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Each article gets to the heart of the matter - finding horse racing winners. They are not just another recap of the day's news or events, but solid, thoroughly detailed information to help you find more winners and create more winning value bets. Expertise and guidance that you can take to the track, and then to the bank.

Topics include track biases, hot jockey-trainer combos, trends and angles guaranteed to put cash in your wallet, horses to watch, horses to avoid, and much more. It's coaching from the top racing minds on the web, all designed to help you pick more racing winners!

Noel Michaels

9/2/2009

TIPS TO END SARATOGA ON A HIGH NOTE
By Noel Michaels

http://www.otblearninglabs.com/images/Acr1E4.jpg
Noel is chief handicapper for The Race Palace, Long Island's premier OTB wagering facility, and director of Personnel for Nassau OTB. He was a long time racetrack correspondent and online Editor for the Daily Racing Form. He's also the best-selling author of many best-selling handicapping books, including SARATOGA SEMINAR, The Players Angle Almanac, Winning Angles A to Z, The Handicapping Contest Handbook (DRF Press) and Noel's latest: PROFITING FROM DISTANCE CHANGES.


Five weeks are down and there's one week to go at Saratoga, but this is certainly no time for handicappers to abandon ship and start looking for greener pastures elsewhere. Saratoga is still the best racing available to horseplayers now for the first week of September through Labor Day, and there is much money still to be made even though the Travers Stakes is already in out rear-view mirror.

Now that five weeks have passed, we have a wealth of information to help handicappers attack the final week of action at the Spa. Some of the key areas I want to focus on this week will include the relative successes of out-of-town shippers and which shippers have been winning most, which trainers have been winning with first-time starters, and which jockeys, trainers, and posts have been winning the turf sprints. After combing through five weeks of result charts, read onward to see what I found out.

First off, let's take a look at the track bias days that have affected the running of the races on Saratoga's main track. The track biases are very important to log as the meet goes on, because horses exiting bias-aided performances on the days listed below should be downgraded by handicappers in their next races, while horses exiting against-the-bias efforts on the days listed below should be upgraded by handicappers in the next races.

Saratoga Track Biases

Aug. 22

Outside paths were best

Aug. 14 

Closers dominated

Aug. 9 

Speed good

Aug. 5 

Speed good

Aug. 1

Outside good, anti-speed bias

July 31 

Edge to on or close runners

July 29

Edge to outside paths

Use the bias chart to help you through the difficult maze of main track races thoughout the final week of racing at Saratoga. The information could help you uncover live overlays, or overrated underlays you can make money by avoiding.

SARATOGA'S FINAL WEEK

Races become slightly more difficult for the Racing Secretary's office to fill throughout the final week of the Saratoga meet, since most of the horses who've pointed to this meet have already run once or twice, and the out-of-town trainers are already starting to ship out their horses little by little.  This means that we'll begin to see more and more of certain types of races through the final week. Some of the races we'll be seeing the most of will be 2-year-old maiden races, and turf sprints, because these categories always attract plenty of entries and are good vehicles for the racetrack to use to try to fill races and provide large fields.

Also, as a side note, great weather is forecast throughout the final week of Saratoga, so turf handicappers should get plenty of opportunities to bet grass races - which will probably make up at least half of the total amount of races remaining to be run at the meet.

FIRST-TIME STARTERS

A total of 20 different trainers have already won races at this year's Saratoga meet with first-time starters, and seven of those trainers have won with debut horses more than once.

Trainers With More Than One Debut Winner

Trainer

Wins

Notes

Todd Pletcher

3

All three wins came with 2-y-o MSW's

Chad Brown

2

2-y-o turf maiden claim, 2-y-o off-the-turf (Kid Kate)

Gary Contessa

2

Both wins came in off-the-turf races

James Jerkens

2

Both wins with 2-y-o's

Ken McPeek

2

Both 2-year-olds, one turf route, one maiden claimer

Dallas Stewart

2

Both 2-y-o dirt sprints

Barclay Tagg

2

One 2-y-o dirt sprint, one 2-y-o turf route


Trainers with 1 winning first-time starter:
Baffert, Hushion, Iadisernia, Kenneally, Klesaris, McLaughlin, Motion, Rice, Romans Serpe, Violette, Ward, Weaver.

Todd Pletcher has had a great meet overall with maidens and 2-year-olds. Bob Baffert, a fixture in the Saratoga winners' circle the last couple years with 2-year-old first starters, has had a quiet meet this season with a few losers until Bulldogger finally got him off the shneid on Travers Day. One pleasant surprise in this category has been James Jerkens, who has won with a pair of 2-year-old first starters despite the fact that his number reflect that he usually excels with horses making their second career starts. Dallas Stewart is another trainer with a low percentage of winning first starter who's won twice at this year's Spa meet.


