TIPS FOR FINISHING STRONG AT BELMONT'S FALL MEET
By Noel Michaels
The 2015 Belmont Fall Championship Meet is more than half over, but just because the Super Saturday stakes of the past couple weeks have come and gone, that does not mean that there are not tons of great handicapping and wagering opportunities remaining at what figures to be a terrific couple weeks through mid-to-late October. With more than half of the Belmont fall meet now over, horseplayers who have been paying attention to Belmont now have a solid set of data that can be delved into in order to formulate a successful winning plan for the home stretch portion of the meet.
Several trends have quietly - and not so quietly - been taking shape at Belmont Park this fall. The Fall Championship Meet at Belmont began on Friday, September 11 and continues through closing day Sunday, November 1. The big stakes days of the meet are over, but that doesn't mean the coming weeks at Belmont should be overlooked. In fact, Belmont will host premier racing and wagering until the racing world turns its attention to the Breeders' Cup at Keeneland on Oct. 30-31, and then racing shifts to Aqueduct in November.
The best way to win at Belmont, or at any track for that matter, is to follow the meet's trends. Beyond that, several factors play into the general handicapping of a meet, including track trends and track biases, and post position trends that can help handicappers cash tickets. The coming weeks of action at Belmont offer some of the best meat-and-potatoes, day-to-day racing and wagering opportunities of the year for those who put their effort into taking a closer look at the current trends at Belmont.
Here are some tips to winning big at the remainder of the Belmont 2015 fall meet.
1) Take Advantage of Belmont Turf Turn-Arounds
First, let's look at the Belmont grass, which hopefully will get tons of use during the rest of October, weather permitting, especially after losing almost an entire week of turf racing due to heavy rains at the beginning of the month.
Both the Inner turf and the outer turf tracks are big, wide, fair courses with long stretch runs. Outside posts are not as much of a concern here as they are at some other places, but horses breaking from the outside in one-mile races can be the most negatively affected by outside posts.
When it rains, the Inner turf course typically dries out faster than the Widener (outer) course, so always try to keep that in mind when evaluating horses who prefer good, yielding, or soft turf.
Notably, weather has a big impact on Belmont turf racing, and it's something worth looking out for. By this time of the Fall meet at Belmont, temperatures can be chilly and the area is often affected by showers which keep the courses a bit moist, even under "firm" conditions. Because of this, handicappers should upgrade turf closers during the latter part of the Fall meet (i.e. now!), when Belmont's turf courses are often yielding or drying out from recent rains. During this part of the Fall Championship meet, speed is much less and less effective on the grass than is was back in September.
This angle is a particularly effective moneymaker when you see speed horses who benefited from the firmer course conditions early in the Belmont fall meet that you can now downgrade as likely underlays during this part of the meet when the turf plays softer and kinder to late-runners. At the same time, you can also catch overlay prices on live turf closers who win late in the Belmont Fall meet after they flopped earlier in the season.
Back on the Belmont dirt 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 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 stay in place for an entire week at time. Will that time be now?
Besides the prevailing speed-favoring nature of the Belmont main track, there are always certain day-to-day track biases that affect the results and either help or hurt the chances of certain horses on any given afternoon.
So far at the 2015 fall meet, track biases were all over the place early, and then mainly consistently fair lately. There have been a lot of fair tracks, but the main thing for handicappers to note was the big outside bias noted several days between Sept. 12-16. This is important, because many horses who last raced on those days are now coming back for their next races. Watch for horses that were disadvantaged by being buried down in inside posts/trips from those race days at Belmont, and upgrade their changes now. Conversely, you can go ahead and seek out the horses that benefitted from those outside biases, and downgrade their changes in their upcoming starts.
There was also a speed bias on Sept. 25, and an anti-speed bias on Sept. 18. Here is a list of track biases noted at Belmont early in the 2015 fall meet so far:
Belmont Track Biases (Sept. 11 - Sept. 27)
On the Belmont main track, always assume the prevailing bias 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.
As far as post positions are concerned so far at the 2015 Belmont fall meet, the inside posts have done extremely well on the main track in both sprints and routes. This in in spite of an outside bias on the main track early in the meet. Even so, the inside posts have enjoyed a strong advantage so far.
In dirt sprints, the rail has won at 14% so far, and all but five winners in 71 races has come from posts 1-7.
In dirt routes, the inside advantage has been even stronger so far at the 2015 fall meet. The rail has won 18%, and nearly all of the dirt routes have been won by horses from posts 1-5. Horses breaking from posts 6 and outward have compiled a terrible win record of a combined 3-for-69 (4% wins).
3) Bet Against Inside Posts in Belmont's Turf Sprints
Belmont's bias toward outside posts in Inner course 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 the best bets in Belmont turf sprints (including the Inner course sprints, and 6F turf sprints on the Widener), not only because they offer the best chances of winning, but also because they offer value odds and bargains on the tote board.
In Belmont turf sprints on the inner turf course at 6 furlongs, inside posts, and in particular post Nos. 1 and 2, have performed brutally bad this season. Horses breaking from those two posts are a combined 1-for-20 (those two posts started 0-for-40 last season, so this is no short-term stat). The best posts instead have been middle posts 3 through 9, which have accounted for 9 of the 10 winner in those inner turf sprint races so far.
On the Widener (outer) turf course in turf sprints, the rail has also been terrible, winning just 1-for-14 for 7%. Far outside posts 9-12 have also had a tough time in Widener turf sprints, so the best posts by far in those races have been 2-8, which have accounted for 13 of the 14 outer turf sprint winners so far.
As far as turf sprint running styles are concerned, inside horses better not only have speed, but they must have the speed to clear the field in order to have a really good chance. Inside horses involved in speed battles on the lead tend to readily succumb to outside pressure, either setting the race up for outside stalkers or rally-wide closers. Inside horses without speed get shuffled to far back off the pace, and don't have enough chance to get back into the race.
4) Bet These Fit and Ready Horses to Watch
Looking for some hot bets at Belmont? I have some recommendations for horses to watch now as they come back out of races earlier in the fall meet. These horses have great chances to win their next starts.
Anchor Down: Set a blazingly fast route pace and held on respectably to lose by only about two lengths despite finishing off the board. Too fast to overlook at nice odds for Todd Pletcher.
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