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Submitted by Noel Michaels on Sunday, March 8, 2015 at 12:00 AM

By Noel Michaels

As far as winters at Aqueduct go, this has been a bad one thanks to bad weather leading to a lot of cancellations all season. 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 horses all ready to run and fill races. That means better than usual field sizes are on tap at the Big A this month.  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, with some winning tips to help you cash.

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.  For starters, the brief, controversial, unpopular, and unsuccessful rule barring horses from entering back within 15 days since their last starts has been repealed. This will bring field sizes and betting opportunities back to where they should be at this time of the year along with the improvement in the weather.

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 of March still to go.  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, but winter has been worse than ever because of the bad weather leading to numerous cancelled days this year. Many of the days in-between that haven’t been cancelled have nevertheless been affected in some way by the weather. That said, the inner track has shown various favoritisms since opening at the start of December (refer to my bias chart below).

Aqueduct Inner Track Biases
Mar. 1 – Rally wide advantage
Feb. 28 – Outside stalk and rally wide bias, slow rail
Feb. 26 – Outside preferred on dead track
Feb. 22 – Outside bias, dead rail on muddy sealed track
Feb. 14 – Speed good, perhaps outside still preferred
Feb. 12 – Had to be on or close, perhaps outside still better
Feb. 11 – Outside advantage
Feb. 8 – Rally wide advantage
Feb. 7 – Helped to be on or close, outside preferred
Feb. 6 – Outside bias, dead rail
Feb. 5 – Outside bias on “good” wet track
Jan. 2 – Outside preferred
Dec. 31 – Outside preferred
Dec. 28 – Speed good
Dec. 12 – Helped to be on or close to the pace on drying track
Dec. 5 – Outside bias
Dec. 4 – Outside good on drying track

 

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 year, however, as the inner track is up to its old tricks and favoring horses breaking from the inside three post positions in routes, and making life difficult for horses breaking from posts 9 and outward 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 while still can’t show good win percentages, then that means the outside posts have been disadvantageous more often than not this season.

In route races, the inside posts (1-3) have been the preferred place to be, with a slight advantage over horses drawing the middle part of the gate (posts 4-8), and a stronger advantage over horses drawing the outside posts (9-12).  In total, horses breaking from inside posts 1-3 have won 77-of-166 total route races, accounting for victories in 46% of the routes run at the track this season.  Horses drawn far outside, on the other hand have won just 6 times from 74 combined starts for 8%.

In sprints, it pretty much hasn’t mattered what post a horse breaks from, as long as we’re talking about posts 1 thru 8.  Outside of post 8, things get a little sketchier for the horses drawn wider in posts 9-12.  Horses breaking from those gates have won only a combined 9-of-126 for a combined win percentage of only 7%.

Aqueduct Inner Track Winning Post Positions
(December 3 – March 5)
Post     Sprints                        Routes
1          26-222 (12%)              29-166 (17%)
2          34-222 (15%)              20-166 (12%)
3          28-221 (13%)              28-166 (17%)
4          31-220 (14%)              23-163 (14%)
5          31-217 (14%)              20-156 (13%)
6          26-202 (13%)              20-144 (14%)
7          23-164 (14%)              13-118 (11%)
8          16-115 (14%)              7-74 (9%)
9          5-69 (7%)                    3-47 (6%)
10        3-36 (8%)                    2-23 (9%)
11        1-15 (7%)                    1-4 (25%)
12        0-6 (0%)                      0-0 (0%)

 

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 any 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 – and particularly inside 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.

Early speed is king on the Aqueduct inner track, and speed and the rail can be a deadly combination. 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, due to the outside bias that has 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.

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 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 old days of Ramon Dominguez domination are gone now at Aqueduct (we still miss you Ramon!), but replacing that era of control atop the winter jockey standings in New York is another kind of domination – the Ortiz brothers.

The leading Aqueduct inner track jockeys, Irad Ortiz and Jose Ortiz, who finished 1-2 in the jockey standings at the 2013-14 and 2012-13 Aqueduct inner track meets, are again clearly atop the jockey standings at the current meet, with 62 wins for Jose and 57 wins for Irad thru March 6.  Both jocks are winning with close to 25% of their mounts, and are in the money (ITM) 55% 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 Manuel Franco, who is has been solidly entrenched in third-place all along, now with 45 victories at the meet with nearly a 20% win percentage.

Aside from the top three jockeys above, the duo of Junior Alvarado and apprentice Angel Cruz are the riders that have emerged as the others who will receive the majority of the leftover plum mounts. Alvarado has only 31 wins, but take note that his win percentage of 25% is about on par with the Ortiz brothers. That is big because Albarado’s mounts often aren’t of the same caliber as the horses ridden by Jose and Irad Ortiz. Angel Cruz has 39 wins so far.

