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Jockey Calvin Borel, shown above winning the 2010 Kentucky Derby with Super Saver, has a reputation as a ground-saving rider. Trakus data tells racing fans if the reputation is deserved. (Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire)

As the 2013 Churchill Downs spring-summer meet begins on Saturday, it is exciting to offer another edition of the Trakus Jockey Efficiency Ratings.

The degree to which ground loss matters in horse racing is subject to much debate, but once again, data Trakus has accrued suggests that (A) – it matters, (B) – some jockeys are more adept and attentive to saving ground, and (C) – some anecdotes are true (it just significantly helps to put numbers behind them).

Prior to the start of the 2012 fall meeting at Keeneland Race Course, we published data revealing the Trakus Jockey Efficiency Ratings for races at 6 furlongs and 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack from their previous four meets. Amongst that data was a bit of a shock – Calvin Borel, universally recognized as a ground-saving aficionado, was one of the widest-riding jockeys in the colony at Keeneland. The numbers from Churchill, however, tell a different story.  Having covered the meets at Churchill in 2011 and 2012, Trakus has compiled and analyzed data accrued from key distances at the home to the “greatest two minutes in sports.”

Overall Ground Coverage

Before the Trakus Jockey Efficiency Ratings are derived, the average distance traveled from each of the 12 main starting gate positions must be determined. Once that is calculated, each performance from every horse starting from each gate at the selected distances can be compared with that long-term average. Below, you will find the average ground coverage for each starting gate position. Notice that as the gates progress toward the outside, generally the wider the average distance traveled.

Churchill Downs (2011-2012 meets)                                                         Average Feet Traveled by Starting Gate Position

Gate

6F (dirt)

1 1/16 M (dirt)

1

3991.4

5648.5

2

3995.7

5655.1

3

3996.8

5659.0

4

3998.9

5665.6

5

4001.1

5668.8

6

4003.9

5671.7

7

4004.3

5679.1

8

4004.4

5679.0

9

4006.7

5685.8

10

4006.8

5690.4

11

4008.7

5695.5

12

4013.8

5692.6


In races at six furlongs, the difference in average ground coverage from the rail draw to the outside draw is 12 feet, roughly 1 ½ lengths. In two-turn races sampled at 1 1/16 miles, though, the difference in ground coverage from the rail draw to those horses drawn in gates ten or higher is more than 40 feet. This suggests that, at a minimum, those horses drawn in the widest three gates cover at least, on average, roughly 4 ¾ lengths of added ground compared with those drawn on the rail.

Does saving ground matter? Racing is a game of inches, centimeters even – until it isn’t. Everyone seemingly has a different opinion of how much ground loss actually matters within a race, and frankly, it is a matter of personal interpretation. As we saw in our past blog reviewing this same topic at Keeneland, winners do, essentially, cover the shortest trip. Below, take note of the average feet traveled by each finishing position. All horses who won at 1 1/16 miles, for example, averaged total ground coverage of 5,664.5 feet, which was the shortest overall trip of any average finishing position. Winners covered the shortest trip, while second-place finishers at 8 ½ furlongs covered just slightly more ground. Third place finishers, however, covered about a half-length more than winners, on average. Races at six furlongs were not quite as clear in terms of the impact of ground loss.

Churchill Downs (2011-2012 meets)                                         Average Feet Traveled by Finish Position

FINISH

6F

1 1/16 M

1st

3999.9

5664.5

2nd

4000.9

5664.7

3rd

4000.9

5668.8

4th

4000.9

5667.8

5th

4000.3

5666.6

6th

4001.4

5666.7

7th

4000.4

5668.8

8th

3999.5

5667.5

9th

4000.0

5670.1

10th

3999.9

5673.8

11th

4001.0

5674.1

12th

3995.5

5682.3


Jockey Efficiency Ratings

The Trakus Jockey Efficiency Ratings (JER), which have been released in this blog for Del Mar, Keeneland, Woodbine, Gulfstream, and Tampa Bay Downs, serve as a guide to better understanding the long-term tendencies of the jockeys studied. Relatively few statistics exist for jockeys beyond some basic percentages and partnerships with certain trainers. The JERs, however, try to quantify the typical style of a jockey, not in anecdote, rife around any racecourse, but with numerical fact. At this particular track and distance, does a jockey make regular efforts to save ground or do they ride with little regard for the rail? 

