Submitted by Noel Michaels on Wednesday, May 27, 2015 at 12:00 AM
BUILD BANKROLL FOR BELMONT STAKES DAY AND BEYOND
By Noel Michaels
A full month of the Belmont Park spring/summer meet is already in the books, and we are now approaching the best part of the Belmont season as the date draws near for the 2015 running of the Belmont Stakes - the third and decisive jewel in racing’s Triple Crown. With a Triple Crown on the line this year, it is certainly worth paying close attention to the Belmont Stakes, but remember that there is also still plenty of other great action going on at Belmont between now and Saturday, June 6.
There are lots of great handicapping and wagering opportunities at Belmont this summer at what has always been this season’s premier racetrack. Now that we have a full month of statistics to sink our teeth into, horseplayers who have been paying attention to Belmont have accumulated a solid set of data from the meet so far that can be used to break down what we expect to happen the rest of the way. Therefore, I have attempted to delve into the key statistics and trends so far as I try to formulate a successful plan for weeks ahead.
Several trends have been quietly - and not so quietly - taken shape at Belmont Park this season as the meet has progressed. From what I’ve seen so far, I have noticed some trends developing at the Belmont meet that can help handicappers cash tickets and show profits. Additionally, I’ve also been able to pinpoint some hot and cold jockeys and trainers to either key or avoid.
BELMONT RUNNING STYLES / TRACK BIASES
As always on Belmont’s dirt track, speed is an extremely handy commodity. Other tracks such as Monmouth, Pimlico, and the Aqueduct inner track have more of a reputation as being speed biased tracks, but Belmont Park can be right up there with those other tracks at certain times when it comes to favoring speed. Sure, late runners will have every opportunity to close at Belmont with its wide sweeping turns and long stretch, but you always must be wary of the times when Belmont’s main track bias kicks into effect and strongly favors the front runners. When those biases appear, they can be valuable things to take notice of and capitalize on when horses return to the track for their next starts by downgrading horses who benefitted from biases and upgrading the chances of horses who’ve been hurt by track biases.
Besides the prevailing speed-favoring nature of the Belmont main track, there are usually certain day-to-day track biases that affect the results and either help or hurt the chances of certain horses on any given afternoon. This year, however, as I have noted below, so far this season’s Belmont spring/summer meet has been amazingly without many daily track biases. This is due to the severe lack of rain in the New York area since the first of March.
When the rains do come, pay close attention to the changing weather conditions, especially on the turf course. On the turf, under dry conditions, speed plays a lot better. Under wet conditions or wet-and-dry conditions, closers typically perform better on the grass, and outside rally trips are preferred over inside trips.
Here is my list of New York racing track biases, going back to the start of February:
Belmont/Aqueduct Track Biases
May 6 - Outside good, slow rail
Apr. 12 - Speed good, 8 of 9 winners on the pace
Apr. 9 - Inside speed advantage
Mar. 22 - Helped to be on or close to the pace
Mar. 7 - Speed advantage on souped-up stakes day track
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
BELMONT JOCKEY TRENDS
This season’s Belmont jockey standings have featured several good storylines, including the fact that Irad Ortiz has managed to carve-out a lead in the win column over veterans like Javier Castellano and others. Ortiz leads the jockey standings with 19 wins from only 71 mounts for a 27% win percentage, which includes a surprising 11-for-36 (31%) on the dirt. Castellano has been even more selective with mounts so far, and has responded with a big 25% win percentage with 15 wins from 61 mounts. Cornelio Velasquez has been riding loads of horses, as usual, and is fourth in the standings with 14 wins from 100 mounts. Many of Cornelio’s wins come in turf sprints, and that trend should continue for a guy that is the best in the business in those kinds of races.
One of the big human stories at Belmont so far has been young rider Angel Cruz, who has lost his bug but still continues to ride plenty of winners from a ton of mounts. Cruz has 16 wins for second in the jockey standings, and he remains dangerous even though he’s ridden 101 horses making his win percentage quite a bit lower than guys like Irad Ortiz and Javier Castellano.
