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Submitted by Noel Michaels on Wednesday, July 10, 2019 at 3:45 PM

Many handicappers believe the "trainer angle" is the most important piece of the handicapping pie, especially when top-rung racing is being run like in New York during the heart of summer in July and August at Saratoga. All trainers have their own particular strengths and weaknesses. The beauty of following the trainer angles, stats, and trends, is that they help you identify these strengths and weaknesses to give you the advantage over the rest of the betting public.

Bet trainers at their strengths and bet against them at their weaknesses, and your win percentage and return on investment will go upward quickly. The Saratoga meet is filled with extremely competitive fields and difficult handicapping puzzles, but the best way to make handicapping easier is by following trainer trends which can help you narrow down the races to the top contenders. When you focus on the contenders and bet against the pretenders, you will be on your way to winning at Saratoga.

Read onward for an easy-to-use pocket reference for the best times to bet on, and bet against, most of the top trainers up through the rest of the summer meet at historic Saratoga Race Course.

Below is a betting guide for individual trainers based on recent trends and statistics pertaining specifically only to this time of year - the racing season at Saratoga. These preferences may differ elsewhere and at other times of the year.  Use this as a betting guide throughout the key summer months of July and August at Saratoga.

Apologies if a particular trainer is not mentioned in this guide, it's impossible to feature everyone. The trainers listed will account for the vast majority of starters at the Spa meet.

 

SARATOGA SUMMER TRAINER CAPSULES

Tom Albertrani
Albertrani is most dangerous at Saratoga with his high-priced stock, including mostly allowance horses. He also wins doing second-time anything, including second off the layoff and second-time starters.
Bet: Second off the layoff, second starters
Bet against: Claimers
Neutral: Turf sprints

 

Steve Asmussen
One of the country's top trainers, Asmussen is hot-and-cold at The Spa.  The time you want to play Asmussen is in dirt sprints, especially when he sends out his expensive juveniles in either their first- or second-starts.
Bet: Dirt sprints, 2-year-old first- and second-time starters
Bet against: All turf races
Neutral: Dirt routes

 

Bob Baffert
Not as much of a day-to-day factor at Saratoga as he was several years ago since Del Mar brought back dirt racing, Baffert still ships top stakes horses and expensive 2-year-olds and first-time starters.
Bet: Stakes races, million-dollar babies
Bet against: Turf
Neutral: 3yo & up in non-stakes spots

 

Charlton Baker
Baker runs good horses both upstate at Finger Lakes and downstate at Belmont and Aqueduct, and he will take his shots at Saratoga with live horses from both categories.  Baker's best area of expertise is with the kinds of long layoff horses that you'd toss out from other barns.  He also has been known to pop at The Spa with first-time starters, particularly versus New York-breds.
Bet: First starters, horses returning from long layoffs
Bet against: Turf routes
Neutral: Turf sprints

 

Bruce Brown
Bruce Brown struggled to win a race - any kind of race -in many recent Saratoga meets. Who he is at Saratoga is a guy that can win an occasional dirt claiming race. No big surprises, stick to his horses in good form only, and don't expect positive turnarounds.
Bet: Older claimers with good form
Bet against: Maidens and first starters; turf
Neutral: Dirt routes

 

Chad Brown
Brown is the heavy favorite for the Saratoga training title, with dozens of wins rolling-in in all categories including maidens, allowances and stakes, and every kind of turf route race. You can be guaranteed that all of Brown's horses at The Spa will be live. His wins tend to come early in the meet, and you know he'll be pointing many good horses for Saratoga stakes.
Bet: Maiden special weights on turf, dirt sprints (not maidens), and every kind of turf router
Bet against: Maiden claimers, maidens on the dirt
Neutral: Turf sprints

 

Tom Bush
Bush has main been ice cold in some recent years, but he still can heat-up at the Spa for a win or two. He's been known to jack-up his game at Saratoga and is quietly a trainer to watch in terms of ROI, especially on the dirt. When his number of turf starters increase, so do his number of turf wins.
Bet: Dirt routes
Bet against: Cheap claimers
Neutral: Turf races

 

