Tips for Finishing Strong at Aqueduct Inner Track Meet
by Noel Michales
As far as winters at Aqueduct go, this has been a mild one at Aqueduct, both in terms of the weather and when it comes to the quality of the racing, with plenty of small fields and low-priced favorites. On the plus side, however, spring-like weather is finally arriving in New York, and the one remaining month still to go on the Aqueduct inner track should be an excellent one with a back-log of competitive horses ready to run and fill races. And so, while still we have one month still to go until the unofficial start of spring in New York (i.e. Wood Memorial Day), we might as well make it a profitable month of March at Aqueduct. Here are some winning tips to help you cash throughout the remainder of the inner track meet.
There are some bright spots on the horizon for New York racing fans at this time of year besides just the upcoming Wood Memorial and the impending move back to the Aqueduct main track that we all look forward to at the beginning of April. As the calendar continues to march forward toward spring, we now can look forward to the home stretch of the long winter inner track season at Aqueduct.
As we move past he Gotham Stakes in early March, there will be three weeks to go on the inner track. This is often the best time of the meet for money-making at Aqueduct, because along with more consistent weather comes more consistent race results. It also doesn’t hurt that we have a wealth of information from the tips, trends, and angles that have prevailed at the Aqueduct inner track meet in the months gone by to help up with our bets.
Here is a look at some of the trends of the current Aqueduct inner track meet, which could help you be successful the rest of the way.
Tip #1) Take Advantage of Inner Track Biases
Aqueduct’s inner track usually is at the mercy of track biases, and winter has been as bad as ever this year. For the second year in a row on the Aqueduct inner track, the rail and inside paths have deep for much of the month of February with the track favoring the outside on multiple occasions. Last year the handicappers who realized the trend were able to capitalize throughout March and early April, and this year should be no exception.
Refer to my Aqueduct inner track bias chart below and make note then the biases were in effect:
Feb. 28 – Inside two posts well-beaten in every race
Feb. 27 – Speed good, outside good
Feb. 26 – Outside preferred
Feb. 25 – Outside preferred
Feb. 20 – Speed good
Feb. 18 – Slow rail and outside preferred
Feb. 6 – Drying track favored outside posts races 6-10
Jan. 15 – Outside preferred, slow rail
Jan. 2 – Speed advantage
Dec. 26 – Slow rail, outside rally wide bias
Dec. 20 – Speed good
Dec. 19 – Speed good, had to be on or close
Dec. 10 – Speed bias
As you can see from the detailed track bias notes, most of the inner track season to date has featured some kind of slow rail and/or outside favoritism.
When you see a horse exiting a race on a track bias day, you can take advantage of it by noting whether or not the track bias affected the horse’s performance in the most recent race(s). If a horse was adversely affected by a track bias in the recent race, then upgrade his chances next time of that horse is coming off a loss. If a horse benefitted from a track bias in a recent race and took advantage for a win or good finish, then go ahead and downgrade that horse’s chances in its next race. Horses that won when racing with track biases are usually no-value underlays in their next starts.
Tip #2) Avoid Far Outside Posts and Bet Inside Horses in Routes
These angles are oldies but goodies on the Aqueduct Inner track, yet they’ve been surprisingly unreliable during recent seasons when outside posts actually performed pretty well and better than expected in routes. That is not the case this season, however, as the inner track is up to its old tricks and favoring horses breaking from the inside four post positions in routes, and making life difficult for horses breaking from posts 10-12 at every distance.
The fact that far outside posts haven’t done better at this year’s Aqueduct inner track meet is strange, because, as noted in Tip #1, outside trips have done so well as a whole at this meet, because the track has featured a slow rail on so many occasions this winter. To me, when the track is favoring outside trips and the outside posts as a whole still can’t win, then that means the outside posts have been really disadvantageous more often than not this season.
In route races, the inside posts (1-4) have been the preferred place to be, with a slight advantage over horses drawing the middle part of the gate (posts 5-6), and a stronger advantage over horses drawing the outside posts (10-12). In total, horses breaking from inside posts 1-4 have won 105-of-173 total route races, accounting for victories in 60% of the routes run at the track this season. Horses drawn far outside, on the other hand have won just 2 times from 34 combined starts for 6%.
In sprints, it pretty much hasn’t mattered what post a horse breaks from, as long as we’re talking about posts 1 thru 10. Outside of post 10, things get a very sketchy for the horses drawn in posts 11-12. Horses breaking from those gates have won only a combined 2-for-32 for a combined win percentage of only 6%.
Aqueduct Inner Track Winning Post Positions
(December 9 – March 3)
Post Sprints Routes
1 32-224 (14%) 33-173 (19%)
2 38-224 (17%) 22-173 (13%)
3 29-224 (13%) 26-173 (15%)
4 21-224 (9%) 24-173 (14%)
5 22-218 (10%) 21-172 (12%)
6 29-198 (15%) 22-164 (13%)
7 27-150 (18%) 9-114 (8%)
8 11-101 (11%) 5-80 (6%)
9 6-60 (10%) 10-54 (19%)
10 7-38 (18%) 1-26 (4%)
11 1-21 (5%) 0-6 (0%)
12 1-11 (9%) 1-2 (50%)
Tip #3: Bet Speed, Pressers and Stalkers, and Look for “Inside-Out” Trips
Aside from day-to-day biases that may or may not affect the racing surface, you should always be aware of the longer term prevailing biases of any race track. If you are going to be able enjoy any kind of success betting Aqueduct’s inner track, you must learn to acknowledge the increased success of speed. Do yourself a favor and upgrade early speed horses while slightly downgrading the closers, especially in a race where there doesn’t figure to be a contentious pace set-up. Upgrade early speed horses and make good use of the lone speed angle, while at the same time downgrading deep closers in all but the most contentious pace scenarios.