Speaking of win percentages, veteran John Velazquez is the leader in that category with 29% winners (12-for-42). Johnny V. is not riding as many horses these days, but he’s cherry-picking good horses and still riding first-call for Todd Pletcher. Jose Lezcano also has a good winning percentage with a lower amount of starters, winning 22% with 10 wins from 46 mounts.
Among the jockeys who are colder than you would expect at Belmont are Jose Ortiz, who is only fifth in the standings with 13 victories and a relatively lower-than-usual 14% win percentage. Manuel Franco is also cold, riding only 8 winners so far from 88 mounts (9% wins).
On the plus side of the ledger, jockey Junior Alvarado has not been one of the leaders in the standings in terms of wins with 8 victories from 59 mounts (14%), but he is the leader by a wide margin in terms of ROI (return on investment) amongst jockeys, with a giant average win payoff of $28.80!
Finally, with Angel Cruz losing the bug, the main beneficiary has been apprentice Eric Cancel, who has taken over as the main bug rider at the Belmont meet. Cancel has responded with a solid 11-for-69 record, and he should be able to maintain his solid 16% win percentage all summer long.
BELMONT TRAINER TRENDS
There is an epic battle brewing atop the Belmont trainer standings with Todd Pletcher on fire and Chad Brown having a great meet to be tied in terms of trainer wins with 14 apiece. Pletcher’s meet is particularly impressive with 14 wins from 31 starters for a ginormous 45% win percentage.
Other trainers who are currently sitting in a lofty stratosphere in terms of win percentages who are so hot that they cannot be overlooked, at least for now. Those trainers include guys like Jason Servis (6-for-14, 43%), Wesley Ward (4-for-10, 40%, 70% in-the-exacta, dominating 2-year-old races), and shockingly Naipaul Chatterpaul (4-for-10, 40%) and Carl Domino (3-for-6, 50%).
Of course, you can always count on David Jacobson, particularly in claiming races. He has 10 wins from 38 starters for 26%, and as always crushes the competition with claiming class droppers and/or recent claims. Gary Gullo is another New York trainer that has been exceptionally good throughout this year. Right now at Belmont his win percentage is back down to Earth a little bit with a record of 3-for-15 (20%). However, he is a trainer you can count on to get hot again at some time before the meet is over. Another trainer who is currently not as hot as he could be is Rudy Rodriguez. He is only 4-for-34 so far at Belmont, but before you start writing him off, first realize that he has had bad luck with 10 second-place finishers. His win percentage will start to skyrocket once those close losses start turning into wins.
Kiaran McLaughlin has had a great year so far in 2015, and he is off to a great start at Belmont with 9 wins from 26 starters for 35% wins. Expect him to keep that up, and also keep an eye on Bill Mott, particularly in turf races. Mott also has 9 wins already at Belmont along with a 25 win percentage. Another guy winning a ton of turf races is Christophe Clement. He has 7 wins at Belmont already including 6 on the grass.
On the cold side, some trainers who are currently burning handicapper’s money include David Donk (1-for-23, 4%), Michelle Nevin (2-for-27, 7%), Bruce Brown (1-for-34, 3%), Abigail Adsit (1-for-23, 4%), Tom Bush (0-for-14), John Hertler (0-for-16), and Carlos Martin (0-for-19).
Some other trainers not yet mentioned who should always be considered in your betting, include Anthony Dutrow, who is just 1-for-9 s far but has 4 runner-up finishes and is ready to heat-up, and Linda Rice, who is 5-for-33 for 15%, but is also ready to bump-up her winning percentage.
Speaking of Linda Rice, the "queen of the New York turf sprints," is still dangerous in these races, but perhaps gearing up her runners for Saratoga instead of concentrating her efforts here at Belmont.
Readers of my columns know by now that I constantly expound on the virtues of outside posts in turf sprint races in New York. This is mainly true at Saratoga, but it is also true at Belmont Park as well.
