So here we are, it’s mid-October and we are still racing at Belmont Park. Usually this is not a surprise, but it is this year because the meet was supposed to end early and move to Aqueduct due to construction of a new NHL arena in the expansive Belmont parking area on the southeast corner of the property. NYRA recently announced, however, that the Belmont meet will continue as originally planned through its entirety at Belmont Park, meaning that we have two full weeks (10 racing days) remaining before closing day on Sunday, October 30.
Seven months of New York racing lie ahead at Aqueduct, so what’s the rush to get there? Let’s stop and smell the roses (or white carnations, as the case may be) for the last two weeks of the Belmont fall meet. Top-notch racing and wagering still remains. Here’s a look at some top trainers, and some things handicappers may be able to expect from them the rest of the way.
The leading trainer in terms of wins at Belmont is Chad Brown, with 22 wins from 83 starters for 27% win and 63% ITM (all stats through October 14). The leading trainers in terms of winning percentage are Steve Asmussen, who is six-for-14 for 43% win; and Jason Servis, 15-for-42 for 35% win. The top trio is lighting it up, with Servis matching Brown with a 63% ITM rate.
However, the average win payoff for the trio of Brown, Servis and Asmussen is less than $7. That places an importance upon knowing when to bet them if you want to win money.
Brown wins big on both turf (26%) and dirt (28%), but is much more effective in routes (29%) than sprints (only 19%), and turf sprints are a particular weakness for the otherwise juggernaut Brown barn. Servis is just the opposite. He wins a giant 41% in sprints, with a strong affinity for winning turf sprints, but only 21% of his routes. That’s still a lot, but not compared to the sprint winning percentage, especially when you consider his average win payoff is $6. Asmussen has been an equal-opportunity winner, with victories for maidens, allowance, and stakes horses, both turf and dirt, route and sprint. Basically if Asmussen is starting a horse at this meet, he means business with one caveat…his winners average just a $6 mutuel.
One must go beyond the top trainers to make money betting. The next one on the list, Todd Pletcher, is another trainer that is difficult to make money betting because his average win price at the meet has been $5.70. Pletcher has 12 wins from 56 starters for 21% winners, which is low for him. Surprisingly, Pletcher’s two-year-old have been awful with just one win from 24 starters. His best categories at the current meet might surprise you. Pletcher has been winning with three-year-olds, eight-for-19 at the meet for 42% win. Sprints are also solid, scoring with five-of-17 starters for 29% win. If you take out Pletcher’s putrid turf sprinters, the win percentage is even better for dirt sprints.
Christophe Clement is only other trainer currently surpassing 10 wins at the Belmont meet, with 10 wins from 50 starters (20%). Not surprisingly, eight have come on the grass, but the win percentage is surprisingly the same for both surfaces. Clement is winning 27% of his routes, and while he has been quieter than usual in the turf sprint category, which usually is a strength for him, note that his ITM percentage in those races is still extraordinarily high at 70%.
Those who followed Saratoga may remember Danny Gargan being on fire and that has more or less continued into the current Belmont meet. He’s won seven-of-23 starts for 30% win, and is a great bet still because his average win payoff has been $9.70. On the opposite side of the Saratoga ledger, George Weaver had a nightmare season upstate. He has turned things around at Belmont this fall, posting a four-for-19 record for 21% win.
A sneaky trainer to bet now without hesitation is Raymond Handal, who had a great Belmont spring/summer meet and has followed it up with a five-for-26 (19%) record this season. Handal is a lower-profile barn that people have not yet caught on to, as evidenced by his average win payoff of a staggering $19.50. Other low-profile trainers to bet include Jorge Abreu, who is five-for-23 (22%) with an average win payoff of $16.60; and Mertkan Kantarmaci, who is five-for-25 (20%) with a $16.20 average win payout.
Leading trainers to avoid at the meet in certain circumstances include Bill Mott, Brad Cox, and David Donk, who have six wins combined but are all winless on dirt this meet. Mott has gone zero-for-16, Cox zero-for-6, and Donk zero-for-9. That’s a lot of burnt money. On the turf, Rudy Rodriguez has been a money-losing disaster with a record of one-for-18, and Mark Hennig has not been much better at two-for-18. The real negative surprise in the turf category, however, is Linda Rice, who normally is the queen of the turf sprints in New York and wins plenty of other turf races too. This season has been disappointing with a one-for-18 turf record.