BELMONT SPRING MEET WINNING TIPS AND TRENDS
By Noel Michaels
The new season at Belmont Park is finally here. The 2020 Belmont Park Spring/Summer meet opens on June 3, and is scheduled to remain open through closing day, July 12. In many ways, the condensed 25-race-day meet will look a lot like Saratoga, in terms of quality and duration. The season will be only six weeks and there will be a stakes race run on nearly every day of the meet. Daily first post will be 1:15. Racing will be conducted Thursdays through Sundays, except for opening week which will begin on Wednesday. No spectators will be in attendance at the meet.
The Belmont spring meet is annually my favorite acing season of the year, and it’s the meet I focus on more than any other outside of Saratoga. The Belmont spring meet is the easiest place to consistently cash-in if you have the knowledge, expertise, and angles which have I spent the balance of my 25-year horseracing career accumulating, learning, and fine-tuning. The result is the best money-making opportunity of the entire year for the duration of the Belmont spring meet. My time-tested results handicapping for the Daily Racing Form and at OTB in New York speak for themselves. My name has become synonymous with winning at Belmont amongst thousands of fans everywhere.
The Belmont Stakes and the Rest of the 3-year-old Picture
The biggest day of the Belmont season, of course, will be the 152nd running of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 20. The third leg of racing’s Triple Crown this year will be the first. The distance of the Belmont Stakes will be shortened to 1 1/8 miles, and the race is expected to attract an all-star cast led by Florida Debry winner Tiz the Law, trained by Barclay Tagg. The Belmont Stakes, and the big stakes extravaganza weekend overall, is another of my specialties, and I can’t wait to cash-in on my Belmont Stakes-winning angles that I have specialized in over the course of my career.
The decision to host the Belmont ahead of the Kentucky Derby and Belmont perhaps seems to have diminished the importance of the race, not for us bettors, but for the horsemen. Hosting the Belmont Stakes first was a controversial decision, and it may lead to a “Triple Crown” with an asterisk this year.
Also, many promising 3-year-olds appear to bypassing the Belmont in favor of focusing on qualifying to run in the Kentucky Derby, which has been rescheduled for later this summer on September 5. That’s because the entire Kentucky Derby prep schedule has been turned on its ear in this topsy-turvy year, and the Belmont Stakes now is competing for horses – and in many cases losing contenders – to rescheduled races such as the Santa Anita Derby, which will be held on June 6, and the Blue Grass Stakes, which will be run during its special summer racing season on July 11.
Many horses will point for the Santa Anita Derby or Blue Grass instead of the Belmont Stakes, in order to try to win and earn qualifying points into the Kentucky Derby. The Belmont Stakes also suffered a huge loss when likely co-favorite, Nadal, trained by Bob Baffert, was injured in a workout and had to be retired from racing. Add that to Baffert’s other controversy involving unbeaten Arkansas Derby-winner Charlatan, who failed a drug test, pending an appeal. Charlatan was also a Belmont Stakes probable, but now may or may not be reshuffling his spring/summer campaign.
Betting Handle on Horse Racing is Sky-Rocketing – Get In On It!
No matter what happens with the Belmont Stakes certainly will not tarnish the upcoming highly-looked forward-to Belmont spring/summer season. With sports virtually entirely shut down throughout the months of April, May, June, and possibly beyond, horse racing has continued to flourish as basically the only game in town, albeit with no fans. What the sport has lost in terms of spectators at places like Oaklawn Park and Gulfstream Park, and currently at Churchill Downs and now Belmont, it has more than made up for in terms of betting handle, which is continuing to go through the roof.
Thanks in part to its status as the only game in town, demand for horse racing and gambling on the races has never been stronger. Sports bettors are even gravitating to horse racing. And why not? In sports betting your odds are always essentially even-money, whereas in horseracing we routinely take down payoffs of 5-1 or 10-1 or higher for a single winner. Plus, horseracing has consolidated from many simulcasting signals to only a precious few. It is at those few tracks where betting handle has taken off like a rocket. Many people are at home, and with so few entertainment options to choose from, the betting dollars have been pouring in at the venues that have remained open at a record-breaking pace. The next betting hot-spot will have its epicenter at Belmont Park.
