Submitted by Noel Michaels on Wednesday, September 27, 2017 at 11:56 AM
Every meet, no matter where it is, or when it is, or how high-profile it is, can always be made better and more enjoyable for horseplayers if you are winning and cashing tickets. The Belmont Park Fall Championship meet contains all of New York's key prep races for the Breeders' Cup, but besides just stakes races, it also offers top notch racing and wagering on all types of races, day-in-and-day-out throughout the season. For this reason, it pays to know and understand the handicapping trends that will work for you at the Belmont fall meet. This knowledge will help you upgrade your chances of winning.
Belmont runs almost exclusively one-turn races on dirt at all distances, ranging from 5 furlongs to 9 furlongs. Belmont Park 1¼-mile races, and 1½-mile dirt races are rare (except the Belmont Stakes, of course). Therefore, a horse's two-turn record is not as important as its one-turn record for the purposes of evaluating Belmont's main track route races.
On the Belmont main track, speed is an extremely handy commodity. Sure, late runners will have every opportunity to close at Belmont with its wide sweeping turns and long stretch, but the Belmont Park winning track profile always seems to put a premium on early speed and is known for daily track biases that only strengthen the advantage of speed and pace-pressing horses. When those track biases do appear, they can stay in place for up to a week at time when the weather goes through a long stretch without changing.
On the Belmont main track, always assume the prevailing main track bias at Belmont will favor speed horses, and horses able to stay within 2 1/2 lengths of the early pace in sprints, and within 4 lengths of the early pace in routes.
When it comes to post position angles on the Belmont main track, six-furlong races and all shorter races are most likely to favor inside posts at Belmont, with a slight preference to inside posts also at 6 1/2 furlongs and less of an advantage at 7F.
Through the first 11 race days of the 2017 Belmont Fall Meet, the main track has been kind to the rail in sprints overall with horses from Post 1 winning 8-of-34 races for 24%. Outside in those races on the other hand have been bad, with horses earning just a combined 1-for-20 record (5%) from outside post 8.
In dirt races at 1 mile, 1 1/16th miles, 1 1/8 miles, you really have to have posts 1-5 in order to have a good chance to win. Ten of the first 12 dirt routes have been won from posts 1-5, and posts 6 and outward have won a combined 2-of-24 starts for 8%. No horse has won a route from outside of post 7 yet.
As far as horses for the course are concerned, certain horses love the Belmont dirt surface and others cannot do their best running there. Part of this preference for the local oval has to do with the track layout as well, since Belmont's wide sweeping turns help some horses and hurt others. The horse for the course angle is always a big handicapping positive, but it seems even more potent as a betting angle at Belmont Park.
Belmont Turf Races
Belmont turf route post positions have been playing fair through the first part of the Belmont Fall Championship Meet so far, but usually the outside posts, particularly at one mile, are a very tough proposition. Running styles have also been fair so far this season. Based on past history, you can generally expect horses with early speed to do well in Belmont Inner turf routes, and come-from-behind horses to do better on the Widener, outer turf course.
For a running style angle this month, pay attention to horses exiting Saratoga inner turf route races. The inner turf at Saratoga favored speed for most of the 2017 meet and front-runners who did well on the Saratoga inner will probably regress at Belmont, especially on the Widener turf. Closers, meanwhile, who lost on the Saratoga inner turf will be ready to positively turn around their form at Belmont.
The rail has predictably been bad in Belmont turf sprints, as is an annual occurrence on both turf courses at Belmont, especially at 6F but also at 7F to a lesser extent. This post position bias against the inside, and particularly the rail, is the main handicapping angle to live by in Belmont turf sprints.
Through the first 11 racing dates at the current Belmont Fall Meet, the rail is 0-for-13 on the Widener and 0-for-9 on the inner, for a combined 0-for-22. On the Widener, Post 2 is also 0-for-13, making the posts 1-2 a combined 0-for-26 in Widener turf sprints so far. The winners have all come from posts 3-11, and as a general rule you can continue to expect the outside posts to do better. In the Inner turf sprints, all 9 winners so far have come from posts 2-7.
Hot and Cold Jockeys and Trainers at Belmont
Chad Brown lost the Saratoga trainer's title to Todd Pletcher by a whisker but is making up for it in a hurry by getting off to a giant lead in the trainer's standings so far at Belmont. Pletcher, meanwhile, has been winning a good percentage but not running a lot of horses, due to the fact that he pretty much emptied out his stalls in order to run every ready horse he had in order to beat Brown at Saratoga.
At Belmont, Brown leads all trainers by a wide margin with 13 wins - 12 of which have been on the grass. Brown put up similar giant numbers in turf races at Belmont last fall throughout September, and then got even hotter in October. In other words, you've gotta pretty much have your head examined to bet against Brown on the turf (in routes) at this meet. If you're going to bet against him at this meet, do it in dirt races. He's only 1-for-7 so far on the main track.
The trainer you want to bet now on the dirt at Belmont is David Jacobson, who is second-leading trainer with 7 wins - all on the dirt. Overall he is winning a big 30% (7-for-23), but if you take away his 0-for-8 record on turf, his winning percentage skyrockets to 47% on the dirt (7-for-15). Jacobson did a lot of claiming late in the Saratoga meet, and those horses are all coming back to win now.
