Winning Belmont Track Trends

WINNING BELMONT TRACK TRENDS FOR BELMONT STAKES DAY AND BEYOND

By Noel Michaels - OTB Learning Labs.com

A full month of the Belmont Park spring/summer meet is already in the books, and we are now approaching the best part of the Belmont season as the date draws near for the 2012 running of the Belmont Stakes- the third jewel in racing's Triple Crown. With a Triple Crown on the line this year for the first time since 2008, it is certainly worth paying close attention to the Belmont Stakes, but remember that there is still plenty of other great action going on at Belmont, not just that one day but everyday of the meet until its conclusion on Sunday July 15.

There are still plenty of great handicapping and wagering opportunities at Belmont- even after the Belmont Stakes- at what has always been the early summer season's premier racetrack.  Now that we have one full month of statistics to sink our teeth into, horseplayers who have been paying attention to Belmont have accumulated a solid set of data from the meet so far that we can use break down what we expect to happen the rest of the way.  Therefore, I have attempted to delve into the key statistics and trends so far as I try to formulate a successful plan for the remaining 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 I've seen up to the start of June, I have noticed some trends developing at the Belmont meet- in terms of post positions and track biases- that can help handicappers cash tickets and show profits.  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.

RUNNING STYLES / TRACK BIASES

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. 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 by downgrading horses who benefitted from biases and upgrading the chances of horses who've been hurt by track biases.

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 27- May 28)
May 28- Speed good, had to be on or close to the pace
May 26- Helped to be on or close to the pace
May 25- Outside preferred
May 24- Outside preferred
May 23- Outside preferred on drying out track
May 18- Inside preferred
May 16- Helped to be on or close in the mud; riders avoided the rail
May 13- Outside bias
May 12- Outside appeared to be better
May 11- Riders avoided the far inside path
May 10- Riders avoided the far inside path
May 9- Outside bias; had to be on or close
May 6- Outside & rally wide biases
May 4- Outside preferred; difficult to rally from too far back in the mud
May 3- Dead rail in the slop; helped to be on or close to the pace
May 2- Outside preferred in the mud
Apr. 29- Speed good, had to be on or close to the pace

TRAINER / JOCKEY TRENDS

This season's Belmont trainer trends lack a big splashy story like in the past couple of years when trainers like Rudy Rodriguez and Chris Englehart were each having breakout summers and moving horses up dramatically in ability and winning at huge percentages. For the record, Rodriguez remains a major force at Belmont and has been hot at this meet with a 24% win percentage (10 wins and currently in third place in the trainer standings), while Englehart has been ice cold with just 2 wins from 30 starters (7% wins) plus a lot of bad luck as evidenced by his seven second-place finishes.

Leading the trainer's standings now and continuing his hot streak in New York dating back to the start of 2012 is Richard Dutrow, who already has 15 wins (from 47 starters) and a 32% winning percentage. When you combine Dutrow's 20 other in-the-money finishers, he has been in the money with 35 of his first 47 horses for a giant ITM percentage of 74%.

Aside from Dutrow, the other trainer continuing what has been a strong year to date in New York is David Jacobson, who is currently second in the trainer standings with 11 winners from 41 starters for a 27% win percentage. Jacobson is always dangerous off the claim, and particularly does his best work with the claim-and-drop maneuver that yields him a ton of winners and would be considered a red-flag from most other trainers.

On the other end of the spectrum are some surprisingly cold and/or quiet trainers so far at the Belmont spring/summer meet. Undoubtedly at the top of this list is Todd Pletcher, who is shockingly only 4-for-26 with a relatively low 15% win percentage at the meet so far.  Pletcher is a perennial leader in the Belmont training ranks, and it's a major surprise that he has been such a non-factor at the meet so far.  This could mean one of a three things; 1) His barn is cold right now, 2) His stock is coming off a long Gulfstream meet and is fresh, rested, and ready for a big second-half of the Belmont meet, or 3) Pletcher won't be as big of a factor as usual at this Belmont meet, but he'll be in for a monumental Saratoga meet- even by his standards.

Whichever one of those three scenarios you subscribe to, there is still no denying that Pletcher is still nevertheless 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. Also, Pletcher's win total will only increase once he starts unveiling more and more juveniles as the 2-year-old racing season finally starts getting into gear.

Speaking of John Velazquez, he really has been the story of the Belmont meet so far from a jockey and/or trainer perspective.  Johnny V. has been struggling mightily so far this season, partially as a result of Pletcher's slow start to the meet and partially because he just hasn't been doing his best riding of late.  Velazquez remarkably has only 4 wins through the first month of the Belmont season and at 4-for-66 his win percentage is at an unheard of low level of 6%.

Besides John Velazquez, the rest of the jockey standings are pretty much as you would expect with Ramon Dominguez leading the way in wins with 32, and with Javier Castellano close behind with 25.  Pleasant surprises so far in the jockey race have been Jose Lezcano (18 wins, 24% winners), Rosie Napravnik (17 wins, 15% winners), and Eddie Castro (14 wins, 15% winners). Junior Alvarado continues his breakout year, meanwhile, with 10 wins and a 14% win percentage.