Some example of sky-rocketing horse racing record-breaking handle have come from the last few months. Florida Derby Day at Gulfstream Park on March 28 handled $58.3 million! Arkansas Derby Day at Oaklawn on May 2 handled $41 million! Opening Day at Churchill Downs handled $14 million! What does it mean for Belmont Park? Expect Opening Day handle at Belmont to reach a robust $15 million, and as for Belmont Stakes Day, a one-day figure in excess of $75-million in handle on June 20 is not out of the question.
So with Belmont Park setting up as the next wagering hotspot for the next six weeks, let’s take a look at some winning tips and trends that can help you handicap successfully at the track that everyone will be focusing on.
Belmont Winning Main Track Profile
On the Belmont dirt track, speed is a handy commodity. Other tracks such as Monmouth and Pimlico have more of a reputation as being speed biased tracks, but Belmont Park can be right up there. In addition to running styles, you should also pay attention to the best paths on the Belmont main track because the inside part of the track has not been the best at recent meets and jockeys tend to avoid inside trips on the main track. See if this trend continues this season.
When it comes to post position angles on the Belmont main track, remember that Belmont runs almost no two-turn races due to its 1 1/2-mile circumference. This nearly negates any inside bias the track might have in route races, which are all one-turn affairs up to 1 1/8 miles (another factor that minimizes any possible advantage to being inside on the dirt). One-turn specialists rule, and when handicapping Belmont races from one-mile to 1 1/8-miles, you always want to scan horse’s past performances to find runners who win races around one turn.
Belmont Winning Turf Tips
On the Belmont turf courses, both the inner turf and the outer turf tracks are big, wide, fair courses with long stretch runs. Outside turf posts are a concern, however, at distances between one mile and 1 1/8 miles. Horses breaking from the far outside in one-mile races and 1 1/16-mile races can be most negatively affected by outside posts. At one mile on the Widener turf course at the Spring/Summer meet, posts 8-12 should win for about a combined 5%, while at 1 1/16-miles posts 9-12 should win about 6%. On the inner turf course at 1 1/16-miles, horses from posts 8-10 can be expected to win only about 5% at a time. At 1 1/8-miles, posts 8-11 may win only about 7%. When in doubt, give favoritism in turf routes to horses breaking from posts 1-7 or 1-8.
In the popular and prominent turf sprint department, Belmont runs tons of races at both 6F and 7F (one turn). Linda Rice does particularly well in Belmont turf sprints, as does Christophe Clement. Logic would dictate that inside posts would be preferential in turf sprints, however, not only aren’t inside posts better in Belmont’s turf sprints, but, in fact, the OPPOSITE is actually true. Outside posts are the best post positions in Belmont turf sprints, and inside posts are the worst. The anti-rail bias is particularly prevalent in Belmont turf sprints on the Widener course, where the rail Post 1 customarily wins at only 4-5% at both 6 furlongs and 7 furlongs. Actually, all the posts 1-3 are all disadvantages in Belmont turf sprints in big fields based on long-term win percentages. In fields of eight horses or less, the post position bias diminishes or disappears.
Belmont Trainers and Jockeys
In addition to the aforementioned Linda Rice, and Christophe Clement, trainers Rudy Rodriguez, and Jeremiah Englehart shouldjoin Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown atop the trainer’s standings at the meet.
Chad Brown, in particular, gears-up his stable for Belmont and Saratoga, and his barn is loaded and ready to roll, especially in turf routes and stakes races. Todd Pletcher, meanwhile, will win with plenty of maidens and stakes horses as well, on both surfaces, in pretty much every category with the exception of turf sprints. Jeremiah Englehart and Rudy Rodriguez should dominate with New York breds. Linda Rice and Christophe Clement will rack-up turf sprint winners, especially with the absence of turf sprint sharp-shooters Jason Servis and Kiaran McLaughlin, who are both retired. Finally, 2-year-old racing will be getting ramped-up at Belmont the next six weeks, and at short sprint distances for young juveniles, there’s none better than Wesley Ward in those races.
The main contingent of New York’s top riders will be returning full time in time for opening day at Belmont. For handicappers, that means Jose Ortiz and Irad Ortiz likely to lead the way over a star-studded group that will include Javier Castellano, John Velazquez, Joel Rosario, Manny Franco, Jose Lezcano, and Luis Saez. These jockeys listed above should complete the top 10 in the jockey standings for the season at Belmont, perhaps along with others including Kendrick Carmouche and Dylan Davis.
Enjoy the annual renaissance of New York racing with the return to beautiful Belmont Park. The 2020 meet will be a season like no other. Best of luck!