Win Big in the Home Stretch of Belmont's Spring/Summer Meet

Win Big in the Home Stretch of Belmont's Spring/Summer Meet

By Noel Michaels

More than half of the Belmont Park spring/summer meet is in the books, but there are still plenty of handicapping and wagering opportunities at what was has always been this season's premier racetrack.  With half the meet now over, horseplayers that have been paying attention to Belmont have a solid set of data from the meet thus far that we can break down and delve into as we try to formulate a successful plan for the final portion of the meet.

Several trends have been quietly- and not so quietly- taken shape at Belmont Park this season as the meet has progressed.  From what we've seen up to the latter half of June, we have noticed some trends developing at the Belmont meet- in terms of post positions and track biases- that can help handicappers cash tickets and turn a profit.  Additionally, I've also been able to pinpoint some hot and cold trainers to either key on or avoid the rest of the way through closing day on July 17.

Let's start out with a look at turf sprints.

Turf Sprints

Readers of my columns know by now that I constantly expound on the virtues of outside posts in turf sprint races in New York. This is mainly true at Saratoga, but it is also true at Belmont Park as well, particularly on the outer, Widener main turf course where some of Belmont's 6-furlong turf sprints and all of Belmont's 7-furlong turf sprints are run.

This bias toward outside posts in turf sprints has always been a great trend to know about, and amazingly it still continues to be a good angle even now as most handicappers refuse to differentiate post position trends in turf sprints. What this means for bettors is that outside posts are best bets in turf sprints on the Widener main turf course at Belmont, not only because they offer the best chances of winning, but also because they offer value overlaid odds and terrific bargains on the tote board.

Statistics on the Inner turf course have been a bit different for turf sprints this season, where inside posts generally are good with the exception of the rail, which is still not great.  Overall, posts 2 through 5 are winning most of the six furlong turf sprints on the inner turf.  Horses breaking from posts 9-12, meanwhile, are only a combined 1-for-40.

Belmont Turf Sprint Winning Post Positions
(April 29- June 21)

Post

6F Inner Turf

1

3-34 (9%)

2

5-34 (15%)

3

10-34 (29%)

4

2-34 (6%)

5

6-34 (18%)

6

3-34 (9%)

7

3-30 (10%)

8

2-29 (7%)

9

1-18 (6%)

10

0-12 (0%)

11

0-7 (0%)

12

0-3 (0%)

As far as turf sprint running styles are concerned, inside horses better not only have speed, but the speed to clear in order to have a really good chance.  Inside horses involved in speed battles on the lead tend to readily succumb to outside pressure, either setting the race up for outside stalkers and closers.  Inside horses without speed get shuffled to far back off the pace, and don't have enough chance to get back into the race at the short turf sprint distances.

Turf Routes

On the Belmont Widener main turf course this season, the story at one mile has been a strong favoritism toward inside posts- a distance that in the past has almost always been beneficial for an inside draw, except in spring/summer 2010 when for some reason the opposite was true.  This season, posts 1 through 4 at a mile have been dominant, and any post outside post 8 has had virtually no chance (winless at a combined 0-for-27).

Belmont Turf MILE Winning Post Positions
(April 29- June 21)

Post

1 Mile Turf (Widener)

1

4-27 (15%)

2

5-27 (19%)

3

4-27 (15%)

4

5-27 (19%)

5

2-27 (7%)

6

5-26 (19%)

7

2-21 (10%)

8

0-15 (0%)

9

0-8 (0%)

10

0-3 (0%)

11

0-1 (0%)

In turf routes between 1 1/16-miles and 1 1/8-miles, the inside post positions have performed well for the most part, with the possible exception of the rail post itself, especially at 1 1/16 miles on the Widener where the rail is just 1-for-21 (5%).  .

On the inner turf course, meanwhile, these turf routes not surprisingly have strongly been favoring the inside six or seven post positions, which have accounted for all but two of the inner turf route grass wins so far this season. Outside posts 7 through 12 on the inner turf have gone a combined 2-for-45 so far, for a win percentage of just 4%.