SHIPPER TRENDS

Sure, Saratoga is a part of the NYRA year-long program of New York racing, bit more so than any other track, Saratoga is a national meet, with horses and horsemen coming into town with varied levels of effectiveness. For handicappers, it always helps to keep track of which shippers have been winning, and where the winners have been coming from in their most recent races.

Once we've gotten down to this point in the season - with only one week of racing remaining, most of the well-meant horses on the grounds or within ship-in distance have already run at the meet, with many making their second and sometimes even third starts of the Spa meet this coming week. This trend started to really show itself during Week 5 of the meet, when winners of 42 races were making their second or third starts of the meet. Expect more of the same in Week 6. See the chart below for details:

Saratoga Winners - Week 5

  • 55% making 2nd or 3rd start of the meet
  • 22% last raced elsewhere on NYRA circuit
  • 13% shippers
  • 10% first-time starters

In Week 6 of the Spa meet, we can expect 60% of the winners to be making their second, third, or in rare cases fourth starts of the meet.

Amongst this year's groups of shippers, Kentucky shippers who last raced at Churchill Downs have won the most races (18 wins), but have had by far the most runners, and really have performed no better than shippers from Monmouth Park (16 wins). Notably, most of the Kentucky shippers hailed from Kentucky trainers, while the majority of the Monmouth ship-in winners have been trained by New York-based trainers such as Todd Pletcher, Linda Rice, Kiaran McLaughlin, Bill Mott, and Nick Zito. Others who have brought horses from Monmouth to Saratoga for victories have been trainers based all over the East including Steve Asmussen and Anthony Dutrow. The significance of all this is that Monmouth horses running for Monmouth-based trainers have done exceptionally poorly at this year's Spa meet.

Another group of horses that has done exceptionally poorly at this year's Saratoga meet has been horses who ran their most recent races on artificial surfaces. Shippers who ran their most recent races on the main tracks at Arlington, Hollywood, Santa Anita, Presque Isle, and Woodbine (plus others) have won a combined total of just six Saratoga dirt races.

On the good side, Delaware Park horses have done well in the highest of profile races at Saratoga, having won races like the G1 Alabama (Careless Jewel) and the G1 Personal Ensign (Icon Project).

Aside from Grade 1 success, Delaware shippers have also heated up lately which should be of particular interest to Saratoga handicappers. Horses who made their most recent starts at Delaware Park won a grand total of just one race the first three weeks of the meet, but have reeled off six wins over the course of the last two weeks.

Another hot group of shippers have been from Colonial Downs, with three wins all coming during the second half of the meet.

Winning Shippers to Saratoga

Track of last race

Wins

Churchill Downs

18

Monmouth Park

16

Florida (Gp, Crc)

8

Delaware Park

7

Philly Park

5

Colonial Downs

3

Finger Lakes

3

Foreign tracks

2

Penn National

1

Suffolk Downs

1

 

 

Artificial tracks

SoCal (SA, Hollywood)

4 (1 turf)

Arlington

3 (2 turf)

Woodbine

2 (2 turf)

Presque Isle

1

TURF SPRINTS

Expect plenty of turf sprints throughout closing week as Saratoga has more difficulty filling races during the final week of the meet as many trainers and horses get out of town early on to their next destinations.

Everyone who reads my columns knows has much of an advocate I am for outside posts in New York turf sprints - especially in Saratoga's extensive program of 5 1/2-furlong turf sprints. This year's post position statistics don't really give you the full picture of the advantage outside posts in Saratoga turf sprints provide. For starters, post 11 (3-for-6, 50%) is much more likely to yield a winner than post 1 (1-for-32, 3%). In fact, post 1 - a draw that I call "the death post"- is one of the worst posts in all of Thoroughbred racing. One horse - Linda Rice's classy repeat winner Awkino Cat - has been able to overcome that draw this whole meet. For those who think this stat is an aberration or an anomaly, just take a look at past year's results and you'll confirm that post 1 in Saratoga turf sprints is one of the easiest toss-outs in racing.

Saratoga Turf Sprint Post Position Analysis

Post

Wins

Win%

ITM

ITM%

1

1

3%

8

25%

2

5

16%

13

41%

3

2

6%

5

16%

4

7

22%

16

50%

5

1

3%

7

22%

6

5

16%

11

34%

7

1

3%

7

22%

8

3

10%

8

28%

9

3

13%

8

35%

10

1

8%

4

31%

11

3

50%

3

50%

12

0

0%

1

25%

In terms of the in-the-money percentage of posts 1-12 in Saratoga turf sprints, three of the six best posts are 9-11, and four of the six best starting draws are posts 6 and outward.

