How a Wet Track Can Key a Winning Wager

Horses race through the mud at Churchill Downs on Derby day 2018.
Horses race through the mud at Churchill Downs on Derby day 2018. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Sometimes all it takes is a long memory to cash a winning bet. Remember last week’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve? Remember how it poured?

Now let’s go back to the 2017 Kentucky Derby. Remember how it rained?

A wet or sloppy track can sometimes turn a race upside down as favorites can flounder while longshots thrive. Or vice versa.

Yet wet tracks can be different from track to track. Just because a horse runs well on a wet track at Belmont Park there is no guarantee that horse will be a mud lark at Gulfstream Park.

Of course, when comparing apples with apples, if a horse ran well on a wet track at Churchill Downs on Derby day 2017 why wouldn’t that colt or filly turn in another solid effort on a wet track at the Louisville track on Derby day 2018?

Seems logical, right?

While the tracks were not exactly the same and were classified differently, the common element was that there was moisture in the track both last year and this year.

So let’s see if any of this came into play in last week’s races.

We’ll start with the third race on May 5. There among a field of eight racing on a track wet from showers was Lookin At Lee. The very same Lookin At Lee who ran the race of his life and finished second on a wet-fast track in last year’s Kentucky Derby.

A year after that huge performance, Lookin At Lee once again felt right at home on a moist surface at Churchill Downs, posting a 2 ¼-length victory over a track that was labeled fast but was on its way to becoming sloppy in a few hours. Best of all, he paid $15 to win for those folks who remembered what happened a year ago.

Two races later, another alumnus of the 2017 Derby made his appearance on the card. McCraken had a rough trip when he finished eighth as the fourth choice in the run for the roses. That, however, was his lone loss in five starts over a Churchill Downs track that he clearly likes. Now, like Looking At Lee, he was taking on optional claiming rivals, and he also followed Lookin At Lee’s lead by posting a half-length victory. Only he paid just $5.60 as a deserving 9-5 favorite.

Limousine Liberal (Coady Photography)

By the time the Churchill Downs Stakes Presented by was contested as the eighth race on last week’s rainy day in Louisville, the track had turned sloppy and history was about to repeat itself.

A year earlier on the wet track, Limousine Liberal had captured the Churchill Downs by a head at 13-1 odds.

Now, in his bid for an encore, he was just 4-1 but the result was the same. Once again Limousine Liberal motored over the wet track and recorded a victory by a head, paying $10.80 to win.

Interestingly, Awesome Slew finished a head behind Limousine Liberal a year ago and this time he was also right there at the finish line, winding up two heads behind the winner as longshot Warrior’s Club split the two rivals.

Hopefully Derby day was memorable for you, because, as we learned during another soggy edition of the run for the roses, at some point down the road those memories could become very profitable.

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