Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, September 21, 2016 at 12:00 AM
BELMONT EARLY MEET CAPSULE
QUICK THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
Even Small Sample Justifies Questioning Major Turf Assumptions
There is not a horse player alive who doesn’t now and then fall prey to oft-repeated “standards” when it comes to handicapping any given race meet or an individual race based on the conditions of tat race (class, surface, distance, etc.)
If only those perceived standards were universal enough to make the game easier. If anything, they often get in the way of good individualized handicapping because the oft-repetition is so prevalent that bettors seek what they perceive as a safety net.
Those last two paragraphs might appear a bit generalized in nature but I am leading up to a few points here. In particular as regards long held “standards” for handicapping grass racing at Belmont.
The general assumption is that the two grass courses at Belmont play differently if for no other reason than one (the Inner Turf Course) is indeed inside the main turf course. This means the turns are tighter and it is almost universal that one cannot say “tight turns” without the phrase “speed has the edge” following.
So let’s take a look at just how well speed does hold up on the Inner Turf Course.
In the first 8 days there have been 12 sprints of 6 furlongs on the ITC and 10 Route races.
In the 12 sprint races 4 winners have gone wire-to-wire. However, that 33% is not a bell weather figure and what is more germane is that the 8 non-wire-to-wire winners were in an average position of just over 5th at first call and just over 4th at second call. This defines a turf course that is playing fair.
In the 10 route races (between 1 1/16th and 1 ¼ miles) on the Inner Turf Course only 2 winners went wire-to-wire and again the 8 winners that came from somewhere off the pace were in an average position of just under 4th at first call and just over 4th at second call. These figures are very in keeping with “race riding” as jockeys jostle for position in these races. There is no “speed edge” on the Inner Turf Course in route races.
Adding to the above is this overview of the 8 Main Turf Course Sprints and 9 Main Turf Course Routes.
In the 8 sprints (each at 6 furlongs) there was 1 wire-to-wire winner and the 7 that won from “off-the-pace” were in an average position of just under 4th at first call and just over 4th at second call.
In the 9 route races (each run at 1 mile) there was 1 wire-to-wire winner and the 8 that won from “off-the-pace” were in an average position of just under 4th at first call and exactly 5th at second call.
Once again we see that turf racing demands intense handicapping. This is why turf racing also universally pays off at a higher rate than dirt racing.
Keep this in mind as you look to Wednesday and Thursday racing.
On Wednesday there are 3 Inner Turf Route races, 1 Inner Turf and 1 main turf sprint and 1 main turf mile race. On Thursday there are a pair of mile turf races on the main course and an Inner Turf sprint and route race.