This bias toward outside posts in turf sprints has always been a great trend to know about, and amazingly it still continues to be a good angle even now as most handicappers refuse to differentiate post position trends in turf sprints. What this means for bettors is that outside posts are best bets in turf sprints Belmont’s turf courses, not only because they offer the best chances of winning, but also because they offer value overlaid odds and terrific bargains on the tote board.
Statistics on the Inner turf course and the Widener turf course have not been good in sprints, but have not yet been as bad as they can be at the current meet (again due to the dry weather). On the Inner turf, only 2-of-13 races have been won from posts 1-2, while 7 of the 13 Inner turf sprints so far have been won from posts 6 and outward, accounting for wins in 54% of the races. On the Widener turf, the inside posts have not done badly so far in turf sprints. However, take note that posts 10-12 have accounted for 4 winners from only 17 starters for a 24% win percentage.
Belmont Turf Sprint Winning Post Positions
(April 29 - May 24)
As far as turf sprint running styles are concerned, inside horses better have speed enough to clear in front in order to have a decent chance. Inside horses involved in speed battles on the lead tend to readily succumb to outside pressure, setting the race up for outside stalkers and closers. Inside horses without speed get shuffled too far back off the pace, and don’t have enough chance to get back into the race at the short turf sprint distances.
On the Belmont Widener main turf course this season, the story has been the futility of inside posts. Horses breaking from posts 1-3 in Widener turf routes have won only a combined 1-for-57 (2% wins). Middle posts have been excellent in those Widener turf routes, with posts 4-7 winning most of the races. Surprisingly the far outside posts have also done exceptionally well in a small sample, with 3 winners breaking from posts 11-12 from only 14 total starters (21% win percentage).
In Inner turf course routes, meanwhile, the rail has not done well so far, winning just 2 of the 27 turf route races for 7%. Outside posts have performed well it should be noted, showing no signs of disadvantage for horses breaking all the way out to post 10. As a matter of fact, the far outside posts 9-10 have statistically been the best with 4 wins from 16 combined starters for a 25% win percentage.
Belmont Turf Route Winning Post Positions
(April 29 - May 24)
|Post||Turf Routes Widener||Turf Routes Inner|
|1||0-19 (0%)||2-27 (7%)|
|2||1-19 (5%)||3-27 (11%)|
|3||0-19 (0%)||3-27 (11%)|
|4||3-19 (16%)||3-27 (11%)|
|5||4-18 (22%)||4-27 (15%)|
|6||4-18 (22%)||4-24 (17%)|
|7||3-16 (19%)||3-17 (18%)|
|8||1-13 (8%)||1-14 (7%)|
|9||0-9 (0%)||3-11 (27%)|
|10||0-9 (0%)||1-5 (20%)|
DIRT POST POSITIONS
When it comes to post position angles on the Belmont main track, the track does not always play like you would expect. Remember, Belmont runs almost no two-turn races due to its 1 1/2 -mile circumference. As far as running style, it pays dividends to stay as close to the pace as possible on the Belmont main track, because the prevailing winning profile at the track does not favor deep closers.
As far as post positions at Belmont so far in 2015 on the main track, the inside posts have done exceptionally well in sprints, and the rail post No. 1 has been the place to be so far in route races at 1 mile or more. In sprints, all of the inside posts 1-4 are winning at very high percentages. Conversely, horses that break from the far outside need a lot of luck to win. Horses breaking from posts 9-12 in sprints have won only once from 18 starters (6% win percentage).
In main track routes, the outside has also been bad with no winners breaking from outside post 8. The rail post No. 1 on the other hand, has won at a dominant 26% win percentage with 9 winners from 35 races so far.
See the following charts for a post position breakdown on the Belmont main track:
Belmont DIRT Winning Post Positions
(April 29 - May 24)
|Post||Dirt Sprint Wins|
I hope you enjoy a successful Belmont meet, including during the important time leading up to and including Belmont Stakes week and Belmont Stakes Day. Hopefully the information in this article will help. After the Belmont Stakes, there will still be nearly a month and a half of racing left at Belmont. Keep a close eye on the winning track trends the rest of the way, and you will stay one step ahead of the competition. Best of luck!