Using The ‘Trainer Angle’ To Cash In At The Spa

By Noel Michaels

Many handicappers believe the “trainer angle” is the most important piece of the handicapping puzzle.

All trainers have their own strengths and weaknesses, and the beauty of following trainer angles, stats, and trends, is that they help you identify these strengths and weaknesses to give you a wagering advantage.

Bet trainers at their strengths and bet against them at their weaknesses, and you will increase your profits. Below are some betting angles for several leading trainers at Saratoga based on their past performances.

Steve Asmussen


One of the country’s top trainers, Asmussen runs hot-and-cold at the Spa. The time you want to play Asmussen is in dirt sprints, especially when he sends out his expensive juveniles in either their first- or second-starts. Asmussen is tied for second with eight wins through the first three weeks, with every win a dirt sprint including three 2-year-old victories. He is 0-for-6 on the turf and 0-for-2 in routes.

Bet: Dirt sprints, 2-year-old first- and second-time starters

Bet against: All turf races


 James Bond

Stabled at Saratoga year round, Bond’s entire barn points for this meet. He took the collar at the spring/summer Belmont meet but has already won twice at the Spa from his first 13 starters with 31% in the money. Both wins came in turf routes. He also usually does well in Saratoga’s 1 1/8-mile two-turn dirt routes.

Bet: Turf routes, Dirt routes

Bet against: Dirt sprints

Chad Brown

Brown is the favorite for the Saratoga training title, with dozens of wins rolling in from all categories including maidens, allowances and stakes, and every kind of turf route race. You can be sure that Brown’s horses will be live; however, he has been burning a lot of money so far this season with seven wins from his first 51 starters (13%). Brown does have 16 seconds, however, meaning that he’s had some bad luck. Expect those places to become wins during the second half of the meet.

Bet: Every kind of turf router, maiden dirt sprints

Bet against: Turf sprints


Christophe Clement

His game is on the grass, of course. Expect 25% wins on the grass, with turf sprints being a particular focus at this meet. Four of his first six winners of the 2021 season came on the turf, and he’s off to a surprising hot start with this 2-year-olds with three wins already in that category.

Bet: Turf routes, turf sprints, turf stakes

Bet against: Dirt races


Brad Cox

Regularly achieves winning percentages around 30% wherever he goes, with around 55% ITM. Cox is doing even better than that currently at the Spa thanks to a blazing start with seven wins from 16 starters for 44%. Six of the seven wins came in dirt sprints, and five were 3-year-olds with the other two being 2-year-olds. He has barely started any turfers (1-for-2) or routers (2-for-4), but he’s made the most of those opportunities.

Bet: Dirt sprints

Bet against: Older horses

David Donk

Honk if you like Donk because he’s always dangerous in Saratoga turf routes and often at a nice price. Most of his Spa wins will come on the grass. Completely avoid his first- or second-time starters. He is off to a slow start at the 2021 meet with a 1-for-21 record through three weeks, but he can almost always be counted on to win a lot more than that.

Bet: Turf routes

Bet against: First- and second-time starters

John Kimmel

Kimmel is often one of the streakiest trainers at the meet. Kimmel also does well here with first-time turf horses. Other than that, you’ve got to ride the wave and watch for one of his hot streaks. So far in 2021 we’re still waiting. He’s 1-for-12 through three weeks.

Bet: First-time turfers, hot streaks

Bet against: 2-year-olds

Mike Maker

He is the story of the 2021 meet through the first three weeks, leading all trainers by a wide margin with 14 victories and a 30% win clip with his first 47 starters. Maker will be a major factor in Saratoga races of all kinds and has assumed the top spot in the standings thanks to a balanced attack of winners on both turf (seven wins) and dirt (seven wins). He also has been excelling going both short (6-for-22, 27%), and long (8-for-25, 32%). If you are a bettor, the only thing you can ask yourself is if Maker can keep up this pace in the second half of the meet? Probably not.

Bet: Turf routes are his wheelhouse

Bet against: Maiden races and claiming races not for 2-year-olds

Shug McGaughey

 Shug won’t have as many starters as other top trainers, but he should make the best of what he has. In 2020, he went 8-for-33 (24%) with most of the wins coming on the lawn for a huge win percentage. So far in 2021, Shug is 2-for-19, and both wins came on the grass. Also has a good history in Saratoga’s 1 1/8-mile dirt routes. He’s not really a player at this meet in sprints.

Bet: Turf routes, Dirt routes

Bet against: Dirt sprints

Bill Mott

Annually one of the top turf trainers at Saratoga, Mott has started the 2021 meet by bucking his usual trend because all of his first five winners of the season have been on the dirt, including four in sprints. This is the most unusual trainer stat of the meet. Mott can win any kind of allowance, but for the most part he does not do a lot of winning at Saratoga with claimers, maidens, 2-year-olds, and turf sprinters.

Bet: Turf allowance or optional claiming, dirt sprints (2021 only)

Bet against: Turf sprints, 2-year-old maidens

Todd Pletcher

Perennially excels at every facet of the game at Saratoga except turf sprints but does better in dirt races than on the turf. Pletcher’s turf horses are off to an 0-for-18 start, while his main track starters have won 8-for-27 for 30%. He does better in distance races than in sprints, with the key exception being 2-year-old races, where his first- and second-time starters graduate going short with regularity. Pletcher shares the lead in terms of 2-year-old winners at the meet with three along with Maker, Asmussen, and Clement. Turf sprints are throw-away races for Pletcher’s lowest-rung horses at Saratoga.

Bet: 2-year-olds, dirt races, maidens, long distances.

Bet against: Turf sprints

Linda Rice

It’s no secret Rice has been making her living concentrating on turf sprints at Saratoga, and in the two decade history of those races at Saratoga she’s had four times as many winners as any other trainer. This may be the last season we ever see Rice training up at Saratoga, so bet her turf sprinters while you still have a chance. On the dirt up at Saratoga, her forte is 2-year-olds.

Bet: Turf sprints

Bet against: Dirt routes

Rudy Rodriguez

Rudy’s usual high winning percentage drops a few notches at Saratoga due to fewer of his wheelhouse types of races, which are claimers, sprints, and New York breds. He also wins maiden races at Saratoga when they fall in the categories. You need a search warrant to find him at the 2021 meet so far, he’s 2-for-28 with two dirt sprint winners.

Bet: Claiming sprints, New York breds

Bet against: Turf races

George Weaver

Does his best work with turf horses and is most dangerous in those races at Saratoga with well-bet horses. He’s off to a 1-for-15 start, with the one victory so far coming in a turf sprint. His specialty from a win percentage is first off the claim in any kind of race.

Bet: First off the claim, Turf

Bet against: Horses that are dead on the board


Use these trainer angles to help you win at Saratoga. Best of luck and enjoy the rest of the summer.

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