Mark Casse
Mark Casse has expanded his operation nationally in recent years and has also expanded his reach at Saratoga, but will have fewer stalls at Saratoga in 2019.  You can count on Casse for some turf winners, but he is a notorious Spa snail - a trainer who starts slow but whose horses win their second or third starts of the meet  Casse has particularly upped his game at Saratoga with 2-year-olds, first-time turf starters, and horses making their career debut in grass races.
Bet: 2-year-olds, turf career debuts, first-time turf, horses making 2nd or 3rd start of meet
Bet against: Dirt sprints for 3yo and up, horses making first start of the meet
Neutral: Turf sprints

 

Christophe Clement
Turf ace trainer Clement's game is on the grass, of course, and he is good in turf stakes wins. Expect 25% wins or better in turf routes, and Clement also focuses on turf sprints at this meet (he unseated Rice's multi-year domination to lead all trainers with 6 turf sprint wins in 2015). Clement isn't usually much of a factor on the dirt at Saratoga. He occasionally throws in a dirt sprint winner here and there.
Bet: Turf routes, turf sprints, turf stakes
Bet against: Dirt routes
Neutral: Dirt sprints

 

Gary Contessa
Contessa is one of the most prolific trainers on the New York circuit in terms of starters, but he's generally a very bad bet at Saratoga with low percentages in dirt routes, turf sprints, and turf routes. His wins will come mostly with dirt sprinters in claiming races. One sneaky angle for Contessa at Saratoga is with first-time turfers, which can occasionally win and pay giant prices when they do.
Bet: Dirt sprints, claimers, first-time turf (only at Saratoga)
Bet against: Dirt routes, turf sprints, allowance and stakes races
Neutral: Turf routes

 

Brad Cox
Cox regularly achieves winning percentages around 30% wherever he goes, with around 55% ITM, and 2019 so far has been his best year yet. Basically capable of winning in all categories, his win percentage will drop at Saratoga in turf races due to the stiff competition at the meet. His winning percentage with 2YO and first starters will also fall short of his standards at this meet.
Bet: Dirt routes, dirt sprints, second off a layoff
Bet against: First time starters and 2-year-olds
Neutral: Turf sprints

 

David Donk
Honk if you like Donk, because he is always dangerous in Saratoga turf routes and often at a nice price, the vast majority of his Spa wins will come on the grass. Completely avoid his first- or second-time starters, and turf sprints and dirt races really aren't his wheelhouse.
Bet: Turf routes
Bet against: First-time and second-time starters
Neutral: Turf sprints, dirt races

 

Chris Englehart
Englehart is making a living on the main New York circuit with his claiming stock, including recent claims, and New York breds. The shorter the race, the better, since he is much more reliable in sprint races than in routes, especially at Saratoga where routes begin at 1 1/8 miles.  Against this caliber of competition, don't expect him to win a lot of turf races, except for an occasional turf sprint.
Bet: Claimers and New York breds, dirt sprints
Bet against: Dirt routes, turf routes
Neutral: Turf sprints

 

Jeremiah Englehart
Jeremiah Englehart enjoyed a breakout meet at Saratoga 2019, winning tons of races and landing in the top 5. He can surprise you at Saratoga in turf sprints, but his turf route numbers are likely to be low. At The Spa, his best game is with claimers and maiden claimers, and 3YO & up at any distance on either surface, with the exception of turf routes.
Bet: 3-year-old and up claimers and maiden claimers, dirt sprints
Bet against: Turf routes
Neutral: Turf sprints

 

James Jerkens
Jimmy Jerkens is not usually a high-percentage trainer up at Saratoga. He doesn't win much on grass and with distance horses on dirt, but he remains dangerous in stakes. He can win dirt sprints at The Spa, particularly if it's with a maiden second-time starter.
Bet: Second-time starters in dirt sprints, 2-year-olds and maidens (not first-starters)
Bet against: Route horses, first starters
Neutral: Turf sprints

 

John Kimmel
Kimmel is hot and cold at Saratoga, and he is generally one of the streakiest trainers at the meet. You can also count on him to have a few stakes horses well spotted at the Spa. Kimmel also does well at this meet with first-time turf horses. Other than that, you've gotta ride the wave when it comes to Kimmel and watch for one of his hot streaks to begin.
Bet: First-time turfers, hot streaks
Bet against: 2-year-olds
Neutral: Turf sprints

