Use Saratoga First Half Info To Win Big the Rest of the Meet
USE FIRST-HALF SARATOGA INFO TO WIN BIG THE REST OF THE MEET
It is four weekends down and three big weekends still to go at Saratoga, including great racing on Alabama weekend, Travers weekend, and Labor Day weekend. If the first part of the race meet at The Spa is any indication, the last half of the meet is going to be one to remember. The quality of racing and wagering at Saratoga has been lofty at the 2015 Saratoga meet, with field sizes large, payoffs big, and the racing competitive.
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 there, 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 $1.25 million Travers Stakes, which is nicknamed "The Mid-Summer Derby." Travers Day 2015 at Saratoga on Saturday, August 29 will be huge this year - one of the top days of racing on this year's calendar without a doubt - and could be GINORMOUS if the connections of American Pharoah throw a curveball and decide to bring the Triple Crown winner to Saratoga. Even without "Pharoah," the Travers will still be a marvelous race because all of the other top players in the 3-year-old division are expected to attend including Jim Dandy winner Texas Red, and West Virginia Derby winner Madefromlucky as well as big names such as Frosted, Upstart, Tale of Verve, Competitive Edge, and Keen Ice.
In addition to the Travers, the day will also include the runnings of several other important stakes races. This includes the Grade 1 $500,000 King's Bishop for 3-year-old sprinters, the Grade 1 $500,000 Ballerina for female sprinters, the Grade 1 $1 million Sword Dancer at 1½ miles on turf, the Grade 1 $750,000 Personal Ensign for fillies and mares, the Grade 1 $700,000 Forego for older sprinters, and the Grade 2 $400,000 Ballston Spa for female turf horses.
Saratoga will kick-off Travers weekend on Friday, August 28 with a gala day of state-bred stakes, called Saratoga New York Showcase Day, worth a total of $1 million. Saratoga's unrivaled stakes schedule will conclude on Labor Day weekend, with seven more Graded stakes races from Saturday, Aug. 30 to Monday, Sept. 1.
SPA SECOND-HALF HANDICAPPING TRENDS TO WATCH
By the time the latter half of the Saratoga meet comes around, the statistics relating to winning horses 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 Alabama week and extending through the end of the meet.
Saratoga Winners' Most Recent Starts, Second Half of the Meet
58% making 2nd or 3rd or 4th start of the Spa meet
22% last raced elsewhere on NYRA circuit (Belmont, Aqueduct)
15% Out-of-town shippers
5% first-time starters
Who's Hot and Who's Not
The big human story at this point in the 2015 Saratoga meet is jockey Irad Ortiz, who has turned-in a tour-de-force performance the last couple weeks to surge to the top of the jockey standings by a comfortable margin with 36 wins. As of Aug. 18, Ortiz is 9 wins ahead of both John Velazquez and Javier Castellano, who are tied with 27 wins apiece. Irad Ortiz, has been winning everything in sight, including five wins on one day, Sunday, August 17, and has regularly been benefitting from his jockey/trainer combination along with the equally red-hot Chad Brown.
Irad Ortiz has been totally dominant in Saratoga turf races in a jock's room filled with the country's best grass riders. Ortiz has won 25 grass races for 32% wins. To put that in perspective, the jockey with the next-highest amount of turf victories so far is Javier Castellano, who is 12 wins behind Oritz with 13 wins.
Also in terms of turf races, another surprise, in a positive sense, has been Luis Saez, who owns 11 turf wins already at the meet, many of which came in turf sprints. Also surprising, in a negative sense, is the fact that Johnny Velazquez only has 9 turf wins so far for a win percentage of only 13%.
For trainers in turf races, Chad Brown is flat-out putting on a clinic. Brown is dominating the Saratoga lawn with 16 turf wins at the meet already. The next-highest winning turf trainer so far is Bill Mott with 7 turf wins. However, it should be noted that after a hot start the first week of the meet, Bill Mott has since been ice cold with only 1 win the last 2 weeks.
In terms of the overall top trainer standings, Chad Brown is locked in a tremendous battle royale with Todd Pletcher, who sprinted out to a big lead in terms of wins and has amazingly already been caught by Brown. As dominant as Brown has been in turf races, Pletcher has been in dirt races with 16 main track wins already this season. The next-highest dirt winner is David Jacobson, but he only has 6 wins so far.
Pletcher's best category at Saratoga this year has been 2-year-olds. He has trained 7 juvenile winners already. Other trainers to watch with 2-year-olds are Steve Asmussen and Rudy Rodriguez (3 wins each), and Kiaran McLaughlin who is 2-for-2 on the grass.
