Aqueduct Inner Track Update

AQUEDUCT INNER TRACK WINTER BREAK PROGRESS REPORT

By Noel Michaels - OTB Learning Labs

Even though winter racing is the most low-profile time of the year on the New York racing calendar, there is still much for horseplayers to anticipate during the long cold winter months in the Big Apple.  Stakes racing might not be a big part of the New York racing scene at this time of the year, but that doesn't mean there is not a lot going on for bettors and handicappers who consider Aqueduct's inner track meet to be the meat-and-potatoes time of the year for avid horseplayers and hardcore handicappers.

Winter racing in New York is essentially a scaled-down but yet very bettable version of NYRA's five-day-a-week racing schedule without all the bells and whistles and turf racing. All sprints are run at 6 furlongs and under, and all route races are run around two turns, primarily at 1 mile, 1 mile & 70 yards, and 1 1/16th miles.

This season's inner track meet at Aqueduct has a good chance to be even better than in years past, at least in terms of purses and field sizes.  The Aqueduct casino is open for business and churning in the cash, and the new influx of money has already resulted in one purse increase at Aqueduct at the beginning of December, and another one on the way for the start of the New Year. All that extra cash has attracted plenty of new horsemen and horses, and should result in larger fields and better betting opportunities.

The Aqueduct meet moved to the inner track on Dec. 2, so that means there are already three weeks of the inner track meet in the books to help handicappers prepare for the rest of the meet. Aqueduct racing resumes on Wednesday, Dec. 28.

Aqueduct's upcoming December and January schedule is, as follows:

Upcoming Aqueduct Racing Schedule
Dec. 19-27                  - Closed, no racing
Dec. 28 (Weds.)            - Aqueduct re-opens
Jan. 1 (Sun.)                 - Interborough Hcp., Ladies Handicap
Jan. 7   (Sat.)                - Count Fleet, Busanda Stakes
Jan. 14 (Sat.)                - Ruthless Stakes
Jan. 16 (Mon.)             - Open for Martin Luther King Holiday, Jimmy Winkfield Stakes
Jan. 18 (Weds.)            - Dark day
Jan. 25 (Weds.)            - Resumes regular Wednesday - Sunday schedule

Read on for some information from the first three weeks of the inner track meet that could be valuable in helping you get you through the next three months of racing at Aqueduct. When racing continues along in full swing after the winter break some will see it as a blessing, while others see it strictly as the continuation of a long cold winter in NY racing that becomes monotonous very quickly. The more you look into it, however, the more you will see that the Aqueduct inner track offers money-making opportunities for bettors just like anywhere else, and that the quality of racing is as good or better than the majority of the other wintertime signals.

 

RUNNING STYLES / TRACK BIASES
Aqueduct's inner track is renowned as a speed favoring and inside favoring racetrack that is susceptible to frequent trends and biases. Several racing days since the start of the inner track meet on Dec. 3 have shown at least some form of track bias, primarily in terms of running style, but also in terms of running paths. While biases subside at times, they are always a threat to return, especially in transitional winter weather or when the track is drying out. This time of year on the inner track is the prime time for New York handicappers to capitalize on the track biases that have existed at Aqueduct over the course of December, so always make yourself aware of what biases may have affected what days when reading the past performances of the horses when they come back to run in their next races.  Once you identify when track biases were in play and exactly what they were, you then will be able to apply what you know to the upcoming races and reap the benefits of the information you have at your disposal.

Throughout the early part of the inner track meet, Aqueduct often seemed to be at the mercy of its usual track biases, which this season, predominantly, have tended toward speed-favoring more often than not (the exception was the anti-speed bias on Dec. 3, plus several fair days when the track showed little or no discernable bias). When horses start coming back for their next races at Aqueduct beginning on Dec. 28, be very aware that speed more or less dominated at Aqueduct between Dec. 9-Dec. 18.  Speed horses who last races during those dates might not be as good as they look on paper, while closers might not be as bad as they may appear on paper.

Here is a chart detailing the track biases that the OTB Learning Labs have documented during the Aqueduct inner track meet so far from the beginning of the meet through December 18.

December Aqueduct Inner Track Biases
Dec. 18 - Speed favoring, 8 of 9 winners on or close to the pace
Dec. 17 - Speed bias, all winners on or close to the pace
Dec. 15 - Speed bias, had to be on or close to the pace
Dec. 14 - Speed bias, had to be on or close to the pace
Dec. 11 - Speed helped
Dec. 10 - Speed bias, 8 of 9 winners on or close to the lead
Dec. 9 - Gold rail inside bias; speed good
Dec. 3 - Anti-speed bias

 

How can handicappers benefit from this bias information?  Easy. Horses that benefited from speed biased tracks en route to wire-to-wire victories should be downgraded for their subsequent starts, especially when the speed figures they earned for the front-running efforts on those days seem out of whack with what those horses have recently been capable of. This is a reliable indication that the speed favoring track conditions carried those horses to their biases-aided victories. Based on the same axiom, handicappers can also go ahead and upgrade closers who raced against the bias on those speed-favoring days. The same holds true for the days when the outside bias occurred. Downgrade the winners from those days when benefited from the track bias, and subsequently upgrade the losers who were bogged down on the worst inside part of the racetrack.

