Final weekend of Ellis Park: Track profile, vulnerable favorites, and high impact jockeys

June 29th, 2023

It’s the final week of the Churchill Downs meet at Ellis Park. Two trends have been present from the outset:

  1. Favorites have been vulnerable and payouts have been strong.
  2. Inside speed has had a significant advantage over other running styles and post positions.

Vulnerable Favorites

At Ellis Park, favorites are only winning 30% of the races, which is the lowest of any current track currently running.

The current average win odds at Ellis Park is 5.23-1. That’s the second-highest of all current tracks. Both are strong reasons to play Ellis.

Along with this, the multi-race wagers have been paying well. Take a look at the relatively logical outcomes and the payouts of the early and late Pick 5 on Sunday, June 25.

The early 50-cent Pick 5 paid $1,181. The sequence included: the favorite, the odds-on favorite, the second betting choice, the second betting choice, and the 8.70-1 sixth betting choice, who projected to be tending to the pace.

Starting with that same last leg, the late 50-cent Pick 5 paid $3,230 with the 4.86-1 fourth choice, the odds-on favorite, the 9-1 third choice who beat an odds-on favorite, and the 9-2 third choice. These are strong payouts on results that I wouldn’t be surprised to see yield half those amounts.

Again on Sunday, there was only one race where they got it right and the favorite won over the second favorite. The exacta pools are juicy as teaming up the right combination in the top two slots appears elusive.

As clearcut the track profile has been, the public still has been getting it consistently wrong and there is value to be had.

Over 47 sprint races, 63% of those have been won by horses on the lead or less than a half-length back at the first call. 53% have been won by horses breaking from gates 1 - 3. That's a serious inside-speed bias.

For routes, it’s 56% early speedsters, as well as 56% posts 1-3. Last week, eight of the 11 route races were won on the lead. No races were won by any horse breaking from post 7 or higher.

Access to the rail has been crucial. Sometimes it’s the luck of the draw, while other times it’s who’s piloting.  We can see from the top jocks who are tapped into how the track is playing.

High impact jockeys

No surprise that Tyler Gaffalione is leading the charge: he’s been top dog since moving his tack to Kentucky. With 56 mounts at Ellis, he’s won 16 (28%) and finished in the money in 65% of those, leading in both categories for all jocks who have had at least 15 races.

Luis Saez (12 wins) and Cristan Torres (8) have both won with 23% of their mounts.

Florent Geroux (4), Francisco Arrieta (6), and Luan Machado (4) round out the jocks who are winning at 20% or higher. Corey Lanerie (5) is sitting there close at 19%. He and Geroux were hot last week, so key in on their mounts these last four days.

In his last ten races at Ellis, Geroux is 10-4-2-0. Betting Lanerie at Ellis Park is yielding a nice profit with a $2.49 ROI over 26 starts. He has had a couple of recent heads-up rides stealing or pressing the lead to take advantage of the track profile.

As always when using past races to predict the probability of future events, the big question is, Will these trends hold through closing day on Sunday, July 2? (Note: the regularly scheduled summer meet at Ellis Park kicks off next Thursday, July 6.)

Rain is in the forecast, which could alter how the course is playing. On Sunday, June 11, the track was listed as “sloppy/sealed” for the last seven races and there were no gate-to-wire winners. Possibly the track will play fair to all running styles, but how quickly will bettors react to a change in the profile? This could create opportunities to find value in the pools.

Looking at the final four cards, in 16 of the final 28 dirt races the horse with the quickest Brisnet early pace in its last race is not the morning line favorite. In many cases, the likely pace presence is double-digit odds. Maybe the markets will tell a different story, but from the looks of it, there should be value plays on either formful horses with an off-the-pace running style or class-hiking/questionable form front runners.