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Noel Michaels

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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



Belmont kicked off this weekend, but let's take one day and wrap up the six-week Saratoga season by the numbers.

Saratoga 2009 was like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for my daily selections. The first half of the meet was a train wreck. The final three weeks were what readers of The Record expect. Here is the breakdown.

I ended the meet with a record of 98 top winners from 365 races. Those winners returned $627.30 from a $2.00 wager on each.

That divides out to 27 percent top winners, with a net return of a minus $102.70. The return on investment (ROI) was $1.72.

A dismal week three (9 top winners from 60 races) derailed the first half of the season. At the midway point of the meet my record was 39 top winners from 180 races. The net return stood at minus $126.90, with an ROI of $1.30.

Thankfully, good returns during the second half elevated the entire season above the public handicapping version of the Mendoza line.

The record for the final three weeks was 59 top winners from 185 races. That pencils out to 32 percent. The net dollar return for the period was plus $24.10, with an ROI of $2.13.

So it was with best bets and longshots -- dumpsville during weeks one through three and solid results the rest of the way. If you followed my selections, I hope you were on the right end of the roller coaster.

When I was calculating these numbers someone asked me why I would report them to you. Simple. I believe in accountability.

When I started with The Record in 1997 this was the one place in the Capital District where you could find the dollar results and ROI. Since then others have come on board because horseplayers wanted the information. You asked for it and deserve to have it.

One final note. The expansion of so-called horizontal wagers (multi-race bets like the Pick Three and Pick Four) has made the performance of second and third choices important. Some races defy a simple outcome, meaning you need to spread to have your best chance of success.

After accounting for scratches, a review of 2009 results revealed that 74 second choices and 42 third selections also won. When added to the 98 top winners, that means 59 percent of Saratoga races were won by one of my three top selections.

In that respect I feel a little like trainer Todd Pletcher, who finished second to Linda Rice for leading trainer at the Spa meet in terms of races won. Pletcher finished one behind Rice, but had 28 second-place finishes to Rice's 4.

Nevertheless, Rice won the competition fairly. She started 75 horses at the meet to Pletcher's 135. That means her hit rate was 27 percent to Pletcher's 14.

Some have complained because Linda took advantage of the turf sprint races held at the Spa. Of course she did. Isn't that the point, race horses which fit the conditions?

Blaming Rice for winning too many turf sprints is like saying left-handed hitters who play for the Yankees should have their homerun totals marked with an asterisk because of the short porch down the right field line.

Anthony Dutrow quietly may have had the best meet of all. Tony had 10 top winners from just 31 starts. In addition, 15 of his other runners finished second or third. That means Dutrow had an astonishing 81 percent finish in the money.

It was apparent for most of the last week Ramon Dominguez would win the jockey title. He opened up a 6-win lead on Alan Garcia going into the final six days of racing and ended with a 5-win cushion.

The comparison between the two had similarities to the Rice/Pletcher battle. Dominguez rode 58 more horses for his 5 extra wins. Garcia had the higher winning percentage: 20 percent to 17 percent. Dominguez had more in the money: 52 percent to 42 percent for Garcia.

Saratoga 2009 may have been a demarcation line among some of the riders. One-time New York leader Eibar Coa had a very slow season. Coa managed only 92 mounts, barely one-third the total ridden by Dominguez. Eibar scratched out a mere 6 winners. Ouch.

There are signs Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado may be heading in the wrong direction. Prado had a respectable number of mounts -- 165 -- but managed only 22 winners. Even worse, only 55 of his mounts finished in the money. One out of every three is not an all-star result.

You might have heard some negative commentary on he number of turf sprints run at Saratoga this year. For the record, it was 43. That is an average of 1.2 per day, or 11.7 of all the races held at Saratoga this year.

There were 36 turf sprints at the Spa last year, and 40 in 2007.

By comparison, there were 115 turf routes held in 2009. That does not count the six steeplechase races run. According to my rudimentary math skills, that means 31.5 percent of all Saratoga races were turf routes. That is nearly three times the number of sprints.

Conversely, there were 161 dirt sprints run at Saratoga versus only 40 dirt routes. That is a 4 to 1 ratio. Why no complaints about there being too few dirt routes, or too many dirt sprints?

The answer? Turf sprints are harder to handicap. If the goal is to collect a generous payoff at the track, isn't that the point?

by Nick Kling
from the troyrecord.com

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