 

Bruce Levine
Not too many fireworks up at Saratoga. The winners he does catch will probably be in sprints, mainly on dirt, and he may even show up with some recent Monmouth Park winners who are in peak form. His Saratoga dirt routers haven't been good. Always bet the "Bruce Juice" (first-time Lasix).
Bet: Monmouth shippers in top form, first-time Lasix
Bet against: Dirt routes
Neutral: Turf

 

D. Wayne Lukas
In recent years, Lukas has been running tons of horses at Saratoga and winning at a very low percentage. Most of his big-money owners have gravitated toward other trainers meaning he is no longer a big factor in Saratoga's juvenile races, even though he does show up with a nice 2-year-old here and there. Lukas hasn't been a factor on turf at Saratoga lately, so stay away from him on the green. His Saratoga wins these days tend to come in dirt sprints with expensive horses.  His winning ROI at Saratoga will be skewed for a long time thanks to a $230 win horse he had a few years back. Take that win away and his ROI is a disaster.
Bet: Two-year-old stakes-caliber horses and second-time starter sprinters
Bet against: Turf races
Neutral: Dirt routes

 

Mike Maker
Maker will be a major factor in Saratoga turf races of all kinds, and he's always a major factor first off the claim, even though his stable these days tends to be filled with more classy horses. He shipped a smaller barn to Saratoga in 2019 than he has in recent years, so his win total will drop.
Bet: Turf routes, first off the claim
Bet against: Dirt races not involving claimers or recent claims, dirt sprints
Neutral: Turf sprints

 

Shug McGaughey
Shug is more known as a Belmont trainer, but he is deadly at Saratoga in dirt routes (he won 4-of-5 such races in 2015). As good as Shug is on the dirt at Saratoga, however, he is awful on the grass. He's also not a player with first-time starters.
Bet: Dirt routes
Bet against: All turf races, first starters
Neutral: Dirt sprints

 

Kiaran McLaughlin
McLaughlin steps up his game at Saratoga and usually wins a bunch of races, including plenty of turf races and turf stakes. Bet with caution in all dirt sprints, because he's much better in routes (dirt). He's one of the most lethal turf sprint trainers on the grounds, so expect at least 25% wins in this category. Besides the grass, the best time to catch McLaughlin is with his very potent maiden second-time starters.
Bet: Turf sprints, Turf routes, dirt routes, and maiden second-time starters
Bet against: Dirt sprints
Neutral: First starters and 2yo

 

Graham Motion
Motion rarely wins on the Saratoga main track, but he starts all kinds of live grass horses from a variety of circuits plus foreign imports. He has a generally low percentage in Saratoga dirt races, but on turf it's a totally different story. His winners are mostly older horses, and horses other than 2-year-olds trying turf for the first time.
Bet: Turf races, first-time turfers
Bet against: All dirt races, 2-year-olds
Neutral: Stakes

 

Bill Mott
Bill Mott will annually be one of the top turf trainers, and he can still win allowances on the dirt as well, primarily in routes. Surprisingly, however, Mott doesn't start many dirt routers up at Saratoga (except off-the-turf). He gets a good win percentage in dirt sprints during his good seasons upstate. Mott is not effective with turf sprint winners at Saratoga, however, once they stretch out on the turf, betting Mott's horses is a no-brainer.
Bet: Turf routes, dirt sprints, stakes races
Bet against: Turf sprints
Neutral: Dirt routes

 

Todd Pletcher
Pletcher perennially excels at every facet of the game at Saratoga. Overall, he does better in distance races than in sprints, with the key exception being 2-year-olds, which account for the majority of his dirt sprint winners at Saratoga. Bet Pletcher in juvenile races, and with second-time starters. Almost every good Pletcher maiden wins either first- or second-time out (on dirt), so bet them in those races, unless they resort to turf races. Turf sprints, in particular, are throw-away races for Pletcher's throw away horses. If a maiden hasn't graduated by its second start, stop betting it.
Bet: Two-year-olds, turf routes, stakes, maiden first- and second-time starters. Long distances
Bet against: Turf sprints, maidens beyond their second starts, first starters in turf races
Neutral: Three-year-old and older dirt sprints

 