Belmont Turf Route Winning Post Positions
(April 29- June 21)


Post

1 1/16 Miles Widener

1 1/16 Miles Inner

1 1/8 Miles or more (Inner)

1

1-21 (5%)

3-28 (11%)

1-6 (17%)

2

2-21 (10%)

3-28 (11%)

1-6 (17%)

3

3-21 (14%)

2-28 (7%)

0-6 (0%)

4

3-21 (14%)

5-28 (18%)

0-6 (0%)

5

4-21 (19%)

6-28 (21%)

1-6 (17%)

6

2-20 (10%)

5-26 (19%)

1-6 (17%)

7

1-20 (5%)

2-20 (10%)

2-4 (50%)

8

2-18 (11%)

1-17 (6%)

0-4 (0%)

9

2-15 (13%)

1-12 (8%)

0-2 (0%)

10

0-9 (0%)

0-7 (0%)

11

1-3 (33%)

0-2 (0%)

12

0-2 (0%)

0-1 (0%)

Running Styles / Track Biases

Now let's move over to the Belmont Park dirt track and look at some trends we've noticed during the first month and a half of the 2011 meet. As always on Belmont's dirt track, speed is an extremely handy commodity. Other tracks such as Monmouth, Pimlico, and the Aqueduct inner track have more of a reputation as being speed biased tracks, but Belmont Park can be right up there with those other tracks at certain times when it comes to favoring speed. Sure, late runners will have every opportunity to close at Belmont with its wide sweeping turns and long stretch, but you always must be wary of the times when Belmont's main track bias kicks into effect and strongly favors the front runners regardless. When those biases appear, they can be valuable things to take notice of and capitalize on when horses return to the track for their next starts.

Besides the prevailing speed-favoring nature of the Belmont main track, there are always certain day-to-day track biases that affect the results and either help or hurt the chances of certain horses on any given afternoon.  Here is a list of the track biases, as I have noted, so far at this year's Belmont spring/summer meet.

Belmont Track Biases (April 29- June 19)
June 18- Most winners on or close to the pace
June 17- Speed favoring races 3-7 after un-sealed, +speed bias when re-sealed races 8-9
June 16- Helped to be on or close to the pace
June 11- Front-end outside bias, all winners outside and close to the pace
June 3- Speed good
May 27- Advantage to pace horses, on or close
May 21- Strong speed bias
May 12- Inside speed bias, all winners on or close
May 7- All winners on or close
May 5- Outside closers bias on drying out track
May 4- Outside bias, dead rail in slop

Dirt Post Positions

When it comes to post position angles on the Belmont main track, the track does not always play like you would expect. Remember, Belmont runs almost no two-turn races due to its 1 1/2 -mile circumference.  The strongest main track post position bias at Belmont so far, is ... going 4-for-10 (40%) at 1 1/16 miles.

See the following chart for a complete post position breakdown of the most common distances on the Belmont main track.

Belmont DIRT Winning Post Positions
(April 29- June 21)

Post 6F Dirt One Mile 1 1/16 Miles
1 13-78 (17%) 11-48 (23%) 5-12 (42%)
2 14-78 (18%) 11-48 (23%) 1-12 (8%)
3 14-78 (18%) 7-48 (15%) 2-12 (17%)
4 14-78 (18%) 6-48 (12%) 2-12 (17%)
5 9-73 (12%) 3-46 (7%) 1-11 (9%)
6 3-64 (5%) 6-36 (17%) 1-10 (10%)
7 6-47 (13%) 1-22 (5%) 0-6 (0%)
8 2-27 (7%) 1-8 (12%) 0-2 (0%)
9 1-15 (7%) 0-5 (0%)
10 0-7 (0%) 0-4 (0%)
11 1-6 (17%) 2-3 (67%)
12 1-2 (50%)
13 0-1 (0%)
14 0-1 (0%)

Based on the raw post position numbers above, inside posts have clearly been desirable on the Belmont main track this season.

The inside four posts 1-4 have won 55 of the first 78 six furlong races run at the meet, while horses breaking from posts 8 through 14 in those six furlong race have gone a combined 5-for-59 for a win percentage of 8%.

