In-depth Saratoga trainer capsules (Part 3)

The Saratoga meet is filled with extremely competitive fields and difficult handicapping puzzles. One of the best ways to make your handicapping easier and better is by following trainer trends, which can be useful in narrowing down the races to their few top contenders.

All trainers have their own particular strengths and weaknesses. The beauty of following the trainer angles, stats and trends, is that they help you identify these strengths and weaknesses to give you the advantage over the rest of the betting public.

Bet trainers at their strengths and bet against them at their weaknesses, and your win percentage and return on investment (ROI) will go upward quickly.

Read onward for an easy-to-use pocket reference for the best times to bet on, and bet against, most of the top trainers throughout the summer meet at historic Saratoga Race Course. The opinions are based on recent trends and statistics pertaining specifically to this time of year – the racing season at Saratoga. These preferences may differ elsewhere and at other times of the year.

Apologies if a particular trainer is not mentioned in this guide; it’s impossible to feature everyone. The 32 trainers listed will account for the vast majority of starters at the Spa meet. This is the third part of a three-part series.

Please click for Part 1 (A-C) and Part 2 (D-M).


Todd Pletcher

Pletcher perennially excels at every facet of the game at Saratoga. Overall, he does better in distance races than in sprints, with the key exception being 2-year-olds, which account for the majority of his dirt sprint winners at Saratoga. Bet Pletcher in juvenile races, and with second-time starters. Almost every good Pletcher maiden wins either first- or second-time out (on dirt), so bet them in those races, unless they resort to turf races. Turf sprints, in particular, are throw-away races for Pletcher’s throw away horses. If a maiden hasn’t graduated by its second start, stop betting it.

  • Bet: Two-year-olds, turf routes, stakes, maiden first- and second-time starters. Long distances
  • Bet against: Turf sprints, maidens beyond their second starts, first starters in turf races
  • Neutral: Three-year-old and older dirt sprints

Linda Rice

It’s no secret by now that Linda Rice has been making her living concentrating on turf sprints at Saratoga, and in the history of those races she’s had more than four times as many winners as any other trainer. Rice even wins some longer turf races at The Spa meet. On the dirt up at Saratoga, her forte is 2-year-olds. She’s been popping with juvenile winners up at The Spa longer than most people can remember.

  • Bet: Turf sprints, 2-year-olds (particularly NY-breds)
  • Bet against: Dirt routes
  • Neutral: Turf routes

Rudy Rodriguez

There is almost no situation where Rudy Rodriguez is not dangerous anywhere, including at Saratoga.  Beware, however, that his high-winning percentage usually drops a couple notches at Saratoga due to increased competition and due to fewer of his wheelhouse types of races, which are claiming races, sprints and New York-breds. He’s also sneakily good with first starters.

  • Bet: Recent claims, claiming sprints, New York-bred races, first starters (mainly maiden claiming)
  • Bet against: Turf routes
  • Neutral: Turf sprints

Dale Romans

Kentucky invader has enjoyed some good success at Saratoga. He does very well with recent claims, and not-so-well in route races and on the grass.

  • Bet: Claimers and recent claims (first- and second-time off the claim)
  • Bet against: Route races and all turf routes
  • Neutral: Turf sprints

Joe Sharp

Invades from the Midwest mainly to attack Saratoga’s extensive turf sprint program, which is in his wheelhouse. Hasn’t proven to be a factor here in other kinds of races yet.

  • Bet: Turf sprints, turf miles
  • Bet against: Dirt
  • Neutral: Maidens, longer turf races

Jason Servis

Jason Servis has grown into a high-percentage trainer to bet at just about any meet he shows up at, including Monmouth, Belmont, Aqueduct and Gulfstream. He has turned into a Saratoga powerhouse only in select categories, such as turf sprints where he could win nearly 40% of his starts! He wins equally on turf or dirt and he’s much better in sprints than routes (Maximum Security excluded). He’s best with maiden claimers, or allowance horses.