Every mount analyzed in the study is compared relative with only all other starters from a particular gate. If a jockey had 30 mounts at six furlongs and all broke from gate seven, their ground coverage statistics would only be compared to all horses in the study that started from gate seven at six furlongs. Using the numbers above as an example, the average horse at Churchill who started from gate seven over six furlongs covered 4,004.3 feet. A horse who covered 4,002 feet from that gate would get a -2.3 rating for the race, while a horse covering 4,014 feet would get a 9.7 rating as that horse covered 9.7 feet more than the average horse at the distance. In order to qualify for inclusion in the analysis, jockeys had to have at least 15 mounts at each distance for inclusion in the study. The majority of riders had significantly more.  Twenty-three jockeys qualified for inclusion.

The ratings from all of a jockey’s mounts are tallied and averaged to provide an overall rating. Highlights from the ratings are below the numbers.

Churchill Downs - Trakus Jockey Efficiency Ratings - 1 1/16 Miles

JER Rank

Jockey

JER

Mounts

Wins

$2 ROI

1st

Borel, C

-8.94

95

11

$1.03

2nd

Johnson, J

-7.65

28

3

$1.13

3rd

Straight, M

-6.52

17

1

$5.84

4th

Goncalves, L

-3.21

74

8

$1.24

5th

Rocco Jr, J

-2.31

16

3

$1.89

6th

Lanerie, C

-1.60

126

31

$2.22

7th

Kuntzweiler, G

0.25

37

2

$1.75

8th

Lebron, V

0.25

36

5

$1.92

9th

Bridgmohan, S

0.33

90

19

$1.82

10th

Albarado, R

0.65

47

3

$0.68

11th

Leparoux, J

1.08

56

18

$2.18

12th

Court, J

1.12

74

8

$0.89

13th

Vazquez, R

1.43

38

2

$1.85

14th

McKee, J

1.46

35

1

$0.27

15th

Cruz, M

1.77

46

9

$1.41

16th

Saez, G

1.83

22

1

$0.11

17th

Morales, R

2.14

33

1

$0.30

18th

Hernandez, B

2.36

75

10

$2.16

19th

Desormeaux, K

2.78

21

4

$1.99

20th

Rossi, O

3.10

20

3

$4.25

21st

Mena, M

3.11

57

8

$1.78

22nd

Castanon, J

5.82

43

6

$2.19

23rd

Pedroza, M

6.11

63

2

$0.39

Churchill Downs - Trakus Jockey Efficiency Ratings - 6 Furlongs

JER Rank

Jockey

6F JER

Mounts

Wins

$2 ROI

1st

Leparoux, J

-3.16

63

19

$2.49

2nd

Rocco Jr, J

-2.31

23

4

$1.72

3rd

Goncalves, L

-1.99

94

12

$1.14

4th

Borel, C

-1.89

125

21

$1.83

5th

Albarado, R

-1.23

58

6

$1.10

6th

Morales, R

-1.11

52

3

$0.55

7th

Lebron, V

-1.06

46

7

$2.46

8th

Johnson, J

-0.21

23

1

$0.41

9th

Lanerie, C

-0.15

169

30

$2.04

10th

Hernandez, B

0.05

106

14

$1.89

11th

Rossi, O

0.12

44

3

$0.80

12th

Vazquez, R

0.17

56

3

$0.44

13th

Bridgmohan, S

0.55

113

21

$1.78

14th

Mena, M

0.80

85

11

$1.42

15th

Cruz, M

1.16

55

4

$0.76

16th

Saez, G

1.58

41

6

$2.37

17th

McKee, J

1.78

57

4

$2.37

18th

Pedroza, M

1.84

80

7

$1.66

19th

Kuntzweiler, G

1.95

58

3

$0.42

20th

Straight, M

2.06

16

0

$0.00

21st

Court, J

2.30

100

9

$1.49

22nd

Desormeaux, K

2.78

35

6

$2.84

23rd

Castanon, J

3.66

68

9

$2.14

  • Calvin Borel is a clear leader in saving ground in two-turn races. The long-held anecdote of Borel saving ground at Churchill is certainly confirmed with these findings. When Borel piloted a horse in a two-turn race, he averaged just more than a length of ground saving relative to the expected trip from whichever gate the horse started a race.  As the “average feet traveled by finishing position” showed, the typical winner covered the shortest trip – both at Churchill as highlighted above and in our previous analysis at Keeneland. But from those races down the road in Lexington, Borel was ranked 23rd of 24 in the JERs from six furlong races and 22nd of 24 in 1 1/16-mile races (and he was a combined 2-for-53 in races studied).    
  • Joe Rocco Jr. remains amongst the most efficient riders studied regardless of the circuits where his mounts have been tracked. In the JERs we presented from the 2011-12 Gulfstream Park meeting, Rocco led all riders in the Gulfstream colony with a -7.00 JER from 44 mounts at 1 1/16 miles on turf. He ranked fifth out of 23 in races at 8.5 furlongs on dirt at Churchill and second in races at six furlongs.
  • Julien Leparoux maintains a gaudy positive return on investment (ROI) in the races studied, and led all jockeys in trip efficiency in races studied at six furlongs.
  • From 43 mounts at 1 1/16 miles on dirt at Churchill, Jesus Castanon ranked 22nd out of 23 jockeys in the JERs, with his mounts covering almost six feet (5.88) more than average. In last year’s Gulfstream Park study, Castanon was 23rd out of 27 jockeys at that same distance on grass, with a JER of 4.66 from 38 mounts.

