Use Spa's First-Half Biases To Win Big The Rest Of The Way


By Noel Michaels -

It's four weekends down and three still to go at Saratoga, and if the first half of the race meet at The Spa is any indication, the second half 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, and as far as horseplayers are concerned is an added bonus, a couple of strong track biases have dominated the meet so far, setting things up for a strong second half that should help astute handicappers survive and thrive through the remainder of the Saratoga meet.

The first track bias that strongly affected the main track racing at the 2012 Spa meet was an outside, anti-rail bias that helped outside horses and hurt the chances of inside runners for most days from opening day, July 20, up to and including Thursday, August, 9.

Then heavy rains and strong storms swamped the racetrack and led to the next strong bias that has defined the 2012 Saratoga meet so far - an intense speed bias that ruled the racetrack from, at least, Friday, August 10 through Monday, August 13.

Here is my exclusive list of Saratoga daily track biases noted so far this season:

Saratoga 2012 Daily Track Biases
Aug. 13 - Strong speed bias
Aug. 12 - Strong speed bias
Aug. 11 - Strong speed bias
Aug. 10 - Strong speed bias
Aug. 9 - Outside bias
Aug. 8 - Outside bias
Aug. 5 - Outside bias
Aug. 4 - Helped to be outside and on or close to the pace
Aug. 3 - Outside bias
July 30 - Outside bias, speed died inside on "fast"but drying track
July 29 - Slow rail, outside bias on drying-out track
July 28 - Speed bias after rain/mud/slop/sealed races 6-11
July 27 - Strong outside rally wide bias on sloppy sealed track
July 26 - Had to be on or close
July 25 - Outside bias
July 23 - Outside bias; rained before Race 6 so track was "fast"but wet
July 22 - Outside preferred
July 21 - Outside preferred
July 20 - Speed good

Why are these track biases so important to notate and keep track of? It's because when those biases appear, especially the strong ones that we've seen at Saratoga so far, they can be valuable things to take notice of and capitalize on when horses return to the track for their next starts.

Smart and successful horseplayers will keep the biases in mind, and cross-reference them when doing their daily handicapping in order to downgrade horses that benefitted from the biases while at the same time upgrading the chances of horses who were been hurt by the track biases. This is especially worthwhile, because all the bias-aided winners will be underlays on the tote board in their next starts with little chance of repeating their recent success, while the horses who lost due to the track biases will be live overlays in their upcoming races with great chances of showing immediate and dramatic improvement. That's a great recipe for cashing tickets, and catching your share of longshots.

Handicappers should not underestimate the impact that these biases can have on the race results. This bias information can be invaluable when it comes to evaluating the relative strength or weakness of the contenders in future races in cases where horses are exiting races where they ran with, or against, the noticeable track biases.

Highlighting the Second Half of the Saratoga Meet

Capitalizing on the track biases of the first half of the meet is not the only thing that horseplayers have to look forward to from here on out at Saratoga. The second half of The Spa meet is the premier part of the country's premier annual race meet. The best horses and horsemen are all here, and the second half of the Saratoga meet will be their showcase thanks to a tremendous stakes line-up over the course of three great remaining weekends at The Spa.

The Saratoga meet is always highlighted by the Travers Stakes, which is nicknamed "The Mid-Summer Derby."That moniker has never been more appropriate perhaps than this year, since the 3-year-old division has been totally reshuffled and is basically starting completely anew due to the retirements of Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another and Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags. The remaining 3-year-olds have their eyes on the fall's top races, and the leaders of that division will be decided in the Travers at Saratoga. Travers Day at Saratoga will also include the runnings of several other important stakes races, including the Grade 1 Test Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, the Grade 1 King's Bishop for 3-year-old sprinters, and the Grade 2 Ballston Spa for turf horses.

Travers Stakes Day will be Saturday, August 25.

Saratoga's unrivaled stakes schedule also includes the runnings of too many other important and prestigious stakes to mention, including, most notably, the Alabama Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, which will headline a dual Grade 1 stakes card on Saturday, August 18 along with the Sword Dancer Invitational for handicap division turf horses going 1 ½ miles. The Alabama will be an especially tough and compelling race this season with so many high quality horses making up the 3-year-old filly division that appears far superior to the colts and geldings this year.

More Handicapping Trends to Watch

By the time the latter half of the Saratoga meet comes around, the statistics relating to shippers tend to be pretty reliable based on the numbers from recent meets. Based on past meet results, the expected percentages of winning horses can be broken down as follows during the second half of the meet, beginning with this week, "Alabama week."

