Belmont Park 2021 Spring Meet: Handicapping Preview

With all the horse racing hubbub focused on the upcoming Kentucky Derby (G1), it would be easy to overlook the start of the Belmont Park spring/summer meet. But here it is … opening Thursday (April 22) and running through July 11.

After months of racing at Aqueduct, the New York circuit finally returns to Belmont and handicappers are more than ready for the move.

For handicappers, the 48-day spring/summer meet is among the best of the best. It attracts the country’s best jockeys, trainers, and horses, and features the best day-in, day-out racing and wagering of the season.

By Noel Michaels

Top riders back at Belmont Park full-time

The main contingent of top riders will be returning to New York full time for opening day. That means Jose Ortiz and Irad Ortiz, Jr. are likely to lead the way in the standings over a star-studded group that includes Hall of Famers Javier Castellano and John Velazquez, and Joel Rosario and Luis Saez. At the short-but-sweet 11-day Aqueduct spring meet, we got a preview of what’s to come at Belmont, perhaps, when Jose Ortiz swept to the riding title with 24 victories from 68 mounts for a 35%-win rate — 65% in the money.

Irad was second with 17 wins, including a dominant six-win performance on Wood Memorial Day. He rode out of town many days during the season. Amazingly, Jose and Irad combined to win 41 of the 95 total races run at the meet.

Kendrick Carmouche, coming off a strong Aqueduct winter meet, also enjoyed a good spring season at the Big A to finish third with 12 wins, including aboard Bourbonic in the Wood Memorial.

Pletcher, Brown should duke it out for training title

The top national barns will return to New York as well. Looking ahead to Belmont’s trainer’s race, the title should again come down to a duel between Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown, with Brown holding the advantage. Brown is already hot in New York. He won the Big A spring title with 10 wins from 31 starters for 32%. Horseplayers should bet Brown on the turf and Pletcher in 2-year-old races. Linda Rice and Rudy Rodriguez should also be expected to land in the top 5. Among trainer not primarily based in New York that should fare well include Steve Asmussen and Brad Cox.

As far as track trends, speed is a handy commodity on the Belmont main track. Other tracks such as Monmouth and Pimlico have more of a reputation as being speed-biased tracks, but Belmont Park can be right up there with the others in this department. In addition to running styles, you should also pay attention to the best paths on the Belmont main track because the inside part of the track has not been the best at recent meets and jockeys tend to avoid inside trips on the main track. See if this trend continues this season.

Belmont runs almost no two-turn races due to its 1 1/2-mile circumference. This nearly negates any inside bias the track might have in route races, which are all one-turn affairs up to 1 1/8 miles (a factor that minimizes any possible advantage to being inside on the dirt). One-turn specialists rule, and when handicapping Belmont races from 1-mile to 1 1/8-miles, you always want to scan horse’s past performances to find runners who have won or can win races around one turn.

See Also: Kentucky Derby 2021 Odds

On the Belmont turf courses, both the inner turf and the outer turf tracks are big, wide, fair courses with long stretch runs. Outside turf posts are a concern, mainly in 1-mile races and 1 1/16-mile races. At 1-mile on the Widener turf course at the spring/summer meet, posts 8-12 should win for about a combined 5%. At 1 1/16 miles, posts 9-12 should win about 6% based on comparable recent meets.

On the inner turf course at 1 1/16-miles, horses from posts 8-10 can be expected to win only about 5% each. At 1 1/8 miles, posts 8-11 may win only about 7%. When in doubt, give favoritism in turf routes to horses breaking from posts 1-7.

In the prominent turf sprint department, Belmont runs tons of races at both 6 furlongs and 7 furlongs (one turn). Linda Rice does particularly well in Belmont turf sprints, as does Christophe Clement.

Logic would dictate that inside posts would be preferential in turf sprints, however, not only aren’t inside posts better in Belmont’s turf sprints, but, in fact, the opposite is true. Outside posts are the best post positions in Belmont turf sprints, and inside posts are the worst. The anti-rail bias is particularly prevalent in Belmont turf sprints on the Widener course, where the rail post customarily wins at only a 4-5% clip at both 6 furlongs and 7 furlongs. It’s not only the rail. You can make an argument that posts 1-3 are all disadvantages in Belmont turf sprints based on long-term win percentages. The anti-inside trend is stronger in big fields larger than eight horses. In smaller turf sprint fields with 6-7 horses, inside horses have better chances.

Posted on