Trends Develop Early at Saratoga


It’s one weekend down and six to go at Saratoga, and if the first week of racing at The Spa is any indication, this season’s meet is going to be one to remember. The quality of racing and wagering is off to a very lofty beginning at the 2012 Saratoga meet, with field sizes large, payoffs big, and the races competitive – so much so that star horses have been showing up pretty much everywhere from stakes races and handicaps to the common second race on a Monday, and everywhere in-between.

The Saratoga meet is off to a fast start, especially if your name is Ramon Domingquez, and unless your name is Todd Pletcher. Those two names have been the big news of the young 2012 Spa meet so far, with Ramon Domingquez making headlines atop the jockey standings with 10 wins in four days for a clear lead among riders in terms of wins. Ramon’s early Saratoga hot streak has already included an epic six-win day on Sunday, July 22, plus four other wins. In total, Dominguez’s 10 wins have included an amazing eight on the turf for an early grass record of 8-for-15 for a big 53% winners.

The other big story early in the 2012 Saratoga meet has been Todd Pletcher – but not in a good way. Pletcher has been the leading trainer at recent Saratoga meets and was expected to have a big meet this season (he still might), until he got off to a very slow 1-for-22 start (5% wins). On the plus side, Pletcher has been reliable in-the-money with half of his 22 starters so far finishing first, second, or third. Nevertheless, Pletcher has been burning money faster than anyone at Saratoga so far, with just one winner coming with a favorite in a 2-year-old maiden race. Even with that winner, however, Pletcher is just 1-for-9 at the meet with his 2-year-olds, 1-for-9 at the meet with his maidens, and 1-for-9 at the meet with his favorites. His grass starters are 0-for-8.

The low start for Todd Pletcher has also meant a slow start for Javier Castellano, who has been riding first-call for Pletcher at Saratoga due to the continued absence of Pletcher’s traditional No. 1 rider, John Velazquez, who is expected to miss approximately half of the 2012 Spa meet with his shoulder injury that sidelined him for the last month of the Belmont meet. Pletcher and Castellano were expected to be one of the premier jockey/trainer combos at this year’s Saratoga meet, but so far that hasn’t happened. As a result, the early numbers are brutal for Castellano, who has won only 3-of-33 races for 9% wins, including an uncharacteristic 1-for-17 on the grass.

Expect both Pletcher and Castellano, and eventually Velazquez, to heat up as the meet progresses, but beware leaning on this group too much because the competition at the meet looks like it will be very tough this year, and with fans betting these big names to death, their return on investment (ROI) should be expected to stay pretty low for the most part this season.

As mentioned, a cold start certainly has not been a problem for Ramon Dominguez, and that is an understatement. Ramon has yet to win a 2-year-old race, but he had won 2 stakes, and 6-of-10 races with 3-year-olds. Part of Dominguez’s hot start has been on the coat-tails of trainer Tony Dutrow, who has gotten off to a blazingly hot start with 3 wins and 2 places with his first 5 starters (60% wins and 100% in the exacta). Dating back at last year at Saratoga, the Anthony Dutrow/Dominguez trainer/jockey combination has scored in an amazing 5 wins in 7 races for 71%! Other great trainer/jockey combinations to watch for Dominguez (all stats include 2011-2012 only at Saratoga) include Dominguez/Hushion (5-for-12, 42%), Dominguez/Rudy Rodriguez (4-for-10, 40%), Dominguez/Romans (2-for-4, 50%), and Dominguez/Chad Brown (8-for-22, 36%)

Behind Dominguez, and aside from the absence of John Velazquez and the cold start of Javier Castellano, the big stories in terms of the Saratoga riding colony early in the 2012 meet have included many hot-and-cold starts to the meet by many key riders.

