by Greg Melikov - 11/30/2005
When I wager at various tracks around the country I often check on how outside post positions perform, especially when there are full fields.
I love full fields because that means big payoffs. So outside posts must be considered. Where the starting gate is placed becomes important depending on the distance of the race.
Many major tracks in North America commonly card route races that start near the beginning of the clubhouse turn. Consequently, statistics at most meetings show that horses breaking from the inside four posts win more than their fair share of starts while horses breaking from post 8 and outward capture far fewer races.
This general bias against outside posts is particularly strong at major ovals, especially at a mile at Aqueduct's inner track, Del Mar and Santa Anita, 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland and Hollywood Park and 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct and Saratoga.
Some tracks such as Lone Star Park and Gulfstream Park tailor their races to limit the short run to the first turn, giving outside horses an even chance to make the winner's circle.
For example, Gulfstream lengthened its main track to 1 1/8 miles in 2005, with the backstretch chute allowing sprints up to 7 ½ furlongs.
If you want to benefit from the post position bias and find wagering value, get acquainted with the layout of tracks you play. Note the distance of two-turn races that begin near the clubhouse turn - an inherent disadvantage for outside runners.
For sprints, posts usually are less of a factor because there's sufficient distance along the backstretch to get in stride and racing position. In six-horse fields, however, the bias disappears because any thoroughbred coming out of the gate should find position with ease.
In addition, post position bias is less important when the horses are classier and the stakes are bigger. You'll find that outside posts do well, even when runners are parked out in the 10 hole and beyond.
Look for these ideal-betting angles when a horse moves from the outside to an inside post:
A runner showing improvement and hitting the board tosses in a dull effort breaking from an "impossible post" last time out. Today's switch to the inside might put the horse back in the winner's circle.
A thoroughbred normally does well pressing the pace, but started poorly in his last race from the outside and finished out of the money. Today's favorable draw will dramatically affect the horse's racing position early and improve the chances to score.
A horse that was competitive in similar races that routed from an outside post near the clubhouse turn and failed to hit the board will improve with a better draw. The shorter the two-turn race, the more it favors the inside.
Extra emphasis should be given to horses customarily racing on or near the lead. Less emphasis should be given to stretch runners that figure to be outrun early no matter their post.