Jockey/Trainer Second-half Betting Tips
Aside from advice like continuing to bet Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown in their wheelhouse categories (Pletcher on dirt and with 2-year-olds, Brown on the turf), here are some more betting tips.
In turf sprints, Linda Rice has long been the queen of turf sprints at Saratoga, with roughly 5 times as many turf sprint victories there than any other trainer. So far, Linda Rice is only 2-for-7 on the turf. Start betting Rice heavily in turf sprints. She will heat up.
Certain trainers are ice cold and should be avoided at all costs. Among this group, first and foremost, is Bruce Brown, who can't buy a win and also was terrible this year at Belmont as well. I can't envision a quick turnaround for this barn which is already only 1-for-19 (5%) at Saratoga. Also ice cold are Gary Sciacca (0-for-18), John Hertler (0-for-14), D. Wayne Lukas (1-for-19), Mark Hennig (1-for-14), H. James Bond (1-for-16), Tom Bush (0-for-12), and John Kimmel (0-for-11).
Jason Servis is also cold with a record of 1-for-14, but has a strong stable is a ready to heat-up.
From purely a wagering standpoint, the return-on-investment (ROI) leaders for jockeys are apprentice Eric Cancel, who has 6 wins (8%) with an average win payoff of $31.90. Shaun Bridgmohan only has 7 wins, but his ROI is also good because his average win payoff has been $20.40. For trainers, the ROI guy you need to watch and wager on is John Terranova, who has quietly been tremendous so far. Terranova is the ROI king so far at the 2015 meet with 5 wins from 14 starters (36% wins) with an average win payoff of $25.80!
Post Position Stats and Trends
The most clean-cut post position trend on the main track at the 2015 Saratoga meet has been the live rail. In both main track sprints and main track routes this year, the rail post has been the place to be with 21% wins in sprints and 24% wins in routes.
Dirt routes have shown the most bias in terms of winning posts this year, and handicappers should take note. In total, 28-of-29 dirt route winners have started from posts 1-7, with almost no winners breaking outside post 7. Horses breaking from outside post 7 in Saratoga dirt routes so far this season have gone an awful combined 1-for-22.
Dirt sprint post positions have been fair, but as mentioned, the rail has really been the place to be.
On the grass, the rail and the inside posts have been much better in turf sprints so far than in most years past when the Saratoga turf sprint post one rightfully earned the "death post" moniker. Historically over the last decade, horses breaking from posts 1-3 have had some of the lowest win percentages at any distance on any track or course in the country. This year so far, however, all turf sprint post positions have been fair. Nevertheless, I continue to insist that the Saratoga rail post in turf sprints is one of the worst posts in all of racing, statistically, and I would always advise betting against the rail horse in those races, especially in fields of eight horses or more.
The 2015 Saratoga meet has been largely bias-free on the main track, which has played unbelievably fair to date. Additionally, the turf course has also followed suit in terms of fairness. All posts in turf routes have been fair this year at Saratoga, including the usually-disadvantageous far outside posts, which so far have held their own in 2015. This has been surprising news on the Saratoga turf, especially in inner course turf routes where horses have performed exceptionally well and have shown no sign whatsoever of being disadvantaged, even from posts 9-12. Horses from those gates have already won 9 races on the inner turf alone.
Saratoga Dirt Post Position Stats
(July 24 - August 17)
As far as horseplayers are concerned, track biases have not been a big part of the 2015 Saratoga meet so far, with the track playing fair almost every day. However, that does not mean that track bias consideration is not playing a part in handicapping at the current Saratoga meet. The reason is, because the biases from Belmont are still having an impact on the results at Saratoga. During the 2015 Belmont spring/summer meet, the rail was never really right all season long, and on many days there was even a distinct anti-rail bias. Horses have been coming back all throughout the Saratoga meet with strong positive rebound efforts after suffering recent losses at Belmont due to rail trips.
Continue to keep an eye out for horses that lost their last races back at Belmont with inside posts or inside trips, because those horses are coming back to win at Saratoga at overlay prices. Smart and successful horseplayers will keep the biases in mind, and cross-reference them when doing their daily handicapping in order to upgrade the chances of horses who were hurt by racing against track biases.
Keeping track of trends and biases, and who is hot and cold can lead you to some interesting overlays and good value, while at the same time helping you steer clear of horses that have been aided by track biases in their recent good efforts. Handicappers should not underestimate the impact that trends and biases can have on the race results.
And so, with so much money floating around upstate New York during August and September, 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. Go ahead and cash-in on information that could help you stay ahead of the other bettors in the line to cash tickets. Good luck at Saratoga, and I hope you continue to enjoy the year's best racing at the country's premier racetrack.
By Noel Michaels - OTBLearningLabs.com
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