Impact on the Kentucky Derby?

There is little doubt that Calvin Borel was a ground-saving king at Churchill after three Kentucky Derby wins, all marked with rail-skimming prowess. The Trakus Jockey Efficiency Ratings simply confirm, in number, the degree to which Borel saves ground with his mounts. While the field for the Derby is often the largest in a flat race in the country on annual basis, the long run to the first turn often yields ample time for many to secure a handy position.

BOREL GUIDING MINE THAT BIRD TO VICTORY IN 2009 DERBY

Borel Inside

Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire

Equally, many trainers would rather see their horses cover extra ground, especially on the second turn, instead of risking getting stopped behind a tiring horse. The thought would be that riders in the top third of the rankings, or at least those with negative JERs, do pay more attention to saving ground and are mindful of the need to work out a slightly better trip than is initially plotted based on long-term averages. First-turn ground-saving in the Derby feels more important than second-turn saving, but the last two winners spent the majority of the race planted well-off the paint in their memorable tallies (Animal Kingdom started from gate 16, and I’ll Have Another from 19).

One of the widest trips from a year ago, however, came from the horse that started in gate eight, Creative Cause. There, Joel Rosario took his mount very wide commencing a rally on the far turn and covered 29 feet more than I’ll Have Another. Beaten just three lengths, the added ground covered by Creative Cause equated to roughly 3.5 lengths, more than his actual margin of defeat.  He came back to run third in the Preakness, bettering his fifth-place finish in the Derby, but finishing nine lengths adrift as opposed to his closer finish in Kentucky.

Make sure to follow @TrakusRacing on Twitter, as we’ll offer a host of data tidbits throughout Derby week.  Good luck!

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GET IN THE GAME

Image Description

Pat Cummings

Pat Cummings is the Director of Racing Information for Trakus. Based in Boston, Mass., Trakus provides full-field in-race tracking, instantaneous motion graphics, and real-time information to racetrack operators worldwide. Trakus is currently installed at racetracks in the USA, Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Data analysis from Trakus appears on Twitter regularly @TrakusRacing.

Cummings also serves as the editor of DubaiRaceNight.com, a comprehensive website covering racing in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. He has covered the Dubai World Cup on site each year since 2007 and provides selections for the entire season of racing in the United Arab Emirates and full-card analysis for all racing at Meydan. He also is the North American correspondent for Al Adiyat, a Dubai-based weekly racing publication.

Prior to joining Trakus, he worked for seven years in the financial services industry, and has served the racing industry in various capacities since 1999.  Pat was the backup announcer at Philadelphia Park (now Parx Racing) from 1999 to 2009, and also has called cards at Atlantic City Race Course, Louisiana Downs, Lone Star Park, Manor Downs, and Monmouth Park.

A member of the Turf Publicists of America, Pat earned his MBA from Baylor University in Texas and a BA from Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.

 

Image Description

Pat Cummings

Pat Cummings is the Director of Racing Information for Trakus. Based in Boston, Mass., Trakus provides full-field in-race tracking, instantaneous motion graphics, and real-time information to racetrack operators worldwide. Trakus is currently installed at racetracks in the USA, Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Data analysis from Trakus appears on Twitter regularly @TrakusRacing.

Cummings also serves as the editor of DubaiRaceNight.com, a comprehensive website covering racing in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. He has covered the Dubai World Cup on site each year since 2007 and provides selections for the entire season of racing in the United Arab Emirates and full-card analysis for all racing at Meydan. He also is the North American correspondent for Al Adiyat, a Dubai-based weekly racing publication.

Prior to joining Trakus, he worked for seven years in the financial services industry, and has served the racing industry in various capacities since 1999.  Pat was the backup announcer at Philadelphia Park (now Parx Racing) from 1999 to 2009, and also has called cards at Atlantic City Race Course, Louisiana Downs, Lone Star Park, Manor Downs, and Monmouth Park.

A member of the Turf Publicists of America, Pat earned his MBA from Baylor University in Texas and a BA from Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.

 

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