The 9 Camps In the Keeneland Announcement

Keeneland's switch to dirt has been applauded, lampooned, assailed, and looked at with bewilderment. And sometimes these can come from the same person.

For the more curious aspect of this decision (and a bang-up review of the Wood) I send you to the lovely and talented Mr. Mann of Left at the Gate fame.

After you've read the good grammar and English at LATG you can come back here for my nonsense, that will more than likely revolve around using pictures, or other people's words. Trust me, it's better that way.

The reaction to this Keeneland thing seems to lie in a few camps. I'll try to summarize them here.

Asaro spreading the word of dirt to youngsters
1. Andy Asaro: This man stands alone in his own camp. If the death rate was three horses per racecard on dirt versus 1.22 per thousand on synth, Andy would say the data must be wrong. The man has posters of dirt over his bed. His favorite movie is Joe Dirt. His favorite movie would be the Dirty Dozen, but he doesn't like the "y". He sprinkles dirt on his breakfast cereal. He really likes dirt. Right now it's like Christmas for him.

2. The Logic Folks: These are the folks who look deep into something, dissect it, and decide it does not make sense. Congress hates these people because they have a hard time pulling the wool over their eyes, and so does horse racing. O Crunk is one of these people.
3. The Horse Lovers: These are the folks who care for horses and love 'em like they're their kids. I like these people, you like these people; they're good people.  They don't understand why a track would switch surfaces when the stats say more may perish.

4. The Traditionalists: These are the Byk's, some in the DRF. They hate synth because it changes the way the game is played. Even at only a couple of tracks this upsets them, and something like the Bluegrass Stakes losing a Grade I rating is like losing a forelimb. They are a bit like Andy Asaro, but they don't have posters of dirt on their walls, they have posters of say, Easy Goer, or another New York dirt horse instead. I can't really argue with them much either; synthetic racetracks are a third surface. They do have a point.

5. The "bettors who won't play plastic": This group is loud, proud and proclaim they are going to bet Keeneland more now because they are switching to dirt. When the handle at Keeneland does not go up, just like today is has not gone down, this won't make too much sense, but they are there and they are vociferous. They like the dirt.

6. Cold Hard Bettors: People looking for surface edges and betting value by adding more data and chaos to handicapping decisions, not less, are not overly happy. I think my pal Jerod Dinkin is going to blow a gasket. This group looks forward to Keeneland poly each spring and fall like Andy Asaro looks forward to a day at the beach.

7. The Church of Joe Drape: Joe and his minions are sending surface breakdown stats through the social sphere like Zeus throwing lightning bolts on disbelieving villagers. As Mr. Mann pointed out, Joe has the upper hand in this argument right now. No matter what you read on the web (the new narrative is that the class of horse makes all the difference, like somehow nobody knows how to do multivariate testing), remember Occam's Razor. A kid with a grade two math degree can figure out poly is safer than dirt after the past ten years of data, both here and abroad.

8. The Numbers Guys: This is an offshoot of the Traditionalists group. Perhaps they argued a little too much to live in the same house, or what have you. They like the seamless nature of stakes racing. Horse A preps on dirt for a dirt race. All the historical stakes are lined up in an easy-to-see easy-to-use package, just like they always have. My pal on twitter @insidethenumbrs is in this camp. I would be too, because I like this type of structure for any sport, but camps like camp six are too powerful a draw for me.

Where Mr. Racing lives. Ominous.
9. "Racing": This is a nebulous group that you can never figure out. Through stories, as far back as the 14th century, it's fabled that "Racing" is an old grey-haired rich man who sits atop a mountain in a huge castle. This man usually owns horses who have sex for money and makes decisions based on horses having sex for money. There is a large group out there who believe this is the man who made the Keeneland decision.

Those are the nine groups I see. There are probably more, but I'm tired of typing.

Enjoy your day everyone, and remember, it's movie night at Asaro's tonight if anyone is close by. It's a double bill of Joe Dirt and Dirt Dancing. BYOB.


Anonymous said...

Count me in "Group 7". And here's a little stat that shows maybe those of us in that camp have a better grasp of things than those with "a grade two math degree":

Comparing the past five years at Saratoga (dirt) vs. Keeneland (poly), Saratoga saw 1.13 breakdown per 1000 starters; Keeneland saw 1.05 - a statistically negligible result.

Perhaps there's a just a little more credibility to the "it's the class, not the surface" argument that has become "The new narrative" that you were quick to dismiss?

Pull the Pocket said...



We have class comparisons and have for many years - data from the exact same tracks. TP before and after switch, poly wins. AP before and after switch, poly wins. Woodbine before and after switch poly wins. Santa Anita, ugh, poly doesn't only win, it crushes.

the Jockey Club study is not new. It just, as it concluded, now has statistically significant data to say poly is safer.

Sometimes the answer is staring you in the face, and this is one of those cases.


Anonymous said...

I'd love to see the actual numbers you are referring to. I'm very open minded, and would be happy to re-evaluate if it can be shown that poly is safer (as you say). Right now, the only actual numbers I've see compare Saratoga to Keeneland, and based on those, the case that "poly is safer" is not made.

Pull the Pocket said...

They've been publishing numbers for years. This "five year" thing is just the JC numbers. Numbers have been published since about 2005, both before and after.

Drape even looked at the class-by-class numbers at Santa Anita, in his Times article this week, which are the JC numbers.

"In 2009, when Santa Anita ran all its races on a synthetic surface, horses broke down at a rate of 0.90 per 1,000 starts. On dirt, the rate was 3.45 per 1,000 in 2010; 2.94 per 1,000 in 2011; 2.89 per 1,000 in 2012; and 2.11 per 1,000 last year."

Similar was seen at AP and TP. Plenty of statstical noise, yes, but when every track shows similar, it's statistical negligence to not let the obvious hit you in the head.


Anonymous said...

Those numbers, on the surface, certainly DO point to Poly being significantly safer - but has any analysis of the NUMBERS been done, comparing the types of races that make up the Poly figures, as opposed to the dirt totals? In other words, looking at Santa Anita, were a large majority of the Poly races of the "higher class" variety, as opposed to primarily cheaper claimers on the dirt? If the classes were comparable, then I'd be quick to acknowledge that Poly is safer; but I WOULD like to see an actual breakdown of the numbers first (to rule out "class" playing a large role in the figures)


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