Kentucky Oaks: Pace and Fair Value Line

Just so the Kentucky Oaks doesn’t go without too much discussion, I’ve pulled a few tidbits together that maybe can help with your thoughts going into the Kentucky Oaks. Please let me know if you have any questions on any of this, I am happy to speak about it. My models are a work in progress, and I am happy to hear any and all feedback (@john_camardo on Twitter).

There is a good deal of speed signed on for the Oaks. I’ve included numbers, and a chart together that displays my perspective on the pace. In short, I have built a regression model that in large part uses the following, in order of importance:

  • Distance of race
  • Grade of race
  • The past four first quarter mile times for each of the horses
  • Morning line
  • Surface
  • Whether or not the distance today is a turn-back in distance
  • Many other less important factors

My projection of the pace, in visual form is as follows (lighter bars represent the also eligible horses):

Projection of pace. Times are listed in seconds, and the left hand side is post 1

Some things to consider:

  • Speed is distributed across the track
  • While Motion Emotion is listed as the fastest, there are other speeds to the inside which could prompt a more aggressive pace
  • There are speeds to the inside which could travel up the rail in a more advantageous path, and get to the front before Motion Emotion

Further projecting out the pace, I have four runners running relatively similar times to the 1/2 mile which could be further evidence toward a fast and tiring pace (I haven’t included the chart for this one).

It is for this reason that I would tend to look for a fair valued presser or closer. I like to bet to win, and given Bellafina is projected to be very short, my fair value line which I’ll show below shows she is a rather significant underlay, so I will play against her.

Here is my fair value line with an added column that just checks if that fair value is greater than (underlay) or less than (overlay) the morning line:

HorsePost PositionFair ValueMorning Line
Out for a Spin119.715Underlay
Chocolate Kisses219.720Overlay
Lady Apple311.220Overlay
Flor de La Mar540.820Underlay
Positive Spirit628.530Overlay
Motion Emotion88.915Overlay
Champagne Anyone107.36Underlay
Street Band1212.015Overlay
Serengeti Empress1314.18Underlay
Restless Rider1410.06Underlay
Dunbar Road1513.45Underlay
Point of Honor1614.120Overlay

I have also built a regression model that tries to predict the order that horses will finish a race. That model then allows me to take my prediction, and use it to simulate a number of outcomes of a race (I use the variability in racing to my advantage here). I take the results of each of those simulations (they are monte carlo simulations for those wondering), tally the number of times I project the horse to win, and divide by the total number of simulations to generate what I believe to be the horses’ probability of winning the race. I ultimately convert that into the odds that would represent that probability, and call that my “Fair Value” (which incorporates the track’s takeout).

In these circumstances I see Bellafina essentially equally likely to win the race (give or take) as Jaywalk and Champagne Anyone. What I primarily take away from the chart, though, is that at least when looking at the morning line, the fact that Bellafina is going to be 2-1 or even less creates significant value across other runners.

The horse that interests me most given the fair value line I’ve posted above is Lady Apple who is listed as 20-1 on the morning line, but who I would play at odds as low as 11-1. She has won her last three races, and likes to press the pace. She could get a nice trip behind the speeds, and pounce late.

Champagne Anyone projects to be further back, but also represents something close to fair value, and given the way I have designed the race could be an interesting proposition if she drifts slightly upward in price.

It’s also worth noting that Motion Emotion represents good value from the perspective of my value line. The hot pace could play against her, but if the track is playing to favor speed, and she is able to get the lead with relative ease, she might be worth a look. It truly depends on how hot you think the pace will be.

If there are scratches, that could leave the door open to some of the also eligible horses drawing in. Point of Honor is also lightly raced and represents value, in my perspective, so I would also consider her if she draws in.

In terms of betting strategy, I would probably key Lady Apple in verticals, as well as play her to win, and place. I like speed horses and even with the potentially hot place, I might not be able to stop myself from betting Motion Emotion.

I might play an exacta with Lady Apple on top, with Motion Emotion, Champagne Anyone and Jaywalk underneath (weighted to get paid roughly the same no matter who is in second), and play the reverse as well, but such that I get paid about half as much if my opinion comes in with Lady Apple in second, and any of the other three on top. That, of course in addition to the W/P play of Lady Apple.

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