Five simple winning tips can give you the edge at Saratoga

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Noel Michaels

July 8th, 2019

The 2019 Saratoga meet opens Thursday, July 11, and it’s time to start brushing up on some tips and trends that can help you win at the highly anticipated 40-day season that lasts throughout the heart of the summer until Labor Day, Monday, September 2. Here are five money-making tips that can help you win at Saratoga based on the winning track profile and best running styles and post positions in various types of races.

1) Saratoga’s main track is speed favoring at all distances, no doubt about it. The speed bias is especially prevalent in races at six furlongs and shorter, particularly with two-year-olds. Early speed horses on the pace or within a length of the lead at the first call win nearly 50 percent of all dirt sprints shorter than six furlongs. Pressers and the occasional stalker tend to win the rest. Speedsters and pressers also do very well at the commonly run distance of six furlongs.

2) With the move to Saratoga, the focus in route racing flip-flops from benefiting one-turn route specialists at Belmont Park to favoring route horses that do their best running around two turns – and at 1 1/8 miles – as opposed to one mile or 1 1/16 miles.  Look down the past performances and bet horses whose best route races came on more traditional two-turn layouts such as Aqueduct, Gulfstream, Churchill, Keeneland, the mid-Atlantic region, or in past races at Saratoga, but not at Belmont. This is particularly true if a horse has run past races around two turns at 1 1/8 miles (Saratoga cards no dirt races at one mile and 1 1/16 miles). Give these two-turn main track distance horses the edge against overbet horses that do their best running in Belmont’s unique one-turn route races.

3) Downgrade the three inside posts in turf sprints, particularly the rail, while upgrading horses drawing far outside posts. This is mainly important in large turf sprint fields with more than eight runners. Combine this with good handicapping and your turf sprint ROI at the meet will soar. Even with no handicapping at all, you can blindly box the outside three or four horses in turf sprints with more than nine runners and still do pretty darn good.

4) Outside posts are negative factors on the Saratoga turf courses in routes to varying degrees. Posts 8 and outward are slight disadvantages on both turf courses at most distances, while far outside posts 10-12 are usually poor bets. The inside three posts can offer a good advantage to horses running on the inner turf course at the distances of one mile and 1 1/16 miles.

5) In Saratoga grass route races, early speed generally is not an advantage. The pace profile of the average turf winner at Saratoga is a horse that is roughly about four lengths off the pace at the first call and 2 1/2 lengths off the pace at the second call. Hold more strictly to this pace preference on the Mellon (outer) course.

Play these trends in the various types of races at Saratoga, and you will have a solid starting framework for what it takes to help you win throughout the meet. Best of luck!

Saratoga scenic (c) NYRA/Coglianese Photography