Linda Rice
It's no secret by now that Linda Rice has been making her living concentrating on turf sprints at Saratoga, and in the history of those races she's had more than four times as many winners as any other trainer. Rice even wins some longer turf races at the Spa meet. On the dirt up at Saratoga, her forte is 2-year-olds. She's been popping with juvenile winners up at the Spa longer than most people can remember.
Bet: Turf sprints, 2-year-olds (particularly NY-breds)
Bet against: Dirt routes
Neutral: Turf routes

 

Rudy Rodriguez
There is almost no situation where Rudy Rodriguez is not dangerous anywhere, including at Saratoga.  Beware, however, that his high winning percentage usually drops a couple notches at Saratoga due to increased competition and due to fewer of his wheelhouse types of races, which are claiming races, sprints, and New York breds. He's also sneakily good with first starters.
Bet: Recent claims, claiming sprints, New York-bred races, first starters (mainly Mdn Clm)
Bet against: Turf routes
Neutral: Turf sprints

 

Dale Romans
Kentucky invader has enjoyed some good success at Saratoga. He does very well with recent claims, and not-so-well in route races and on the grass.
Bet: Claimers and recent claims (first- and second-time off the claim)
Bet against: Route races and all turf routes
Neutral: Turf sprints

 

Joe Sharp
Invades from the Midwest mainly to attack Saratoga's extensive turf sprint program, which is in his wheelhouse. Hasn't proven to be a factor here in other kinds of races yet.
Bet: Turf sprints, turf miles
Bet against: Dirt
Neutral: Maidens, longer turf races

 

Jason Servis
Jason Servis has grown into a high-percentage trainer to bet at just about any meet he shows up at, including Monmouth, Belmont, Aqueduct, and Gulfstream. He has turned into a Saratoga powerhouse only in select categories, such as turf sprints where he could win nearly 40% of his starts! He wins equally on turf or dirt and he's much better in sprints than routes (maximum Security excluded). He's best with maiden claimers, or allowance horses.
Bet: Turf sprints! Maiden claimers
Bet against: Dirt routes
Neutral: Dirt sprints, turf routes

 

Barclay Tagg
Barclay is The Man with sneaky Saratoga first starters (back in 2015 he dominated the category with 4 wins from 5 starters). Tagg won't run in a lot of dirt routes, but he has done well in those races with limited runners. He's surprisingly good in turf sprints
Bet: First starters, dirt routes, turf sprints
Bet against: Dirt sprints, except maidens
Neutral: Turf routes

 

George Weaver
Weaver is generally regarded as a turf trainer, and to an extent that's true because he does his best work with turf route horses. Nobody is looking at him or betting him in dirt sprints, however, and that's quietly where he's making his backers money at Saratoga.
Bet: Turf Routes, dirt sprints, 2-year-olds, first-time turf
Bet against: Dirt routes
Neutral: Turf sprints

 

Nick Zito
Zito trains up at Saratoga nearly year round and has his stable ready annually at the upstate meet. That being said, lately Zito has not been a big factor overall like he was several years ago. He wins almost zero turf races, but he will try to roll out some interesting juveniles in dirt sprints, and is still a factor with his second-time starters, even if they didn't show much in their first career outing.
Bet: Second-time starters, except on turf
Bet against: All turf races
Neutral: 2-year-olds

Many handicappers believe the "trainer angle" is the most important piece of the handicapping pie, especially when top-rung racing is being run like in New York during the heart of summer in July and August. All trainers have their own particular strengths and weaknesses. The beauty of following the trainer angles, stats, and trends, is that they help you identify these strengths and weaknesses to decisively give you the advantage over the rest of the betting public.

Best of luck, and enjoy summer racing in New York.


No track buries more bettors and no payoffs are bigger anywhere! With a record of over $19 million in purses up for grabs on just the Stakes races alone in 2019, and MSW races at 85K and entry level allowance races at 95K, the stables send their best runners here. That's why every horse is a contender. That's why favorites bite the dust. Why hidden-form shippers wire the field. First time starters win at whopping prices. And form goes out the window.

THAT'S WHY YOU NEED ME! I'm Noel Michaels, And I Know Every Angle Going At Saratoga. CLICK HERE to join me for my SARATOGA LIFELINE

 

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