Remember to always ask yourself if a good horse's good recent past performances were really that good, or if a losing horse's bad recent past performances were really that bad. Chances are that any track bias information you have at your disposal could be your key to answering those kinds of tough questions.

 

WINNING POST POSITIONS
Aside from being known as a speed-favoring track, the Aqueduct inner track is also known as a track that strongly favors inside posts, especially in two-turn route races. However, that was certainly not the case last year at this time when the inner track meet opened with a slow rail and very bad stats for the inside posts - and in particular the rail.  How has the rail post (and the rest of the posts) been doing so far this season on the inner track?

Through the first three weeks of the Aqueduct inner track meet, the track has been remarkably fair to all post positions - especially in route races, where posts 1 thru 8 all have similar winning percentages.  Further out, 2 of 4 starters have even won from post 10. This is an indication that the track has been fair in routes, from an inside/outside perspective, for all post positions.

Here is a look at the post position stats for routes so far.

Aqueduct Winning Posts, Inner Track ROUTES 12/2 - 12/18
Post     Wins-Starts  Win%
1          7-56                 13%
2          8-56                 14%
3          8-56                 14%
4          6-56                 11%    
5          7-54                 13%
6          8-44                 18%
7          5-40                 13%
8          5-26                 19%
9          0-9                   0%
10        2-4                   50%

If there has been any post position favoritism shown at all so far at the inner track meet at Aqueduct, it has been in sprints.  However, even this favoritism has not been a strong handicapping factor thus far.  If anything, the inside two posts 1-2 have been statistically the best places to break from, and posts 9-12 on the far outside (with a combined record of 0-for-19) have been the worst.  This is roughly what most people would expect from a post position analysis of races run on the Aqueduct inner track.

Here is a look at the post position stats for sprints so far.

Aqueduct Winning Posts, Inner Track SPRINTS 12/2 - 12/18
Post     Wins-Starts  Win%
1          12-65               18%
2          14-65               22%
3          4-65                 6%
4          12-65               18%    
5          10-63               16%
6          4-52                 8%
7          5-42                 12%
8          4-24                 17%
9          0-9                   0%
10        0-7                   0%
11        0-2                   0%
12        0-1                   0%

In Aqueduct inner track sprints through the first three weeks of the current meet, all post positions have tended to play fairly with the exception of the far outside. Overall, however, plenty of horses have also been able to score from inside and middle draws.

TRAINER TRENDS

The inner track season is usually the time of year when we start to see a new set of trainers take over atop the New York standings. Last year was an exception when Todd Pletcher kept a big string of runners at Aqueduct and won the title. This year, Plether is only 1-for-9 to start the meet and the training title is wide-open amongst any number of different trainers.

In New York in the winter when the top training names will be absent all be wintering the main parts of their stables in Florida, it is the year-round trainers that take their places in the standings on the Aqueduct inner track. Names we'd expect to be atop the Aqueduct inner track training standing by meet's end would include David Jacobson, Gary Contessa, Richard Dutrow, Bruce Levine, Bruce Brown, and of course, Rudy Rodriguez.

Also, this year's inner track meet is and will be featuring a better-than-usual influx of new-blood horses and trainers thanks to Aqueduct's new racino and the resulting higher purses. Big money has enticed trainers such as Dale Romans, Eddie Kenneally, Ken McPeek, Jamie Ness, and Eric Reed among others, to race winter strings of horses in New York, which is helping spice up this inner track meet.

The leading trainer at Aqueduct to this point has been David Jacobson, who has won 7 of 22 starts for 32% wins and 59% ITM. Other red-hot trainers currently include Dominic Galluscio (6 wins, 40%), Chad Brown (4-for-9, 44%), and Jason Servis (4-for-10, 40% wins and 80% ITM). More surprising, perhaps, has been the hot starts of a couple low-profile trainers, John Terranova and John Campo. Terranova is 3-for-8 (37% wins and 63% ITM so far, while Campo is 3-for-9 for 33% wins. Both are worth bets at good odds until they cool down.

On the tote board at Aqueduct on the inner track, the story often revolves around trainers like Rudy Rodriguez, and Chris Englehart, whose runners will all see heavy action pretty much whenever they are entered. Rodriguez and Englehart were second and third in the trainer standings throughout most of last year's inner track meet, and the same probably will end up being true this season. So far, however, Rodriguez's and Englehart's lower-than-expected win percentages are sending their ROIs (Return on Investment) deep into negative territory for handicappers. Englehart won with only 4 of his first 20 starters, and Rodriguez has been suffering from second-it is with only 4 wins from 18 starters but 8 second-place finishes. All told, Rudy has still been in the exacta in 12 of 18 starts (66%), and that's not too shabby no matter how you slice it.

Other guys who have been burning a lot of money in terms of ROI include Gary Contessa (4-for-24, 17% wins so far), and Bruce Levine, who is off to an uncharacteristically slow 1-for-8 start (11%). Bet Levine with first-time Lasix (the "Bruce Juice"), but lay off his other horses until you start to see signs of a pulse from this stable.

