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Submitted by Noel Michaels on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 12:00 AM


By Noel Michaels - OTBLearning

The Saratoga season has gotten off to an exciting start, and there are still a couple more great weeks of racing remaining at the historic 2013 meet. The quality of racing and wagering has been very lofty so far thanks to large field sizes, big payoffs, and competitive races for all ages and at all class levels. The biggest races of the meet are still remaining as racing continues six days a week, Wednesday thru Monday, from now until Labor Day. For handicappers, several trends have taken shape so far at the 2013 meet that horseplayers can use to help their handicapping the rest of the Saratoga meet, so let’s take a look at some of the trainer and post position trends having an impact on the results this season.


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One of the big stories of the 2013 Saratoga meet has been the exceptional performance by trainer Todd Pletcher, who is having a sensational meet - even for him - with 24 victories through August 14, which gives him a 10-win lead over second-leading trainer Chad Brown with 14 wins. Pletcher’s 36% win percentage is great, but keep in mind that he has fired and connected with a lot of bullets already, and it will be difficult for him to keep up that high of a win percentage. Expect Pletcher to keep winning, but look for his percentage to slow down a bit as other trainers start to win more races down the meet’s home stretch.

As the Saratoga meet heads into its final weeks, the trainer to watch will continue to be Chad Brown, who got off to a slow start but has really cranked things upover the last couple weeks and should finish the meet with a high-percentage flourish of winners. Brown of course is certainly no surprise after coming off tremendous Saratoga meets in each of the last three years from 2010-2012. Based on what we’ve seen so far, 2013 will be Brown’s fourth giant season in a row at The Spa.

Chad Brown usually uses the top riders at Saratoga with Javier Castellano and Jose Lezcano getting many of the best mounts. In Pletcher’s case, of course the choice is usually between John Velazquez and Javier Castellano, and therefore it is no surprise to see either of those jockeys riding the Pletcher coattails to the top of the jockey standings this season. Castellano, in particular, with both Pletcher and Brown listed among his top clients, as well as many other top trainers, will be difficult to supplant atop the jockey standings by meet’s end with Ramon Dominguez notably absent from the jock’s room.

Even though we expect Castellano to pull away in the jockey’s race by the end of the meet, the race to be Saratoga’s top rider has been exciting and exceptionally competitive to date with three jockeys vying for top honors including Javier Castellano leading with 35 wins through August 15, but not yet able to pull away from Joel Rosario, who is having an exceptional meet with 33 wins, and John Velazquez, who is mosty taking advantage of Pletcher’s hot barn to the tune of 30 wins so far.

Of course, all the top riders get the best pickings of the best horses for all the top stables at the Saratoga meet, and there have been several standout barns so far, besides just Pletcher and Brown.

Here are the top five in Saratoga trainer standings from July 19 through August 14:







T. Pletcher 66 24 - 5 - 11 36% 61%
C. Brown 52 14 - 8 - 9 27% 60%
S. Asmussen 34 9 - 7 - 3 26% 56%
D. Jacobson 46 9 - 5 - 7 20% 46%
M. Maker 54 8 - 7 - 10 15% 46%

Behind Pletcher and Chad Brown, the big stories in terms of the Saratoga trainers and trainers have been trainer Mike Maker and owners Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, who hve made a concerted effort to win the Saratoga owners title this season and are looking like they will accomplish that goal with ease. The Ramseys already have 11 victories, and that includes a lot of races early in the meet where there favored or near-favored horses lost. Those horses will be coming back again on the last couple of weeks of the 2013 meet, and therefore I expect trainer Mike Maker, mostly with this string of horses for the Ramsey connections, to rack-up a bunch more winners before the meet is over.

Speaking of trainers, the 2013 meet has included many hot-and-cold starts to the meet by many key conditioners.

Slow-Starting Spa Trainers in 2013

You cannot start a discussion of ice-cold trainers at the 2013 Saratoga meet without beginning with D. Wayne Lukas, who is taking "the Duck" with an awful 0-for-31 record including just 4 in-the-money finishes (13% ITM). Lukas has been failing at all levels with all kinds of horses and generally hasn’t been close, so therefore his horses should continue to be avoided through the rest of the meet.

Linda Rice has gotten off to a shockingly slow start with a record of just 2-for-39 (5% wins). This is in spite of the fact that there are so many of her wheelhouse turf sprint races carded at Saratoga each week. She got off to a similarly slow start in 2012 it should be noted, before turning it around slightly during the final couple weeks of the 2012 meet. So in other words, have caution when betting Rice, but don’t totally avoid her like the plague she has been thus far.

Among the other cold trainers through the first half of the 2013 Spa meet are some trainers you would expect would be doing better including Wayne Catalano, who is probably regretting his decision to bring a string to The Spa this year thanks to his 1-for-13 record. Others are even worse including Leah Gyarmati (1-for-17), Michael Trombetta (1-for-18), and Tom Bush (1-for-17). I can’t recommend playing any of the trainers on this list the rest of the way.

Then there is the long list of trainers sitting on the dreaded "Duck." The duck is the annual watch list of trainers still without a single win, and it is annual a great source of angst for all conditioners.

