over the horse to beat who ran second in this race].

Learn more about Art Parker’s unique trainer guide here.

UPDATE! Trainer David Carroll scores with 38-1 shot, a debut winner easily uncovered with the insight of this one-of-a-kind book.

Carroll, David (4)

L-1, Shipper from AP, Turf-to-Main, last 3 works 7-14 days apart, short, long, long @CD, last 6 days prior to race day. TF=14. Odds: 23.80. Owner: Alexander & Groves. Jockey: Garcia, A. (Day 3) F/10

Debut, 2YO, 4 works, 2 gate,7-14 days apart, last 4 days prior @CD. TF=16. Odds: 4.40. Owner: David Randal. Jockey: Lanerie, C. (Day 6) F/11

Debut, 2YO, last 4 works all long except last@ CD, 7 days apart, 2 gate works, last slow 3 days prior to race day. TF=23. Odds: 15.10. Owner: Paul Morsches. Jockey: Farina, T. (Day 14) F/10

D-2, Shipper from HOO, Back in 32 days, works 6 days apart, last hot 8 days prior to race day @ Cdt, same. TF=8. Odds: 13.00. Owner: David Randall. Jockey: Lanerie, C. (Day 13) F/11

A Few Special notes on Winning Keeneland Trainers for the Fall meet

by Rich Nilsen,

Trainer Block, Chris has had two winners in the fall at Keeneland, both of which met the same winning trainer pattern according to the new book “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns” by Art Parker. They were owned by Team Block, ridden by Julien Leparoux, sporting a solid work pattern and moving up in class.

Be on the lookout for Dodgen, James who scored twice last fall at Keeneland with longshots, both for B. A. Man Stables. This veteran trainer’s horses were coming in with a training pattern than include long workouts of 5 furlongs or further.

Little know horseman Fletcher, Kevin has scored each of the last two fall meets, both times with horses making their first start in his barn. Both winners were ridden by Victor Lebron for owner Lloyd Schwartz and shipped in from Presque Isle Downs in PA. I think I see a pattern here.

Keeneland winning trainer patterns

Click here to download the book to any device

Hamm, Timothy, who is not known to many players outside the Midwest, scored twice last year and both of them were with shippers from Presque Isle Downs. Don’t expect to see many workouts from a Tim Hamm-trained runner.

McCauley, Tevis has won six times in recent years at Keeneland and all of his winners were…

Get the full analysis plus the raw statistical details on 96 winning Keeneland trainers here.

Trainer Patterns: A review of the 2010-2011 Keeneland Meetings

by author Art Parker

Keeneland Spring and Fall (past 4 meets)

It is a sensible and accepted practice to review historical data before making investments. If you ever purchased shares of a mutual fund from a securities representative, you were probably drowned with information about the great past performance of the fund, which is the best weapon the representative has to sell you on the quality of the investment. Naturally, among all of the investment warnings and small legal fine print, you are warned that past performance is no guarantee of future performance.

The same is true in thoroughbred racing. Those of us who frequent the races know that past performance is no guarantee of future results. But just like in the financial world, we are better equipped to make good decisions about the future when we have an abundance of reliable information about the past.

Few horse players pay attention to trainers and what they actually do. Most players try to turn their brain into computer mode as they throw themselves into the details of the running lines found in past performances. They crunch numbers and inhale speed and pace figures as if there is no tomorrow, and all of that is important. Many players worry about jockeys and for some reason view these diminutive athletes as race car drivers.  Many players believe jockeys are solely responsible for the performance of their horses in races, and this logic is very, very weak. The best horse players will tell you that when it comes to the human factor in thoroughbred racing, it is the trainer that plays the most critical role.

Trainers are business people that manage employees and have fiduciary responsibilities since they are also managing the assets of thoroughbred owners. The best trainers are successful because they are excellent managers of anything to do with their business. They have to plan and execute to be successful. In addition to business talent they must know thoroughbreds and know as much about them as possible. A trainer is not only a conditioner but is part veterinarian. And when the trainer is not taking good physical care of his horses then he tries to be an equine psychologist and figure out what makes a horse tick upstairs. And, on top of all that, the trainer needs to be a good handicapper if he wants to succeed. They have to know how to place their horses in the right spots.

Being human, trainers are creatures of habit and it often shows in preparing a horse for a race. Becoming familiar with trainers and what they do to win is just as important as understanding all of the information in the running lines.

When one makes a list of the few special horse tracks in the world, Keeneland is bound to be on the list, maybe even at the top of it. The Lexington, Kentucky track is open for racing a few weeks in the spring and a few weeks in the fall. Both Keeneland meetings immediately precede the spring and fall meetings of Churchill Downs in Louisville. In addition to excellent timing, Keeneland also offers race meetings rich with quality and high purses.