Here are the Saratoga jockey standings from July 20 through July 23:


Jockey Mounts Wins Win% ITM%
R. Dominguez 25 10 40% 68%
J. Lezcano 27 6 22% 59%
J. Rosario 29 4 14% 45%
C. Velasquez 19 4 21% 37%
J. Castellano 33 3 9% 52%
Rosie Napravnik 31 3 10% 29%
I. Ortiz Jr. 20 3 15% 20%
E. Prado 15 3 20% 20%
J. Alvarado 20 2 10% 30%
J. Leparoux 20 1 5% 40%
R. Maragh 23 1 4% 22%
A. Garcia 12 1 8% 25%




Certainly one of the big stories in the jockey colony at The Spa has been the presence of Joel Rosario, who along with Rafael Bejerano has ruled the Southern California circuit for a long time and undoubtedly could have had a giant Del Mar meet. Instead, Rosario made the decision to come East during the second-half of the Belmont meet and gear-up his business to make a serious impact at Saratoga for the first time. So far, very early in the Saratoga meet, the move appears to be working. After a solid Belmont stand, Rosario is off to a good start at Saratoga with 4 wins to be tied for third in the early jockey standings as of July 23. In addition, Rosario has compiled a very solid 45% in-the-month percentage so far.

Rosario’s wins this far have included a stakes victory and 2 wins from 7 mounts aboard 2-year-olds. Rosario’s start has been slow aboard grass horses with a record of only 1-for-14 (7% wins) on the turf, but he’s won 3-of-15 for 20% on the dirt. Rosario’s four Spa wins so far have come for four different trainers including Richard Dutrow, Al Stall, and Wesley Ward, and his wins should keep coming from west coast barns and Midwest-based stables alike, thanks to his experienced agent, Ronny “Love Man” Werner.

And speaking of agents, while Javier Castellano has yet to get on track, Rosie Napravnik has managed to get off to a solid beginning to the 2012 Saratoga meet by riding primarily Castellano’s cast-offs. Castellano and Napravnik both have the same jockey agent, Matt Muzikar, and often Rosie will end-up getting aboard horses for trainers who originally tried to give the call to Castellano instead. Castellano has been riding so many horses for Pletcher so far, that it has left open a lot of live calls for Napravnik, who has done a decent job with those opportunities with 3 wins and a total of 9 in-the-money finishes so far.

The second-leading rider early in the Spa meet behind Dominguez has been Jose Lezcano with 6 wins so far. Lezcano enjoyed a tremendous Belmont meet and has been able to keep his hot riding going at The Spa. He’s been in the money in 59% of his races, and already owns 4 grass wins from 15 starts (27% wins).

Jockeys who have started the Saratoga meet in cold fashion have included Julien Leparoux, Rajiv Maragh, and Alan Garcia.

Just like Jose Lezcano has been able to carry over his hot riding from Belmont and translate it into a hot start at Saratoga, the reverse is true for both Julien Leparoux and Rajiv Maragh. Both Leparoux and Maragh both had poor showings at this year’s spring/summer Belmont meet, and both have started slow at The Spa. Leparoux has been in-the-money 8 times already for 40% ITM, but in the win column he is ice-cold at only 1-for-20 (5% wins). Leparoux scores a lot of live grass mounts from trainers like Christophe Clement, Mike Maker, Eddie Kenneally, etc., but surprisingly, Leparoux’s first 2012 Spa winner came on the dirt. So far he is 0-for-15 on the grass.

In the case of Rajiv Maragh, as mentioned, he also suffered through a bad Belmont meet and seems well on his way to another similar fate at Saratoga based on his early 1-for-23 record (4% wins). Additionally, Maragh is only 5-for-23 in-the-money for a low 22% ITM that will hardly pay the bills.

Finally, Alan Garcia is off to a very slow start at Saratoga with only 1 win on opening week and only 12 mounts. Garcia hasn’t had a bad year so far and should quietly start to pick things up a bit when his main trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, starts winning a lot of races here. Thus far, McLaughlin’s barn has been very quiet. Also hurting Garcia is the fact that Cornelio Velasquez – an annual overachiever at The Spa – has taken away a lot of business from Garcia by riding first-call for trainer Linda Rice, who, like McLaughlin, is also another perennial leading trainer at Saratoga.

The 2012 Saratoga meet is off to an amazing start. Continue to keep an eye out for developing jockey and trainer trends. When you notice these kinds of trends and are able to spot them sooner than the general public, you are on your way to cashing-in on some valuable information that could help you stay ahead of the other bettors in the line to cash tickets at the mutuels. Good luck at Saratoga, and please continue to enjoy the year’s best racing at the country’s premier racetrack.


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