Subtle class drops between tracks can yield winning bets

October 3rd, 2023

Knowing the ins and outs of racing quality in a given state or region can generate winning plays when horses from a major track take on easier competition at a minor track.

By “easier competition,” we don’t necessarily mean an easier class level on paper. A maiden claimer contested at a major track might well be tougher than a maiden special weight at a minor track. And transitioning from a stakes at a major track to a stakes at a minor track can represent a drop in class that isn’t otherwise obvious.

Racing in New York provides a perfect example. The best racing action takes place at the three New York Racing Association (NYRA) tracks: Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga. Together, they form a circuit that runs year round.

But racing also takes place in New York at Finger Lakes. Although it’s a lower-profile track with smaller purses, Finger Lakes does host a series of stakes restricted to horses bred in New York.

From time to time, you’ll see New York Racing Association runners turn up at Finger Lakes, perhaps to contest one of the New York-bred stakes. When a horse from Aqueduct, Belmont Park, or Saratoga shows up at Finger Lakes, it’s wise to take notice, because they often bring a class advantage that’s too significant for the local Finger Lakes competitors to overcome.

A remarkably clear-cut example of this occurred on Oct. 2, 2023. The feature event at Finger Lakes that day was the $50,000 Jack Betta Be Rite S. for New York-bred fillies and mares racing 1 1/16 miles, and following a series of scratches the six-horse field contained an even split of horses exiting Finger Lakes races and horses coming off performances at the prestigious Saratoga meet.

The big favorite at odds of 2-5 was Venti Valentine, coming off a win in the Johnstone Mile H. at Saratoga. Runner-up multiple times against graded stakes competition, Venti Valentine figured to be difficult or impossible to beat while facing easier competition at Finger Lakes.

But bettors picked the wrong second choice, landing on Gone and Forgotten (3.95-1), a Finger Lakes competitor entering off back-to-back victories. Even though she’d won the $50,000 Arctic Queen S. in her most recent start, Gone and Forgotten was slower in terms of Brisnet Speed ratings than third choice Missing Fortune (4.30-1), winner of a New York-bred allowance at Saratoga in her previous start.

Gone and Forgotten also appeared potentially vulnerable against 24-1 longshot Shesascoldasice, fifth and 10th in a pair of New York-bred allowances at Saratoga. Earlier in the year, Shesascoldasice had finished ahead of Gone and Forgotten in a six-furlong allowance at Finger Lakes.

Bettors attuned to the class advantage held by the Saratoga competitors were rewarded in the Jack Betta Be Rite. Venti Valentine cruised to victory by 7 3/4 lengths over Missing Fortune, while Shesascoldasice rounded out a Saratoga trifecta that paid $14.20 for $1. Gone and Forgotten finished best of the Finger Lakes runners in fourth place, completing a $1 superfecta that returned $31.20.