I grew up going to old Latonia race course. Originally built in 1959, it was home to a first of many for me. – I attended the races with my Dad, and when the track re-opened as Turfway Park I was a young man in the parking lot. The Florence, Kentucky oval was one of the first tracks in the nation to offer night time Thoroughbred racing action, and once upon a time was home to Harness action. There have been many incredible moments, and a bevy of changes. I have been there for many, and this is the track where I fell in love with racing.
I was chatting with long time friend Tyler Picklesimer, Director of Racing / Racing Secretary. He is one of the few who have done about every job at the track. He was in the same parking lot many moons ago, and has learned the game from some of the best to pass the torch. We spoke about the upcoming meet and he provided me with some information for the fans and players who follow the winter circuit in Northern Kentucky.
The meet will kick off on Wednesday 11/30, and there are 22 days in the Holiday meet. Post time will be 6:15 pm ET Weds – Saturday, and 3:00 pm ET on Sunday. The daily purse structure offers a generous $100,000, and horsemen are happy to be racing in Florence. There will be 9 races carded daily and the poly track surface offers a safe and durable surface for the horses to run. The surface is around 4 – 4 1/2 inches in depth, and the Gallop Master is not the typical tractor you would see on the track as it is more compact and harrows the synthetic surface to a “fluff.” – The Northern Kentucky area is prone to the freeze-thaw temperatures of Mother Nature, and the poly track is a friendly surface that keeps the equine and human athletes on a consistent surface.
If you’re looking for some big name trainers you won’t be disappointed, according to Picklesimer. Wesley Ward will have around 20 head, Mike Maker will be loaded for bear with 40 runners in his barn. – The usual winning conditioners of Jeff Greenhill, Bill Connelly, and Tom Drury will be factors when they send a runner to the paddock. – Look for solid riders such as Jesus Castanon, David Flores, Albin Jimenez, Perry Ouzts, Cory Orm, John McKee, and Abel Lezcano to name a handful of talented riders. There is always a “new face” that arrives under the radar and it is worth keeping tabs on the entries. Turfway Park has always been kind to apprentice riders and a few names to keep handy are Euclyn “Pede” Prentice, Katie Clawson, and Arturo Aparicio.
The barns have over 900 stabled on the grounds, and more will be shipping in from Lexington, Louisville, Chicago, Florida and West Virginia. According to Mr. Picklesimer, “there were an average of 10 runners per race last year, and you can expect the fields to be solid.” – There will be two stakes in the first few weeks with the Holiday Inaugural and the Prairie Bayou.
From a handicapping standpoint here are some tidbits you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled and utilize before heading to the windows:
* Pay attention to the flags when the video feed shows the runners on the track. – If they are blowing strong to the right, it will be a headwind right in the faces of the runners. As long as the pace is not too salty, this is a benefit to speed style runners. – To the left is a tailwind that can benefit stalkers.
* The track plays honest overall, and if you see runners carry speed to the winner’s circle you’ll want to pay strict attention.
* If you don’t see a blistering pace in the race, you want to be on the lead or very close to the front.
* Here are some bloodlines who have enjoyed the synthetic: Old Forester, Forestry, Kris S, Philanthropist, Giant Gizmo, Giant’s Causeway, Seeking the Gold, Where’s the Ring, Court Vision, Gulch, Milwaukee Brew, Wild Again, Niigon, Unbridled, Sligo Bay, Sadler’s Wells, Victor’s Cry, Street Cry, Speightstown, Kitten’s Joy, City Zip,Tiznow, and Midnight Lute.
* Playing the hot rider / trainer combo is always a plus, but at Turfway Park you’ll see the hot tandems in the winner’s circle on a regular clip.
* Chicago dirt runners do well, turf runners making the change in surface, and class droppers coming from everywhere.
* Look for a work over the track.
* Past efforts over synthetics.
* If you see a layoff runner targeting a race, this may be a note to watch as the poly can be kinder to a horse off the shelf.
* Pay attention to horses who work away from the pony and get a strong gallop prior to the race. – Mother Nature can deal out some cold temperatures and riders like to have their mounts warmed and ready.
There is a large race book on the first floor, and the paddock is accessible to watch the runners saddle. Full-card simulcast from around the country is available for guests on track, and be sure to take a glimpse at some old Equibase charts from last meet to get a feel for the action. – Turfway Park has been racing since 1959 and the signature “Spiral Stakes” can be a springboard for Derby hopefuls in late March. – Winter racing is not the end of the action, it is just the revolving springboard that will take us into Spring and the starting gates to the Derby. – Enjoy the racing action, because with full fields expected, this translates to bigger pools with better odds for racing fans.