  • Bet: Turf sprints! Maiden claimers
  • Bet against: Dirt routes
  • Neutral: Dirt sprints, turf routes

Barclay Tagg

Barclay is The Man with sneaky Saratoga first starters (back in 2015 he dominated the category with four wins from five starters). Tagg won’t run in a lot of dirt routes, but he has done well in those races with limited runners. He’s surprisingly good in turf sprints

  • Bet: First starters, dirt routes, turf sprints
  • Bet against: Dirt sprints, except maidens
  • Neutral: Turf routes

George Weaver

Weaver is generally regarded as a turf trainer, and to an extent that’s true because he does his best work with turf route horses. Nobody is looking at him or betting him in dirt sprints, however, and that’s quietly where he’s making his backers money at Saratoga.

  • Bet: Turf Routes, dirt sprints, 2-year-olds, first-time turf
  • Bet against: Dirt routes
  • Neutral: Turf sprints

Nick Zito

Zito trains up at Saratoga nearly year round and has his stable ready annually at the upstate meet. That being said, lately Zito has not been a big factor overall like he was several years ago. He wins almost zero turf races, but he will try to roll out some interesting juveniles in dirt sprints, and is still a factor with his second-time starters, even if they didn’t show much in their first career outing.

  • Bet: Second-time starters, except on turf
  • Bet against: All turf races
  • Neutral: 2-year-olds

Many handicappers believe the “trainer angle” is the most important piece of the handicapping pie, especially when top-rung racing takes place, like in New York during the heart of summer in July and August. All trainers have their own particular strengths and weaknesses. The beauty of following the trainer angles, stats and trends, is that they help you identify these strengths and weaknesses to decisively give you the advantage over the rest of the betting public.

Best of luck, and enjoy summer racing in New York.

PHOTO: Saratoga Race Course (c) Adam Coglianese Photography

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Frank’s Rockette, Long Weekend juvenile debut winners to watch

A pair of stakes races for two-year-olds will take place on Saturday at Churchill Downs. The $125,000 Bashford Manor (G3) is for the boys, while the fillies will compete in the $125,000 Debutante. While they only ran in maiden events, we witnessed two youngsters over the weekend that would have been formidable foes in the upcoming stakes races.

In the 1ST Race on Friday, Frank Fletcher’s homebred FRANK’S ROCKETTE put on quite a show for conditioner Bill Mott. The daughter of Into Mischief went postward as the 5-2 favorite in a cast of well-bred fillies and left little doubt who was best.

The bay broke alertly and tracked the pace while in close range early on. Given her cue by jockey Julien Leparoux nearing the turn for home, Frank’s Rockette was on level terms at the top of the stretch and demolished her foes late to the tune of an 8 3/4-length waltz. The Kentucky-bred earned a strong 93 BRIS Speed figure for her work, and she could be a force in the two-year-old division this campaign with expected growth.

Frank’s Rockette is from the same female line as the routinely brilliant Indian Blessing. The two-time champion notched five Grade 1 victories and retired with a 16-10-5-0, $2,995,420 career line.

A two-year-old colt was unveiled in the 2ND Race on Sunday beneath the Twin Spires from the barn of Tom Amoss. The Kentucky-bred LONG WEEKEND was sent off at 8-5 in his debut, and the son of Majesticperfection gave his rivals little chance.

Breaking best beneath Miguel Mena, Long Weekend was two lengths clear at the first call, four lengths best at the top of the lane, and then cruised home a most facile winner. The bay colt registered a solid 81 BRIS Speed figure, but he had plenty left in the tank late and his conditioner spoke very fondly of him prior to his debut performance.

Long Weekend is bred to be a dynamic one, too. His dam, the stakes-placed Liza Too, counts herself as a half-sister to a pair of Grade-1 winning sprinters. Paulasilverlining made good in the 2017 Humana Distaff (G1) and Madison (G1), while Dads Caps took the 2014 and 2015 editions of the Carter H. (G1).

It is obviously too early to predict what each of these impressive juveniles will evolve into. But they are in the right hands to make their presence felt in 2019 and beyond. Don’t take either of this duo lightly when they face stakes foes in their next assignments.

Frank’s Rockette (c) Coady Photography

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