It is a long way back in the standings to the rest of the jockeys in the Aqueduct winter colony. None of the others currently has more than 20 wins, and most of those guys are winning aboard a modest 8% to 15% of their mounts.

Clearly you don’t want to place too much stock in any horse being ridden by anyone other than the top 5 jockeys right now – Jose Ortiz, Irad Ortiz, Manuel Franco, Junior Alvarado, and Angel Cruz – because the win percentages for those riders just aren’t where they should be for you to be putting down your hard-earned money on them.

Just to take a closer look at some of the other options, Angel Arroyo is next in the jockey standings with 20 wins, but he rides tons of races and his win percentage is killing bettors at just 11%.  I O Rodriguez is even worse, he’s winning at only 9%.  Some of the options after that have been absolute bankroll killers at the 2014-15 Aqueduct inner track meet with Ruben Silvera at just 12 wins (7% win percentage), Dylan Davis riding just 9 winners (8% winning percentage), and veteran C C Lopez bringing home only 8 winners for a win percentage of just 8.7 percent.  These guys will be run out of town quickly once the big-name jockeys start returning to New York in April.

If you absolutely must go against the guys at top rungs of the jockey ladder this March at Aqueduct, the best options I would recommend would be Jeremy Rose, who is a not-bad 18-for-121 (15%), and Cornelio Velazquez, who is 17-for-101 and doing much of his best riding for trainer Linda Rice.

 

Tip #5) Jacobson is not the Only Training Game in Town
When it comes to the top trainers at Aqueduct, the story has been all about David Jacobson in recent winters, and this season is no exception. Jacobson leads the training standings in a runaway with 27 wins. However, when it comes to making money, you are going to need to look deeper than Jacobson on the Aqueduct inner track, because his horses are always heavily bet and often favored.  Even his horses that aren’t favored probably can be counted on to be big underlays.

David Jacobson continues to be deadly in the claiming game and leads the way in the Aqueduct trainer standings thanks to sheer numbers. He is winning at a 23% clip on the inner track. Those are typical numbers for the Jacobson stable so he should maintain at least that win percentage though March while running away with the training title, but keep in mind that Jacobson’s winning percentage had been sitting at 28% during January, so it has actually dropped a bit in the last six weeks.

In particular, Jacobson must be wagered on when he pulls his patented claim-and-drop maneuver – which would be a red flag for many other barns, but not his. He racks up the wins with class drops all year long.  Aside from that, however, you’ve really gotta look beyond just betting David Jacobson trainees in order to make any real money.

While at first blush the meet looks like complete domination by Jacobson, a closer look reveals that a couple of other trainers have also had highly exceptional winters this season on the Aqueduct inner track.  The trainers in closest pursuit of Jacobson are Linda Rice, who is having a hot meet with 19 victories and a 17% win percentage, and Gary Gullo, who has rarely been better than this winter when he’s won with 18 of 58 starters for a big 31 percent win percentge.  Horses sent out from both of these trainers must be bet right now, because their ROIs are so much greater than the Jacobson horses that are always low-priced.

Plenty of Todd Pletcher horses and Rudy Rodriguez horses have won at the current inner track meet, which should come as no surprise to anybody.  Pletcher, in particular, should continue to do great throughout March are beyond.

Michelle Nevin and Eddie Kenneally have been other conditioners to watch atop the trainer standings this season. Nevin has racked-up 11 wins from only 45 starters at the meet for 24%, and Kenneally has win 8 races despite only starting 23 horses (that’s a win percentage of 35%!). Bet on their horses pretty much whenever you see they have a chance.  Another trainer you have to play right now is Kiaran McLaughlin, who has won 10-of-34 for 29% while running an amazing 79% in the money!  The scary part about McLaughlin is that his better horses are still all in Florida now, and he might even get better as the months of March and especially April continue to roll onward.

Finally, it should be noted that many of the big-name barns that go down to Florida for the winter but usually leave large strings of horses home in New York for the season have been very quiet this year so far.  Trainers like Chad Brown, James Jerkens, Tom Albertrani, Shug McGaughey, Christophe Clement, and others have mostly been virtual non-factors so far this winter at Aqueduct and seldom seen in the winner’s circle. However, just like clockwork as the temperatures start to rise, you know these guys will return from Florida, especially after Keeneland, and begin lighting it up in New York again this spring.

 

Summary
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 make money at Aqueduct this time of year.

Good luck and good racing at Aqueduct!

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