The Duck list still includes, in addition to Lukas, a lot of big names including H. James Bond (0-for-14), Allen Jerkens (0-for-13), and Nick Canani (0-for-9). Those trainers have not shown enough life so far to recommend them over the course of the last couple weeks of the 2013 meet. Others with the Duck that should be avoided include Gabriel Goodwin (0-for-10), Anthony Quarterolo (0-for-11), Tom Voss (0-for13, many in steeplechases), James Ryerson (0-for-10), and especially John Toscano, who has run up a 0-for-10 record including 0 in the money, which is disappointing because his stable had had a solid Belmont meet.

One member of the Duck list we expect to get off the duck soon and perhaps win a couple races before the meet’s end is Glenn DiSanto, who is 0-for-12 but has been a bit unlucky and actually has 5 in-the-money finishes.

Overall, it is interesting to note that through Aug. 14, a total of 249 trainers started at least one runner at the current Saratoga meet. Of those, 153 trainers are winless, and 48 more have just 1 win. That leaves only 28 trainers with more than one victory, and those are the barns that are the ones winning the lion’s share of races at The Spa meet.

Hot-Starting Saratoga Trainers in 2013

Besides the top 5 trainers listed above, there are several other trainers also having exceptional meets at Saratoga who should be respected with all of their runners the rest of the way. This group includes four trainers I have picked out as the ones to watch.

Noel’s 4 Trainers to Watch During Saratoga’s Final Weeks





D. Galluscio 26 - 7 - 7 - 2 27% 62%
G. Weaver 22 - 7 - 3 - 3 32% 59%
S. McGaughey 14 - 4 - 1 - 4 29% 64%
C. Clement 33 - 4 - 6 - 11 12% 64%

The four trainers listed above - Dominic Galluscio, George Weaver, Shug McGaughey, and Christophe Clement - are on my short list of trainers to watch not only because their runners have been live so far at the meet, but also because these trainers all have high in-the-money percentages and all have a lot of horses who lost during the first part of the Saratoga meet that will be returning with live chances to win during the final two weeks of action.

Other, lower-profile hot trainers I suggest betting through the final couple of weeks at Saratoga include Richard Metivier, who is 3-for-10 for 30% wins and a 50% ITM%, and Michael Matz, who is also 3-for-10 for 30% with a 40% ITM%. Kentucky-based trainer Charles Lopestri has been on fire with 89% of his 9 starters in the money and 22% wins with a record of 9 - 2 - 4 - 2 (that’s 6-of-9 in the exacta for 66%). And finally, Kathleen Feron has quietly had a nice Saratoga meet with limited starters, going 2-for-7 (29% wins) and 5-for-7 in-the-money for a 71% ITM%.

Post Position Stats and Trends

On the grass, the rail has been predictably bad so far in turf sprints to start the meet, with a record of just 2 wins from 33 starters (making the "death rail" 6% in turf sprints). The bad inside stats are no shock on the turf in sprints, but the rail has more than made up for its low win percentage in Mellon (outer course) turf sprints with a big 6-for-21 record in turf routes for 29% wins. In those Mellon turf routes, the outside has been absolutely dreadful with horses drawn in posts 1-6 winning almost all of those races and horses breaking outside post 6 accumulating only 3 wins from 59 starts for a combined win percentage of just 5% in Mellon turf routes.

Inner turf course routes so far have been very fair with horses enjoying good chances to win from all posts in all parts of the gate inside-middle- and outside.

Back in the turf sprints, people who have followed these races though the years already know to avoid the rail horse at all costs. But did you also know that the outside is always preferred in these races, and this year has been no exception? Horses breaking from the outermost posts 11-12 in turf sprints have won 3 races from 15 starters for a 20% win percentage combined from posts 11-12.

Saratoga Turf Post Position Stats
(July 19 - August 14)

Turf Sprints

Mellon Routes

Inner Routes

Post Wins-Starts % Wins-Starts % Wins-Starts %







































































On the Saratoga main track in 2013, the inside posts have not been dominant so far. As a matter of fact, in dirt routes the rail post is just 1-for-23 for 4% wins. The other bad posts in dirt routes have been the outside posts 7 and outward, which are a combined 1-for-19 for a 5% win percentage. This means undoubtedly the best draws for Saratoga’s dirt routes this season have been posts 2 thru 6. That’s where you want to be.

In Saratoga dirt sprints through the first half of the season through Aug. 14, the post positions have played pretty fairly all the way on out to post 9. Posts outside post 9, however, are only a combined 1-for-21 (5% wins).

Saratoga Dirt Post Position Stats
(July 19 - August 14)

Dirt Sprints

Dirt Routes

Post Wins-Starts % Wins-Starts %
1 11-98 11% 1-23 4%
2 13-98 13% 6-23 26%
3 12-98 12% 2-23 9%
4 20-98 20% 5-23 22%
5 12-95 13% 6-22 27%
6 9-84 11% 2-19 11%
7 14-63 22% 1-12 8%
8 4-42 10% 0-5 0%
9 3-22 14% 0-2 0%
10 0-14 0%
11 1-10 10%
12 0-6 0%
13 0-1 0%

The first half of the 2013 Saratoga meet has been amazing, as expected, and even though it is more than halfway over, there is still a lot of great racing and wagering still to come. Continue to keep an eye out for developing trainer and post position trends. When you notice these kinds of trends and are able to spot them and use them sooner than the general public, you are on your way to cashing-in on some valuable information that could help you stay ahead of the other bettors in the line to cash tickets at the mutual windows. Good luck at Saratoga, and please continue to enjoy the year’s best racing at the country’s premier racetrack.

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