Three- and four-wide trips have done better-than-usual this season on Aqueduct’s inner track, especially in February due to the outside bias that existed on so many of the race days. However, losing ground all the way around never has been and still isn’t the key to success on the inner track, particularly in routes.
Lone speed and inside speed are extremely good on the Aqueduct inner, especially when it comes to the sprint races. In route races, the short run to the first turn makes ground-saving trips valuable on the first turn, and puts the pressure on the riders of the outermost horses to somehow work out ground-saving trips. When you combine that angle with the fact that the rail has been slow for much of the Aqueduct inner track season so far, you run into a quandary. Which is better? Is it better to save ground, or is it better to lose ground, but benefit from the outside track bias by taking the overland route?
The answer is to look for the best of both worlds. Outside horses can ride the bias and win, but the horses from those gates generally need good "inside-out" trips and rides, meaning that they should save as much ground as possible on the first turn and then abandon the rail by swinging out leaving for the second turn so they can make an outside rally down the stretch, hopefully from good striking distance and not too far behind.
When you can handicap a horse with a good rider that figures to get a good pace set-up in a race, and with a not-too-wide post position in route races, you might have the recipe for the best trip of the season at Aqueduct in route races . . . the "inside out" trip.
Tip #4) Stick with the Top-Tier Jockeys
With speed and tactical speed and inside-out trips, and good rides and knowledge of the track biases so important on the Aqueduct inner track, it puts a high premium on betting horses ridden by the top jockeys even more so than usual.
The leading Aqueduct inner track jockeys, Irad Ortiz and Jose Ortiz, who finished 1-2 in the jockey standings at the 2014-15, 2013-14 and 2012-13 Aqueduct inner track meets, are again clearly atop the jockey standings at the current meet, with 63 wins for Jose and 62 wins for Irad thru March 3. Both jocks are winning with close to 25% of their mounts, and are in the money (ITM) more than 58% of the time. Both Ortiz’s can be counted on for those kinds of numbers all winter long all the way through March, included. The third jockey really making hay at the current inner track meet is Kendrick Carmouche, who is has been solidly entrenched in third-place all winter long, now with 52 victories at the meet with nearly a 21% win percentage.
Aside from the top three jockeys above, with Cornelio Velasquez out, the only other rider you can really rely on until the guys like Javier Castellano and John Vehazquez return to New York is Junior Alvarado who has only 21 wins, but has racked-up a good win percentage of 15%. No other inner track jockey can reach over 12% in terms of winning percentage, and lost are less than 10%, which makes any jockey from that group tough to count on with your money.
Tip #5) Rudy Rodriguez is not the Only Training Game in Town
With the top slot in the Aqueduct trainer standings wide open this winter with perennial winter leading trainer David Jacobson struggling and splitting his horses between SoCal and New York, the guy who stepped-in as the dominant force on the circuit this winter has been Rudy Rodriguez, who has run away with the training title on the inner track with 38 victories, a 31% win percentage, and a 65% in-the-money percentage through March 3. He has led all trainers all winter long, and should continue to roll this spring all the way up through and including the Aqueduct main track Spring Meet.
Beyond Rodriguez, you have to respect a couple of other trainers have also had highly exceptional winters this season on the Aqueduct inner track, led by Linda Rice, who was a clear second to Rudy all winter while racking-up 28 wins and a 28% win percentage with good performances in just about all categories. One lower-profile trainer who also should be mentioned amongst the inner track meet standouts is Danny Gargan, who has rarely been better than he was this winter, winning 26% of his races. He has been in the exacta with half of his starters with 13 wins and 12 places from a total of 50 runners. Horses sent out from both of these trainers must be bet right now, because their ROIs are so much greater than the Rodriguez horses that are usually favorites and always low-priced.
Plenty of Todd Pletcher horses and Kiaran McLaughin horses are also winning at the inner track meet, which should come as no surprise to anybody. This is notable, because as recently as a month ago both of these high-profile barns were underperforming at Aqueduct for much of the winter, however, both are turning things around big time in a positive manner. Pletcher, in particular, is up to third in the inner track meet standing with 21 wins, meaning he has made a big win spurt over the last five weeks. Everything he sends out now at Aqueduct is a virtual must-bet, at least in the exactas. These trainers, in particular, should continue to do great throughout March and beyond in New York, as their first-string better horses return from out-of-town.
Along with Pletcher, the other trainer you have to play right now is Kiaran McLaughlin, who is also heating up in New York currently. Remember, at one point last year, McLaughlin was posting an amazing 79% in the money at this time of the year. The scary part about McLaughlin is that his better horses are still all in Florida, and as the months of March and especially April continue to roll along, he might again be able to land over two-third or even three-quarters of his starters in the money at the upcoming part of the Aqueduct meet.
There’s still another month to go in the Aqueduct inner track meet, and a few more weeks on the main track at Aqueduct after that. Contrary to the beliefs of some, Aqueduct is an excellent place to watch and wager during the month or March, and should not be overlooked in the shadow of the higher-profile race meets at this time of year in Florida and California. With the right information at your fingertips, you can, and will make money at Aqueduct this time of year.
Good luck and good racing at Aqueduct!
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