Saratoga Winners' Most Recent Starts, Second Half of the Meet
55% making 2nd or 3rd or 4th start of the meet
22% last raced elsewhere on NYRA circuit (Belmont, Aqueduct)
13% Out-of-town shippers
10% first-time starters

Post Position Stats and Trends
On the grass, the rail and the inside posts have been predictably bad so far in turf sprints so far, with a combined record of 8 wins from 81 starters combined from posts 1-3 for 9.8% wins. The Saratoga turf sprint "death rail"surprisingly already has yielded three winners, matching the win total from all of 2010 and 2011 combined. Based on the law of averages, the turf sprint rail post probably won't win another race all meet. Post 2, often just as bad or nearly as bad as Post 1 in these races, has been deadly this season with a record of 2-for-27 (7% wins) so far.

The bad inside stats are no shock on the turf in sprints, but the surprising news on the Saratoga turf so far is that the rail post has been bad in Mellon (outer) course routes as well, where the inside post No. 1 is only 2-for-21 to start the meet. The inside posts are predictably a little better on the Inner turf course, with the rail post on a hot streak and now up to 16% winners with 7 wins from 44 starters.

The other big and most obvious post position trend on the Saratoga turf this season has been the complete futility of outside posts on the Mellon (outer) turf course. Horses breaking from posts 6 and outward in Saratoga Mellon course turf routes have performed miserably so far at this year's meet with a combined 5 wins from 103 starters for less than 5% winners.

This means that the majority of all winners in Saratoga Mellon course turf routes have been coming from posts 2-5. That's some serious food for thought.

Saratoga Turf Post Position Stats

(July 20 - August 13)

Turf Sprints Mellon Routes Inner Routes
Post Wins-Starts % Wins-Starts % Wins-Starts %
1 3-27 11% 2-21 10% 7-44 16%
2 2-27 7% 3-21 14% 5-44 11%
3 3-27 11% 3-21 14% 3-44 7%
4 3-27 11% 4-21 19% 5-44 11%
5 4-27 15% 4-21 19% 6-44 14%
6 3-27 11% 0-21 0% 4-44 9%
7 3-26 12% 0-19 0% 4-41 10%
8 3-24 12% 3-19 16% 5-38 13%
9 3-14 21% 1-18 6% 2-31 6%
10-12 0-16 0% 1-26 4% 3-21 14%

On the main track, the inside posts have not been dominant so far, due mainly to the long sustained dead rail track bias that affected the first three weeks of action at The Spa. Outside posts 9-12, as a group, have been putting up great numbers in Saratoga dirt sprints so far, but that trend might start to even out a bit if the outside bias goes away. Middle and outside posts from 3 all the way out to post 9 have been the best so far in dirt routes - again probably due to the track's outside bias through the first three weeks of racing.

Saratoga Dirt Post Position Stats
(July 20 - August 13)

Dirt Sprints

Dirt Routes

Post Wins-Starts % Wins-Starts %
1 8-104 8% 2-28 7%
2 11-104 11% 2-28 7%
3 13-104 12% 3-28 11%
4 14-104 13% 4-28 14%
5 16-104 15% 4-28 14%
6 17-95 18% 5-25 20%
7 12-83 14% 5-18 28%
8 3-57 5% 2-10 20%
9 5-26 19% 1-5 20%
10 3-15 20% 0-2 0%
11 0-10 0% 0-2 0%
12 2-6 33%
13-14 0-6 0%


Keeping track of post position trends and especially the daily biases can lead you to some interesting overlays that offer good value, while at the same time helping you steer clear of horses that have been aided by track biases in recent good efforts. Handicappers should not underestimate the impact that these biases can have on the race results. This bias information can be invaluable when it comes to evaluating the relative strength or weakness of the contenders in future races in cases where horses are exiting races where they ran with, or against, a noticeable track bias, or from a positive or negative post position.

And so, with all that money floating around upstate New York during August along with so many novice handicappers and tourists pumping money into Saratoga's mutuel pools, you will certainly have your chances to get your hands on some of the big-time profits available during the second half of the Saratoga meet. The season is off to an amazing start, and it should continue to be good the rest of the way. When you notice the kinds of strong track bias trends mentioned in this article and learn to capitalize on them sooner than the rest of 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 I hope you continue to enjoy the year's best racing at the country's premier racetrack.


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