One of Saratoga’s long-standing nicknames is “The Graveyard of Favorites,” and the track has that reputation for a number of reasons. Much of it has to do with the fact that bettors get the dirt route races all wrong by misinterpreting horses’ one-turn route form from Belmont Park – either better than it really is, or worse – when handicapping races on Saratoga’s totally different two-turn layout. Dirt route races are just one of the many facets of Saratoga handicapping that are challenging. Handicappers who understand the differences between horses who excel in two-turn races at Saratoga as opposed to the one-turn races at Belmont will enjoy a strong betting advantage in those races throughout the month July. Horseplayers who fail to acknowledge this enormously important difference between Belmont and Saratoga will struggle to win. Two-turn route races have always been a big element of handicapping at Saratoga, unlike at New York’s bookend race meets at Belmont Park where there’s almost no two-turn dirt racing. Saratoga cards roughly 40 two-turn dirt routes a season – an average of about one per day. Plus, when it rains a lot, you can expect even more dirt routes at Saratoga due to off-the-turf races. Oftentimes the New York horses that come to Saratoga with the best form from Belmont Park are horses that have been excelling, in part, thanks to their preference for one-turn races.  At Saratoga, however, this factor flip-flops away from the one-turn specialists who’ve excelled at Belmont and instead favors two-turn horses who like the routes at Saratoga, and other more traditional track layouts.  This adds an interesting handicapping wrinkle in this track change situation to and away from Belmont Park. This upcoming move in New York racing from Belmont to Saratoga is one of those pertinent times of year. Handicappers need to scan down a horse’s past performances and see where past route wins and/or highest route BRIS Speed figures have come from. If you see a horse who has demonstrated his best route form at Belmont going one mile, 1 1/16 miles or 1 1/8 miles, then that horse can probably be termed a “one-turn router.” However, if you see a horse whose best route races came on more traditional layouts such as Aqueduct, Gulfstream, Monmouth, the mid-Atlantic region, particularly at or near 1 1/8 miles, or especially in past races at 1 1/8 miles at Saratoga, then you have a potential Spa wake-up horse. Remember also that at Saratoga, because of the track layout, there are no one-mile races or 1 1/16-mile dirt races. The vast majority of all main track 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.  Those horses must either stretch out to 1 1/8 miles (perhaps too long), or cutback to seven furlongs around one turn (too short). Those horses shoehorn into unsuitable spots and don’t do well. Therefore, in addition to looking for two-turn-type horses, you need to work on eliminating horses who just plain don’t want to go 1 1/8 miles on the dirt. Many horses are much the best at one mile and/or 1 1/16 miles, but those options are closed to them at Saratoga. Bet against the horses who prefer the shorter dirt route distances, and upgrade the chances of horses who are proven at 1 1/8 miles and beyond. Many handicapping factors come into play at this time of year when racing and wagering shifts between Belmont and Saratoga. Different horses tend to win different kinds of races at each of these two very different racetracks. With the impending move from Belmont Park to Saratoga fast approaching, we’re coming up to one of those times of the year in New York racing where the difference between one-turn and two-turn races is very important. Pay attention to this important difference, and you will have a distinct edge over the majority of the betting public. PHOTO: Saratoga Race Course (c) Adam Coglianese Photography