On the flip side, conspicuous by his coldness so far at Belmont has been Rudy Rodriguez. Rudy is a shocking 0-for-29. His 6 seconds and 6 thirds bring his in-the-money percentage up to respectability, but it's tough to overlook 0-for-29 winners. Bettors may start shying away from Rodriguez, and if so, that's the time to start betting him - when he's an overlay. Otherwise, when you see Rudy's horses at low odds, stay away from them until you see him start to win some races.
Missing in action so far amongst trainers has been Jason Servis, who won 30% at Saratoga but is just 1-for-4 so far at Belmont. He'll start running his horses soon enough, and you'll want to be betting them, especially when they show up in turf sprints. Another trainer whose horses you want to bet on the turf is Brad Cox, who quietly has been very strong all throughout 2017 in New York turf races. He's done well with limited starters so far at Belmont this fall, winning 2-of-5 and finishing in the exacta with 4-out-of-5 starters so far.
In the jock's room, this has been an excellent bounce-back meet so far for Javier Castellano, who was extremely disappointing at Saratoga with only 13% winners. He's leading all riders with 16 wins so far, and has done it from only 58 mounts for a 28% win percentage. The current New York jockey dominators - Jose Ortiz and Irad Ortiz - have both been money-losing propositions for bettors so far. Jose has missed a bunch of days and is only 3-for-22 in the win-column. Irad is tied for second in wins with 12, but he has needed 89 mounts to do it and owns only a 13% win percentage so far. Six of Irad's 12 winners have been favorites, and 2 of Jose's 3 wins have been favorites meaning that both have racked-up disastrously low ROIs at Belmont so far.
Elsewhere on the down side, Nik Juarez has been a disappointment since moving his tack to New York with a record of only 4-for-47 (11%), and you might want to "cancel" your bets on Eric Cancel. He has been in the dark with only 1 win from 47 mounts so far.
A Main Track Distance Angle to Live By at Belmont's Fall Meet
This is one of those times of the year in New York racing where the difference between one-turn and two-turn races is of utmost importance to horseplayers. Pay attention to this one important difference, and you will have a distinct edge over the majority of the betting public.
It's not that the average handicapper doesn't realize this quirk at Belmont - we all know that Belmont's routes are almost all run around one turn. The problem for many horseplayers is that they don't assign enough importance to this key difference between Belmont and all other racetracks. If you overlook this key factor in your day-to-day handicapping at Belmont, it will be difficult for you to win with any consistency.
At Belmont Park, a lot of route favorites go down in flames because their odds are all wrong due to players putting too much importance on results in different kinds of route races run at last month's Saratoga meet. Two-turn route races have always been a big element of handicapping at Saratoga, but they are non-factors at New York's bookend race meets at Belmont Park. When horses run at Belmont this time of year, most of them have recent past performances from Saratoga from either their last or next-to-last races.
Oftentimes the New York horses that arrive back at Belmont in the fall with the best form up at Saratoga are horses that were excelling, in part, thanks to their preference for two-turn dirt route races at Saratoga. However, this factor flip-flops at Belmont, away from the two-turn specialists who excelled at Saratoga and towards the one-turn horses who like the routes at Belmont, and who like the distances of 1 mile and 1 1/16 miles better than the 1 1/8-mile routes run at Saratoga (there are no 1 mile and 1 1/16-mile dirt races run at Saratoga).
This adds an interesting handicapping wrinkle when the meets in New York switch to- and-from Belmont Park. This move in New York from racing at Saratoga to racing at Belmont is one of those pertinent times of year.
In order to figure out if a horse prefers one turn or two turns, scan down a horse's past performances and see where its past route wins and/or highest route speed figures have come from. If you see a horse that has demonstrated its best route form at Belmont going 1 mile, 1 1/16 miles, or 1 1/8 miles, then that horse can probably be termed a "one-turn router" and could be a key horse to bet at Belmont. However, if you see a horse whose best route races came on more traditional layouts such as Aqueduct, Gulfstream, Monmouth, the mid-Atlantic region, or especially in races at Saratoga, then you have a potential bet-against horse at Belmont that prefers two-turn routes.
Remember also, that at Saratoga the vast majority of all main track Saratoga routes are run at 1 1/8 miles. This creates lots of problems for horses whose best distances are one mile and/or 1 1/16 miles. At Saratoga, those horses must either stretchout to 1 1/8 miles (perhaps too long), or cutback to seven furlongs around one turn (too short). When those horses now return to Belmont in the fall, they often come in off a bad recent race or two, and they are ready for a positive turnaround, often at a good price, back at their preferred distances at Belmont.
Therefore, during the Belmont fall meet, bet horses that were stuck at the wrong distances at Saratoga, especially if they hail from the smaller and/or New York-only stables. They can surprise a lot of people when they come back to Belmont Park for the fall meet.
I hope these tips and trends give you an edge at the betting windows for a successful and enjoyable 2017 Belmont Fall Championship meet. Best of luck!
By Noel Michaels