At one mile on the main track at Belmont, the story has been more of the same, with a big bias for the two inside posts 1-2, which each have won at a 23% clip and have accounted for wins in nearly half of the races run at the distance this season.  Outside posts 7 through 11, when taken as a group, have performed poorly with horses winning a combined 4-for-42 for 9.5%.

There have been a limited amount or longer dirt races run so far at the Belmont meet, but by far the most common longer route distance has been 1 1/16 miles, where there have been 12 races run so far.  At the 1 1/16-mile distance, the rail post 1 has been dominant with wins in 5-of-12 races at the distance for a win percentage of 42% in the limited sample.  Posts 5 and outward have won only 2 races with 29 starters for a combined win percentage of just 7%.

Trainer Trends

This season's Belmont trainer trends lack a big story big story like last year's Belmont emergence of jockey-turned trainer Rudy Rodriguez, or last winter's local emergence of Chris Englehart, who were each moving horses up dramatically in ability and winning at huge percentages when they were hot items. Rodriguez (19% win percentage, 13 wins and vying for the meet training title) and Englehart (4-for-29, 14%) are both still around and having solid meets, especially with recent claims, both neither have been the overwhelming forces they had been at different times of the past year.

Leading the trainer's standings now, not surprisingly, is Todd Pletcher, who is 14-for-50 with a big 28% win percentage.  He's dangerous in every kind of race from maidens to stakes, and at all distances and on both surfaces, particularly when teamed up with his go-to rider John Velazquez.

Among the most pleasant surprises in the training ranks this season at Belmont have been guys quietly putting together hot meets like Bobby Barbara (5-for-13, 38% wins and 77% ITM), Angel Penna Jr. (4-for-11, 36%), and Alan Goldberg (5-for-10, 50% wins and 70% ITM).  Goldberg's Belmont comes on the heels of his performance at the 2010 Belmont spring/summer meet, where he won nearly 40% of his races.  Goldberg is quietly becoming a force to watch at this meet, and unlike horses sent out by trainers like Rodriguez, Englehart, or Pletcher, Goldberg's horses often fly under the radar and pay good prices resulting in high ROIs.  Goldberg's best categories are sprints (4-for-6), and dirt (2-for-2). He is also 3-for-8 on the grass.

Other hot barns to watch for now also include Carlos Martin (11-for-35, 31% wins, 57% ITM), Chad Brown (10-for-36, 27% wins, 53% ITM), Shug McGaughey (7-for-22, 32% wins), and H. James Bond (6-for-18, 33% wins, 61% ITM).  Jimmy Toner has also been hot with a record of 5-for-17 (29%) to go along with an in-the-money percentage of 76%.  Jimmy Toner, like the aforementioned Alan Goldberg, has also developed into quite a nice sleeper at this sprint-summer meet now after having gone 33% to win and 58% ITM in 2010.

Two other sleeper trainers to watch that are having good meets are David Fawkes (5-for-19, 26%) and George Weaver (8-for-32, 25% wins and 47% ITM).

On the complete other side of the ledger, the long list of cold trainers to avoid right now is led by several guys taking "the duck" (zero wins) including Joe Imperio (0-for-17, 23% ITM), Michael Tannuzzo (0-for-17, 6% ITM), John Hertler (0-for-23, 17% ITM), Frank Martin Sr. (numbers too bad to mention).  Last but not least, shockingly, Nick Zito, currently is 0-for 22 (27% ITM).

Other trainers who have had terrible meets include many other guys you wouldn't expect such as Bill Badget (2-for 27), Tom Albertrani (2-for-30), James Jerkens (1-for-20), and Steve Asmussen (1-for 23). Pat Kelly also is just 1-for 29).  With trainer like these, I would suggest steering clear of them for the remainder of the Belmont meet and then circling them in your programs at Saratoga.  Their barns will be loaded with good horses who have plenty of their conditions still remaining.

I hope you enjoy a successful final four weeks of the Belmont spring/summer season, and can use the information in this article to help you cash some good tickets the rest of the way. Best of luck.

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