by Greg Melikov - 10/03/2005
Belmont Park will host the 22nd Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships on Oct. 29. It will be the fourth time since 1990 that the Greatest Day in Horse Racing will be staged at the New York track.
When handicapping BC races, it's advantageous to know how the dirt and grass surfaces are playing at the host track. Early in Belmont's spring-summer and fall meetings, the main track usually favors speed while turf courses are much more fair.
Track bias, however, can change quite often as well as day to day. For example, according to Bloodstock Research Information Services, during the first week of this year's 60-day spring/summer meeting:
"The main track was slightly speed favoring on opening day (Tuesday, May 4) in both sprints and routes. That trend continued on Thursday as well. The turf course played fairly just about all week."
The Belmont Notebook published May 11 said: "The main track appeared to be quite honest to begin the week, but then seemed to favor early speed, albeit slightly, through Saturday (May 15). On Sunday, the track appeared bias free. The turf course played fairly just about all week, but early speed did better than one would normally expect on Saturday."
The May 26 report noted: "Speed did well over the main track early in the week, but that bias appeared to all but disappear as the week wore on. The turf course played uniformly the entire week."
The June 15 report said: "Speed did quite well over the main track last week. However, the track was not extremely biased on any particular day. Both turf courses seemed to play uniformly throughout the week."
In the Sept. 28 report for the fall meeting: "Early speed did very well over the weekend, but the main track appeared to play uniformly otherwise. Both grass courses remained bias free until Saturday, when stalkers and closers seemed to hold an edge. That trend continued on Sunday."
In addition to paying attention to the track bias on Breeders' Cup Day, it's essential to note trends in past BC races staged at Belmont in '90, '95 and '01. For instance, horses breaking from post 4 ('90 and '95) and post 3 ('01) won the $1.5 million BC Sprint for 3-year-olds and up. During Belmont's first 51 races at six furlongs last spring, early speed did well in the middle of the track, with wire-to-wire winners going 31 percent.
For the first 25 races at six furlongs during the fall meeting that opened Sept. 9, early speed also did well, especially on the rail. Horses leading at every call won 52 percent.
(Next: Handicapping hints for the eight BC races.)