Disappointing and/or slumping jockeys at the meet so far, besides Velazquez, include Rajiv Maragh (11 wins, 9% winners) and Irad Ortiz (8-for-115, 7%). The biggest name in his category, however, is definitely Julien Leparoux, who is having yet another disastrous New York jockey colony stint with a brutal record of 3-for-36 (8% wins).

Getting back to the Belmont meet's top trainers, among the most pleasant surprises in the training ranks this season at Belmont have been guys quietly putting together hot meets like Dominic Galluscio (7-for-32, 22% wins), John Kimmel (5-for-19, 26%), and Phil Serpe (4-for-14, 29% wins).

Other hot barns to watch for now also include Christophe Clement (8-for-35, 23% wins and on fire on the grass), Steve Asmussen (tearing it up at 6-for-17, 35% wins), and Kiaran McLaughlin (6-for-31, 19% wins), who is doing his best work in route races on turf or on dirt, and with maiden second-time starters.

Also notable, the Kentucky contingent of trainers, drawn to New York this summer by the higher slots purses, is doing very well so far at Belmont with Eddie Kenneally leading the way with a record of 4-2-0 from 12 starters (33% wins, 50% in the exacta). Mike Maker is also coming up big with a record of 4-2-1 from 13 starters (31% wins, 54% ITM).

On the complete other side of the ledger, trainers who have had slow Belmont meets so far include many other trainers you wouldn't expect such as Linda Rica (4-for-40), Gary Gallo (1-for-14), Gary Contessa (2-for-60- ouch), and Eric Reed (0-for-10). With these trainers, I would suggest steering clear of them for most of the Belmont meet and then circling them in your programs at Saratoga.  Their barns will be full of solid horses who have plenty of their conditions still remaining. This is especially true of Linda Rice.

 

TURF SPRINTS

Speaking of Linda Rice, the "queen of the New York turf sprints," is still dangerous in these races, but perhaps gearing up her runners for Saratoga instead of concentrating her efforts here at Belmont.

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.

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 Belmont's turf courses, 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 the worst for inside posts at this year's Belmont meet so far (in the past, the Widener turf sprints have been even worse but the rail post has enjoyed a good showing so far.  On the inner turf, horses breaking from posts 9-12, which are sometimes downgraded by handicappers, are a combined 7-for-47 for a good combined win percentage of 15%.  On the flip side, posts 1-2 are only a combined 3-for-38 for only 8% wins.

Belmont Turf Sprint Winning Post Positions
(April 27- May 30)


Post
Inner Turf Sprint Wins
1 2-19 (11%)
2 1-19 (5%)
3 2-19 (29%)
4 2-19 (6%)
5 1-19 (18%)
6 2-19 (9%)
7 2-19 (10%)
8 0-18 (7%)
9 1-16 (6%)
10 3-15 (0%)
11 1-11 (0%)
12 2-5 (0%)

As far as turf sprint running styles are concerned, inside horses better have speed enough to clear in front 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 for the rail has been good on the Widener turf (17% wins), but not so good on the inner (only 1-for-19 for 5%).  Otherwise, you will see by looking at the turf post position stats below that the Inner course win percentages drop off considerably outside of post 6. Posts 7 and outward on the inner have won only 3-of-54 for only 5.5% effectiveness.

On the Widener course, meanwhile, the rail has done well, but aside from that there has been no other inside favoritism in routes of one mile or more, at least until you get to the disadvantageous far outside posts 10-12.  Many Widener turf course winners at the current Belmont meet have broken from posts 4 thru 9.

Belmont Turf Route Winning Post Positions
(April 27- May 30)


Post

Turf Routes Widener

Turf Routes Inner

1

4-24 (17%)

1-19 (5%)

2

1-24 (4%)

2-19 (11%)

3

2-24 (8%)

5-19 (26%)

4

4-24 (17%)

2-19 (11%)

5

3-24 (12%)

4-19 (21%)

6

0-24 (0%)

2-19 (11%)

7

2-21 (10%)

1-18 (6%)

8

3-20 (15%)

0-15 (0%)

9

3-18 (17%)

1-11 (9%)

10

1-15 (7%)

1-9 (11%)

11

1-13 (8%)

0-1 (0%)

12

0-8 (0%)

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.

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 27- May 30)

Post Dirt Sprints Dirt Routes
1 13-93 (14%) 13-60 (22%)
2 13-93 (14%) 9-60 (15%)
3 15-93 (16%) 4-60 (7%)
4 15-93 (16%) 6-59 (10%)
5 8-86 (9%) 9-57 (16%)
6 12-74 (16%) 9-44 (20%)
7 9-67 (13%) 4-30 (13%)
8 4-44 (9%) 3-17 (18%)
9 1-27 (4%) 1-10 (10%)
10 1-15 (7%) 1-5 (20%)
11 1-8 (12%) 1-2 (50%)
12 1-2 (50%) 0-1 (0%)

I hope you enjoy a successful Belmont Stakes week, and a profitable Belmont Stakes Day, and hopefully this information will help.  After the Belmont Stakes, there will still be nearly a month and a half of racing left at Belmont. Keep a close eye on the winning track trends the rest of the way, and you will stay one step ahead of the competition. Best of luck!

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Nov

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