By Noel Michaels
Nearly a month into the Gulfstream Park’s Champion’s Meet, it’s become apparent that the inside post(s) are performing exceptionally well – on dirt and on the turf. Horseplayers take note, please, because this has been a valuable handicapping trend and is likely to continue early into the New Year.
With four weeks of Gulfstream’s headline winter meet already in the books, handicappers paying attention to post position stats have been having a field day. Post position is a handicapping angle often overlooked by many serious handicappers, who instead choose to focus more on countless other important variables such a speed figures, trainer statistics, jockeys, distance, surface, track bias, etc.
Post position stats can be easy to overlook, and in truth, they rarely factor prominently into whether a handicapper wins or loses. Rather, they are just a small piece of the greater handicapping puzzle. December at Gulfstream, however, has been one of those times when the post position puzzle piece has been one of the biggest pieces on the game board.
Sprinters winning with inside posts, too
It’s no surprise to see horses from inside posts doing well in route races around two turns at Gulfstream or most other tracks for that matter. But it’s not just the route races where inside posts have been dominating. Inside posts have been performing exceptionally strongly in sprint races, as well.
In Gulfstream main track sprint races ranging from 5 furlongs to 1 mile from the start of the meet (Dec. 2) through Dec. 27, horses breaking from the two inside posts have seemingly enjoyed a big advantage. Post 1 has enjoyed a 19% win rate (16-for-83) in dirt sprints including one-turn miles, while post 2 has been even better with 24% wins (20-for-83). To put that in perspective, no other post has yielded more than 10 winners or a win percentage higher than 13%. The outside posts 9-12, meanwhile, have produced two winners from a combined 59 starters (3.4%).
Huge inside edge on main track, one-turn races
A total of 36 of Gulfstream’s first 83 main track one-turn races have been won from posts 1 and 2. That’s a little more than a small blip for handicappers to be noticing right now. It is a significant handicapping trend at the moment.
Inside advantage on the turf, too
It just so happens that the trend of success for inside-drawn horses has also extended to the grass, where post position stats in turf routes also show horses from inside posts doing exceptionally well. Gulfstream’s two-turn grass races begin at 7 ½ furlongs and extend longer to include races at 1 mile, 1 1/16 miles, and 1 1/8 miles. It is also not surprising to see inside horses doing well in those races to date.
The inside posts in two-turn Gulfstream turf races have been the place to be at the current meet, with the majority of turf winners coming from posts 1-5. Post 1 has enjoyed the biggest advantage, producing 11 winners from 74 starters for 15%. In all, posts 1-5 have produced the winners of 48 of Gulfstream’s 74 two-turn turf races while accounting for all of the best winning percentages. Horses have been able to win from every turf post all the way out to post 12 and in general based on long-term stats, the Gulfstream turf course plays much fairer to outside posts than most other turf courses around the country. This is the reason it is noteworthy to see inside horses doing noticeably better on the grass than their outside-drawn counterparts.
The inside turf advantage has been particularly strong at 1 mile, where posts 1 and 2 own by far the best win percentages (18% and 20%, respectively). Posts 1 and 2 have accounted for 15 of 38 turf winners at 1 mile.
Horses in Gulfstream turf routes breaking from posts 1 through 5 have won a combined 48 times from 370 starters (average win rate from those five posts is 13%), while horses from posts 6-12 have won a combined 27 times from 358 starts for an average of 7.5% from each of those posts.
Speed counts more than post in turf sprints
The only races that haven’t shown a solid inside post position favoritism at Gulfstream so far have been the 5-furlong turf sprints. Those races don’t tend to favor any post, but rather, it is running style that is most important to handicapping those races. Speed horses enjoy a huge advantage over horses that need to come from off the pace at 5 furlongs on the GP grass.
Noel Michaels has been involved in many aspects of thoroughbred racing for more than two decades, as a Breeders’ Cup-winning owner and as a writer, author, handicapper, editor, manager and promoter of the sport for a wide range of companies including Daily Racing Form and Nassau County Off-Track Betting.
He also is regarded as the leading source of news and information for handicapping tournaments and the author of the “Handicapping Contest Handbook: A Horseplayer’s Guide to Handicapping Tournaments”, which made his name virtually synonymous with the increasingly-popular tournament scene.
In addition to contributing to US Racing, he is also an analyst on the Arlington Park broadcast team.