Perhaps you should also steer clear of betting some other guys who have gotten off to horrific inner track starts until you see evidence of a turnaround. This group includes of "0'fers" to date such as Joe Aquilino (0-for-10), Karl Grusmark (0-for-10), Bill Badgett (0-for-11), Doodnauth Shivmangal (0-for-11), Frank Martin Sr. (0-for-12), Gary Sciacca (0-for-13), Pat Kelly (0-for-16), and Rodrigo Ubillo (0-for-16). If you are reading this article, then I would assume most of you are steering clear of these guys, anyway.

Other trainers who aren't winless but are still stinking up the joint early in the meet to be leery of include Dominick Schettino (1-for-14 for 7%), John Hertler (1-for-11 for 9%), and Juan Ortiz (1-for-7). Kiaran McLaughlin, usually very reliable for wins at Aqueduct with this leftover New York winter string, is currently mired in a streak of bad luck and should be able to snap out of it and turn things around shortly. McLaughlin is just 1-for-10 in the win column, but has been in the money with 8-of-10 due to his hard-luck 3 seconds and 4 thirds.

Aside from the hot and cold trainers mentioned above, other trainers who will be at Aqueduct with highly bettable strings this winter will include Rick Violette and Mike Hushion.
Aqueduct Inner Track Leading Trainers 12/2 - 12/18

Trainer

Starts

Wins

2nd

3rd

Win%

ITM%

David Jacobson

22

7

5

1

32%

59%

Dominick Galluscio

15

6

2

0

40%

53%

Chad Brown

9

4

0

2

44%

67%

Jason Servis

10

4

2

2

40%

80%

Richard Dutrow

14

4

3

1

29%

57%

Rudy Rodriguez

18

4

8

1

22%

72%

Chris Englehart

20

4

0

7

20%

55%

Gary Contessa

24

4

2

5

17%

46%

The list of other guys to keep an eye on in the trainers ranks are topped off by Richard Dutrow, who along with his brother Anthony Dutrow routinely win at high percentages at this inner track meet despite the fact that both were relatively quiet in December. David Jacobson will continue to thrive with his patented claim-and-drop moves all winter, James Jerkens will win more than his share of races, particularly with maiden second-time starters. Bruce Brown is usually a factor on the inner track, so he should heat up, and we fully expect the winter string of Kiaran McLaughlin to be in the winter top 10 on the during the inner track meet at the Big A.

AQUEDUCT INNER TRACK JOCKEYS

Ramon Dominguez got off to a slow start this season but he has been making up for it quickly. Despite the fact that he is not currently at the top of the standings, he has been up to his usual domination when he has been riding and should once again end up running away with the leading jockey meet riding title when all is said and done. Ramon is already hitting at a 30% clip, and has been in the money on a big 72% of his mounts. When you see Dominguez out there riding on the inner track, one thing quickly becomes apparent and obvious to almost any observer - Ramon is a man amongst boys in the Aqueduct inner track jockey colony.

Currently as we stand during Aqueduct's holiday break, the surprise leader atop the jockey standings is Junior Alvarado with 16 wins, followed closely by Cornelio Velasquez with 15 wins. Both are riding at 21-22% win percentages, and that's probably about where they'll stay at this meet based on what we've seen so far. Irad Ortiz has been a pleasant surprise - just like he's been for much of 2011 on the New York circuit. He's winning near 20% with 11 victories.

David Cohen and apprentice Ryan Curatolo have been streaky riders and both have taken advantage of sporadic hot streaks and big days thus far for 10 wins apiece.

Here are the Aqueduct jockey standings through Dec. 18.:

Aqueduct Leading Jockeys, 12/2 - 12/18

Rider

Mts.

Wins

2nd

3rd

Win%

ITM%

Junior Alvarado

73

16

10

12

22%

52%

Cornelio Velasquez

71

15

14

13

21%

59%

Ramon Dominguez

36

11

7

8

31%

72%

Irad Ortiz

57

11

11

10

19%

56%

David Cohen

57

10

8

7

18%

44%

Ryan Curatolo

65

10

10

10

15%

46%

Expect Ramon Dominguez to finish way ahead in the final jockey standings on the inner track. Beyond him, however, it should be a scramble this winter at Aqueduct with David Cohen and Cornelio Velazquez likely to battle it out for second. The very capable Junior Alvarado also has won over many New York racing fans over the course of the year and a half as a more-than-capable rider. Other jockeys to note include Chuckie Lopez, who has been consistently dangerous on the Aqueduct inner track the past 3-4 seasons, always finishing in the top 5 in the final standings here thanks to his ability aboard front running horses.

Best of luck this winter at the Big A. Remember, even though it's a very long meet, you need to keep on top of the action everyday to give yourself the best chance. Those who pay attention day-in-and-day-out will be able to stay in touch with all the all-important prevailing track biases. Also, keep staying on top of all the hot jockeys and trainers during the Aqueduct meet. If you stay ahead of the trends, you will benefit with a money-making edge all winter long at Aqueduct. Enjoy!

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