BELMONT PARK NOTES
The first five days of racing at the Belmont Park Fall Championship meet are complete. At one time the 33-day session was the equivalent of Saratoga in racing quality. The steady diet of maiden claimers and sundry low level races this week signal those days are over -- at least in 2009.
I do have a guilty confession. These races are a relief after six weeks of skull-busting handicapping at Saratoga. The Spa season earned a degree of difficulty rating of 10.0. The Belmont events we've seen are more like 7.5.
The dirt surface at Belmont has been all over the map in terms of track profile. The three-day opening weekend was impacted by wet tracks each day. Surprisingly, the most speed-favoring track was Sunday, when the dirt was drying out and labeled good. The sealed slop and mud present on Friday and Saturday were anything but conducive to early speed.
You may have expected the inside part of the track to be dull on the days it was wet. The evidence there is mixed.
In the early part of Friday and Saturday's cards, horses could and did win by coming up the rail. Later in both days the jockeys appeared less anxious to drop down inside. The only way to validate the actual situation is to make note of how these horses races back in their next couple of starts. Let facts determine the bottom line on a path bias.
Expect Belmont dirt sprint races to average out as slightly speed-favoring, but not biased. Dirt routes, particularly those longer than one mile, should be fair to all running styles.
Fifteen turf races have been run over the two Belmont grass courses. Nine events scheduled for turf were rained off during the first three days back from the Spa. The ones which remained on turf were run over varying course conditions. That makes getting an early line on course profile or bias very difficult.
Using data from recent Belmont meets, you should expect the Widener (outer) turf course to be less kind to speed than the inner. In fact, the Widener can be downright unfriendly to speed unless the weather is bone-dry and the course becomes hard.
Turf sprints are carded on both Belmont grass courses. The inner races at six furlongs are the most speed-favoring of any turf events held at Belmont Park. The seven-furlong events run over the Widener play somewhat like the mile races over that course, albeit slightly kinder to speed.
Don't be surprised if Saratoga form does not hold at Belmont. The differential between one-turn races, whether they are held on turf or dirt, vs. the two-turn routes at the Spa, is vast.
When I first began handicapping New York racing I generated the best results at Saratoga and Aqueduct. Belmont was the toughest, by far However, I've discovered over the last couple of years that has switched around completely. The reason may be as simple as finally discovering that Belmont racing favors the best horse more than the other two venues.
Because the expansive layout at Belmont creates less opportunity for the best horse to get trapped in traffic, or otherwise find trip trouble.
That's not to say bad trips don't happen at Belmont. They do -- just less often than at the Spa or Big A.
LITIGATION RISK made his debut on Sept. 12, in race seven. The Rick Violette-trained juvenile may have been best that day.
The grandson of Successful Appeal broke very poorly from the gate and was left at the back of the pack. He recovered well enough to rally up to be second, four lengths ahead of the third-place finisher.
GOZZIP GIRL had an international bad trip in the featured Garden City Stakes on the 12th. She clipped heels and nearly fell while pinned inside on the clubhouse turn. Jockey Kent Desormeaux made a quick move with her into contention at the half-mile pole, but she was empty in the stretch.
Gozzip Girl will be a microscopic price in her next race unless spotted at the highest level. Be cautious.
OFFLEE COOL looked sensational in the paddock before her Sept. 13 debut in race four. The Rick Dutrow-trained filly slugged it out on the lead with the favored winner.
Offlee Cool's fifth-place finish should boost the odds when she comes back. The ideal spot would be at seven or eight furlongs.
GIRALAMO made his second start of 2009 a winning one in race eight on the 13th. Godolphin Stable's son of A.p. Indy demolished a field of solid, older horses, winning off under wraps by 5½ length. Look for this colt in stakes.
R BETTY GRAYBULL is a chronic trouble horse. However, the filly's performance in the opener on Sept. 16 suggests she will win the New York-bred level two allowance class eventually.
PARAIBA was all dressed up with nowhere to run in deep stretch Septe. 16. The New York-bred filly looked ready to mow down the leaders in race seven until stopped behind a wall of horses.
A negative note should be assigned to AMBIDAXTROUS in that same race. She had a golden trip behind the pace set by her coupled entrymate. Despite that she was beaten by perennial also-ran One in a Romp.
Keep in mind Ambidaxtrous was making her first start off a layoff, so she could still improve and win.
Remember, no horse on any list is an automatic bet. You must factor in all other handicapping angles before making a wager.
by Nick Kling
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