Track Records: Was Keeneland’s Dirt Course Faster Than Average On Breeders’ Cup Weekend?

Four track records were set on Keeneland’s dirt course during the Breeders’ Cup this year, leading concerned fans as well as several horseplayers and turf writers to publicly question the the surface. Those questions led Jim Mulvihill to seek out answers, which he compiled in a feature for the Thoroughbred Racing Commentary.

The facts, Mulvihill said, are that three of the four records were set by heavy favorites, and the dominant nature of those wins led credence to the idea that the winners had run exceptionally fast. Mulvihill also explained that there is a relatively limited sample size of relevant races, since Keeneland reinstalled and reconfigured the dirt course in 2014, rendering previous dirt records non-comparable.

A few racing professionals’ answers included:

  • Champion horseplayer Paul Matties, who makes his own figures for Keeneland races, said: “It was definitely the fastest Keeneland that I’ve seen in a long time. Even compared to the end of the meet, which was a little fast for them, it was still probably a second faster than those days. It was definitely different, so there was some truth to what the people speaking up were saying.”
  • Timeform and DRF Chief Speed Figure Maker Craig Milkowski noted that the track condition rating, a measure of final average times, was 9 on Breeders’ Cup Saturday. “That was higher than average for Keeneland,” he said. “During the spring, they’re usually 6-7 and for the summer meet they were more like 7-8. So it wasn’t just the horses; the track was definitely fast.”

Meanwhile, the official response from the Breeders’ Cup was that the track surface was no faster than normal on Breeders’ Cup weekend.

“Breeders’ Cup, Keeneland and third-party experts, including Dr. Mick Peterson and the University of Kentucky, worked together for many months to have a safe and consistent racing surface and there were never any discussions on producing fast race times,” a statement from Breeders’ Cup read. “On event days, Dr. Mick Peterson was in constant communication with both Keeneland and Breeders’ Cup racing teams to keep us apprised of all conditions. The racing surface and moisture levels were consistent throughout both race days. The fast times are reflective of the best horses in the world competing.”

Read more at the Thoroughbred Racing Commentary.

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