Keeneland is one of the great challenges for horse players. The meetings are short and horses ship from many locations. The best way to describe playing Keeneland can be found in one word: Tough. Something else that makes Keeneland a great challenge is the quality of the horseplayers. The racing is tough to handicap and the pari-mutuel competition is tough as well. A player that wants to win needs all the help available when Keeneland is the chosen battleground.

Now, let’s put trainers, Keeneland, and the past four meetings together to try and have the best results possible in 2012. Our concentration will be the trainers that do more than show up and win a race. We have detailed the trainers in the last four meetings that were multiple winning trainers. In other words, a trainer had to collect at least two victories to be recognized.

How good were the multiple winning trainers? Here are a few facts that validate the importance of these few trainers.

Keeneland 2012 meet

Trainer Patterns available in all e-book formats

Keeneland held 690 thoroughbred races collectively in the Spring and Fall meetings of 2010 and the Spring and Fall meetings of 2011.

Trainers winning at least 2 races totaled 79.

The 79 multiple winners won a total of 602 races collectively or 87% of all races.

Of the 79 multiple winners, 26 trainers won at least 7 races.

Those 26 trainers collected a total of 443 wins or 64% of all races.

Editor’s Note: Learn about all 79 of these horsemen in the 2012 edition “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns.” Only $9.95 this one-of-a-kind handicapping tool provides an edge for horseplayers looking to attack the Keeneland spring meet. You can place this book on any mobile device and have the information at your fingertips whenever you are playing the races.

2013 Edition of Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns now available

Keeneland 2013 Spring meet trainer book

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2013 SPRING MEET Edition now available!

It’s time to Handicap Keeneland like a Pro

Understanding the tendencies of trainers is one vital key to success for winning horseplayers. All Star Press is pleased to announce the 4th edition of the Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns – new for the 2013 Spring Meet. Again, this meet’s release is bigger and better than ever with great nuggets on all the winning trainers – over 100 in all!!!

This valuable handicapping guide is based on the extensive database of handicapper and author Art Parker, a regular contributor to

In this book Parker analyzes the winning patterns of the most successful horsemen that race at Keeneland. With this guide you will know how each and every trainer prepares his runner for success. Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns  covers every Keeneland horsemen that has saddled two or more winners over the past 6 meets, dating back to the spring of 2010.

This is why you need to know these trainers better than they know themselves:

Keeneland held 912 thoroughbred races collectively in the Spring and Fall meetings of 2010, the Spring and Fall meetings of 2011, and the Spring and Fall meetings of 2012.

Trainers winning at least 2 races totaled 103.

The 103 multiple winners won a total of 817 races collectively or 89.5% of all races.

Of the 103 multiple winners, 47 trainers won at least 5 races.

Those 47 trainers collected a total of 625 wins or 68.5% of all races.

The details of all 103 trainers and their corresponding victories over the past 6 seasons at Keeneland are presented to handicappers in this book, Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns. A one-of-a-kind publication.

The details of all 103 trainers and their corresponding victories over the past six seasons at Keeneland are presented to handicappers in this book.

With this book you can answer many questions, including:

  • How many works does this trainer’s winners have coming into the race?
  • What kind of works are they?
  • Where do they ship in from?
  • How quickly do they race back?
  • Were there equipment changes?
  • Were class changes (up or down) used?
  • How about surface or distance switches?

“Most importantly with Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns you will know if the horse this trainer is running today fits a pattern similar to winners in the past. This knowledge is one of the absolute best ways to get an edge over the public when playing Keeneland.” — Rich Nilsen, 10-time NHC qualifier.

Of course, you’ll also learn who rode these winners and for what stable this trainer wins for. Patterns develop and that is how the horseplayer can cash at the upcoming Keeneland meet.

“Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns” includes these bonus features:

  • Alphabetical and Numerical list of every winning trainer over the past 6 meets.
  • “You Learn More When You Lose than When You Win”
  • Keeneland – Turf to Synthetic surface switch
  • The Key Factor that handicappers need to know about the Polytrack surface

 Take this book  with you to Keeneland or your local OTB/track!

Download this PDF book today for only $9.97

Order this Keeneland trainer guide today

Profiting at Keeneland is all about knowing the tendencies of the individuals that know how to win year-in and year-out at the Lexington racetrack.


Kindle users – download this handicapping guide to your Kindle eReader or Kindle reading app today!

Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns – 2013 Spring Meet edition is available in ALL E-BOOK FORMATS, so click here if you want a format other than PDF or Kindle.


Thank you for looking and best of luck at Keeneland!