How To Bet the 2018 Churchill Downs Homecoming Meeting

Rely on familiar faces

The Homecoming Meeting at Churchill Downs is relatively new—having begun in 2013 after Turfway Park stopped racing in September—but a glance at the leaderboards through the first five seasons of September racing beneath the Twin Spires indicates there’s nothing new about who performs well there.

On the jockey side of things, frequent meet-leading rider Corey Lanerie is the overwhelming frontrunner in both wins (84) and earnings $2,739,102 in September at Churchill Downs since 2013 with his good friend Brian Hernandez Jr. a comfortable second with 53 wins and $1,770,365 in purses.

What’s interesting about both riders, though, is that they both sport a flat-bet profit when wagering on all their mounts to win: Lanerie at +6.05% from 372 starts and Hernandez at +15.98% from 279 rides. In fact, betting BOTH blindly (even if they’re racing against each other in the same race) still results in a positive ROI in September at Churchill Downs.

Further down the leaderboard, Julien Leparoux and Shuan Bridgmohan both do well from a win percentage standpoint (18.3% and 16.9%, respectively, to rank 3rd and 4th among jockeys with at least 150 mounts), but both have poor ROIs.
Not much difference on the trainer side of things with Steve Asmussen the leader at 30-for-148, but the all-time leading conditioner at Churchill Downs Dale Romans is right there with the Racing Hall of Famer at 27 wins (from 151 starts). Unlike Asmussen, though, Romans’ charges have a flat-bet profit. Mike Maker (23/112) and brad Cox (22/85) are the only other trainers with at least 20 wins, and Cox is the leading trainer by win percentage (25.88%) among those wiat at least 30 starts. Chris Hartman (10/39, 25.64%) and Rusty Arnold (13/51, 25.49%) are close by with Arnold getting bonus points for the +21.17% ROI.

Jeff Engler, Michael Laurer, and Danny Peitz are all looking for their first Homecoming meeting victory from at least 20 starts.

From a how-the-races-are-run standpoint, the main track is extremely fair with all Brisnet.com prior run styles in a 13.02%-14.04% window of winners with sustained (“S”) runners (i.e. closers) sometimes overlaid based on their -6.8% ROI versus ranges beyond -20% for the other styles. Two-turn dirt races show a similar balance with win percentages ranging from 12.99% to 15.11%, but this time the “S” style has a positive ROI.

Bottom line there is, closers win slightly less often but the price generally compensates.

Closing Thoughts on the Churchill Downs Fall Meet

Lastly, it’s important to look specifically at two-year-old races, as different times on the calendar could favor certain styles of horsemanship more than others. As a broad stroke example, trainer Wesley Ward is more noticeable in April at Keeneland than in September at Churchill.

No surprise to see the aforementioned Asmussen and Romans on top of the trainer of two-year-olds list at the September meeting with 15 and 8 wins apiece, respectively. Ken McPeek and Eddie Kenneally are next with 7 wins each.

Incredibly, 6 of the top 8 trainers by number of two-year-old starts at the Homecoming meeting have at least a break even ROI with those runners: Asmussen, Romans, Ian Wilkes (4-for-38 but with some prices), Bret Calhoun (6-for-36), McPeek, and Kenneally.

The two who do not are D. Wayne Lukas (3-for-45, -51.3%) and Mark Casse (5-for-30, -40.3%). Things are similarly ugly beyond the top 8 by starters: William “Buff” Bradley (1-for-26, -92.7%) and Brad Cox (6-for-25, -37.2%) stick out for different reasons. Bradley has a poor percentage whereas Cox ranks second (!) by win percentage among the 23 trainers with at least 15 starters, but his ROI is -37.2%. That’s a lot of underlays saddled by Cox to date!

When limiting it to maiden special weight races, the numbers get a little more bleak for the biggest names, as their horses do tend to be overbet in that spot, but Wilkes is 3-for-31 with a big ROI. In the maiden claiming ranks, however, we’ll had Helen Pitts to the list, as she’s 3-for-8 with these type of charges and a big time ROI.

It’s going to be a great meeting, and it starts Friday, September 14! For all Brisnet.com handicapping information, visit https://www.brisnet.com/product/tracks/USA/TB/CD.

An ongoing opportunity for Sundays at Churchill Downs will be the $5,000 Place Payout promotion.

(Coady Photo/Churchill Downs)