When it comes to turf sprint trainers, everybody knows that Linda Rice is the queen of turf sprints, especially at Saratoga. This year has been no exception.

Saratoga Turf Sprint Training Leaders

Trainer

Wins

Linda Rice

6

Mike Hushion

2

John Parasella

2

Rick Schosberg

2

20 trainers tied with

1

Linda Rice owns three times as many turf sprint wins at Saratoga than any other trainer. The problem is that her horses are often favorites and seldom pay bargain prices. Still, occasionally you can catch a price. Rice's six turf sprint winners this season have paid $20.20, $17.00, $9.00, $6.20, $7.10, and $5.80 for an average win payoff of a pretty respectable $10.90.

One seldom talked about turf sprint angle is betting certain jockeys, but nevertheless, some jockeys have far more success in turf sprints than others. Linda Rice for example has won with 4 different riders in turf sprints at this year's meet, but has done the best with Alan Garcia (3 wins), and Cornelio Velasquez (2 wins). John Velazquez rode her other winner.

Linda Rice isn't the only turf sprint trainer however, and plenty of other jockeys are enjoying plenty of success in these types of races for a variety of different barns. If you want to base part of your turf sprint handicapping on the jockey, then see the following chart detailing the top turf sprint riders at Saratoga.

Saratoga Turf Sprint Leading Jockeys

Jockey

Wins

Dominguez

5

Garcia

4

Prado

4

Castanon

2

Chavez

2

Luzzi

2

Maragh

2

C. Velasquez

2

9 riders tied with

1

 
Plenty of top riders have had their share of chances to get it done in turf sprints, but not all riders have enjoyed equal success, and this information certainly should be relevant in your handicapping.

HORSES TO WATCH, CLOSING WEEK AT SARATOGA

AL KHALI: Don't underestimate the third-place finish in the Hall of Fame Stakes when trapped down inside while trying to rally in the stretch. Fits well next time vs. similar.

AQUITAINE: Checked at the start and steadied repeatedly before angling five wide and closing late in return from a nine-month layoff. Can graduate in next on the lawn.

BAND OF THUNDER: Battled for the lead and never got a breather up front after two separate challenges. Tried hard for second and can win off the claim by Mike Maker.

BLUE DEVIL BEL: Got caught in a speed duel when needing a race in return from a nine-month layoff. Lost by only 2 lengths and should be ready in second off the layoff.

BOSS TIFFANY: Did the best of the close-to-the-pace horses in her race to hold on well for third in a race where the deepest closers ran 1-3. Worth another shot.

CHECK IT TWICE: Once promising runner returned from a 10-month layoff to quietly run a good race for second in a race otherwise dominated by deep closers. Try again.

DIXIE PIXIE: Got caught in traffic in the stretch when returning from a six+ month layoff. Needed the race, beware next time.

FAIRWAY DRIVE: John Hertler turf veteran is always live vs. claimers, even after settling for a close-up fifth when caught in traffic. Just needs clear sailing.

FLUKE: Ran a game race but settled for another close loss to a perfect-trip stalker last time. Better luck next time.

LE ROYALE: Couldn't get into the thick of the race after steadying on the first turn and checking in traffic on the backstretch. Too early to give up.

MORETHAN FOURHOURS: Rallied too late for fifth, but was beaten only three lengths for all the marbles after steadying sharply and getting shuffled back in traffic early in the race.

ONE SKY: Bumped hard at the start and checked in traffic inside on the turn, but still outran 18-1 odds for second in promising career debut. Won't be a maiden for long.

R BETTY GRAYBULL: Disappointed with a seventh-place finish, but never got a chance to run at any point while in traffic the whole way. Get on the bandwagon when everyone else gets off next time out.

SLAMBINO: Was blocked and steadied in traffic en route to a fifth-place finish. Live overlay in second race off the six-month layoff.

SMART ENUF: Finished seventh, but lost the race by only 2 lengths and had the best excuse of any of the race's losers. Chance for an immediate turnaround.

THE CUFF SHOOTER: Outran 22-1 odds for third despite moving too soon after extricating himself from a traffic jam. Worth another try.

WAR HOOT: Started difficult two-turn turf debut assignment five lengths behind the field, but then rallied strongly, but too late, for third. Threat to graduate at a price next time.

FIVE TOWNS: Drew the death rail in a Spa turf sprint and did not have a clean trip in traffic on the turn and again in the stretch. Can win in continued return off the long layoff.



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