September 7, 2001

Beating Belmont
The self-proclaimed Championship Track will indeed live up to that billing this autumn when year-end honors will for the most part be decided at Belmont on Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships Day on Saturday, Oct. 28. But that's getting way ahead of the issue.

After all, big, beautiful Belmont Park only opens for business this afternoon, Friday, Sept. 7, and that means it's time to get a lay of the land, as it were. Translation: good, hard practical pointers on what went on earlier in the year at Belmont and how you can take some of that information with you in your own handicapping ritual.

We begin, as always, with the nature of the racing surface itself. Whoever said that Belmont was a big-time rally-wide track was missing the point. It's hardly that at all, unless you consider a rally to be from a length back at the second call.

Deep closers rarely succeed at any distance, when you look at things from the standpoint of the second call, which is the half-mile mark in most sprints, six-furlong mark in most routes.

How bad do the last of the laggards have it? There were 350 dirt races run at Belmont during its 2001 spring meet. Fifteen -- 15! -- were won by a horse that was five lengths back or farther at the corresponding second call of the race.

Do the math, run the numbers. That's 4.2 percent of the races being won by your Silky Sullivan/Strike the Gold-types. Mark down the horses that are habitually well back in the early stages or that will be pushed to the rear because of a heavy pace on up front. Chances are, some of the speed will stick well enough to deny the come-from-the-clouders.

A little closer look emphasizes the point. At the first call, the average beaten lengths of the eventual winners was 1.88. At the second call, it was less than 1! It was 0.94 lengths, to be exact. And that's the average!

And when the main track is sloppy, the name of the game is front speed, almost to the exclusion of everything else. More than 80 percent of the sloppy-track winners were no farther back than a length at the second call. And the average beaten lengths of the winners went like this: 1.35 at the first call, 0.60 at the second call.

It's hard to deny that kind of meet-long trend. If you stick to front-flight-type horses in Belmont Park dirt races, you'll have a huge part of the elimination process done. And it shouldn't be too difficult.

On turf, the closers do a little better, but not too much better. In the 149 turf races during the spring meet, the winners' average beaten lengths at the first call was 3.04; at the second call, it was 1.83.

Best chances for the "closers" comes at the mile-and-a-sixteenth and mile-and-an-eighth distances on turf. Even then, the front can't be completely ruled out.

Moral of the racing-surface story? Figure on the speed to be prominent all the way to the wire, oftentimes for the win, and nearly always for your vertical exotics.

Now for the trainers. The wonderful Belmont Park trainers. And there are many of them. We could have fun with these little tidbits all day long. Check 'em out.

Trainer Rene Araya saddled five winners during the sprint meet. All five were 4-1 or less.

Trainer Luis Barrera saddled two winners, both ridden by Mike Luzzi, both having a connection to maiden-claimers: one winners was in a maiden-claiming race, the other won an open-claiming race after graduating last time from a maiden-claimer. Average mutuel: almost $25.

Trainer Bond -- H. James Bond -- did not win unless either Edgar Prado or Richard Migliore was in the saddle. None of the winners went off at longer than 10-1, and nearly all the winners were 9-2 or lower.

Trainer Aflredo Callejas had three bomb winners, all of the layoff, all with jockey Camilo Pitty riding. Was it a seasonal thing for owner Perez? Or are there more ship-in off-the-vacation surprises in store this fall?

Trainer Christophe Clement is obviously turf-favoring, but he also likes to strike in the early stages of a form cycle, with all but one of his wins occurring in the first, second, third or fourth start off the most recent layoff. Granted, many of those winners were returning from winter freshenings, but look out for the angle anyway. As well as odds below 8-1.

Trainer Dominic Galluscio won only with "The Mig," and only at ridiculously short prices, save one. His top move was the allowance-to-claim drop.

Hall of Fame trainer P.G. Johnson had three winners, all ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, all on turf, all at middling odds.

Trainer Leo O'Brien has to be one of the best longshot trainers on the circuit, and his moves are somewhat predictable: early in the form cycle, always on turf, pretty much at either a mile or a mile and a sixteenth.

Trainer Nick Zito actually did win a race -- a few of them -- before his Saratoga debacle, and all of those were on dirt. Look for him with his boy Javier Castellano in the irons, and mainly in the nonclaiming ranks.

(Thanks and acknowledgments to DE Dork for providing the research and statistics.)

So there you have it. Check out Belmont, and good luck the whole meet through, right up to the BCWTC.

Figuring Fairplex
It's not exactly the same as when Saratoga and Del Mar open on the same day, or even like when Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and Festivus all share the same date on the calendar, but today marks another simultaneous debut: in addition to the Belmont opening, it's time for the Los Angeles County Fair and, of course, the Fairplex Park stand.

Where else in major-league racing are you gonna get a bullring experience? Where else in major-league racing are you gonna get an assortment of emerging breeds in advance of the Thoroughbred events? Where else in major-league racing are you gonna get the weird, wacky and bizarre happening every day, maybe every race?

It can only be at the old-timey Pomona fair, Fairplex to the 21st-century crowd, and how do you beat this beast of a meet?

You pretty much have to accept that any sort of trainer or jockey -- some of whom you've never seen before -- can win. Trip is important, since so many horses will "blow the turn," as Trevor Denman will exclaim eight or nine times a day on the average racecard. Keep an eye out for exotic shippers (Yavapai, anyone?) and you should be OK.

In terms of the racing surface itself, speed is the key -- of the 172 races run between six furlongs and a mile and a sixteenth, inclusive, two-thirds were won by horses a length or closer to the leader at the second call. Those aren't Belmont-type stats, though, so some mid-packers and ralliers should be expected to win, especially at a mile and a sixteenth.

Tiznow Comes Back, Division Is His for Taking
No more Point Given, so the American handicap horses are looking for a savior. Tiznow was thrust into that exact role toward the end of 2000, culminating in a championship after his score in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

And now Tiznow can reprise that performance by putting in a couple of solid efforts in advance of this year's Classic. It starts with tomorrow's Woodward at Belmont.

It's never easy for horses to come back from half-year layoffs or longer, but Tiznow came from improbable circumstances last year, parlaying a Super Derby win, among others, into fitness for the Classic. He has the talent. Will he be in shape by the Classic?

For that reason, it's hard to expect an all-out shot for the Woodward prize. As Mark Cramer says, "All races are prep races," and what else can this be for a horse who already has won the Super Derby, Breeders' Cup Classic and the Santa Anita Handicap? They want to see what they have left, since they knew what they already had. There's nothing to prove other than to see if the hoof will hold up and the competitive spirit still is there.

The outlook here is that Albert the Great will take it to the short field from the start, and simply widen in the lane over his absolute favorite track (six of his eight wins over the surface). The only one who can run him down is Lido Palace, who did precisely that last time in the Whitney at Saratoga.

More Lone-F Dope-Outs

Hey, they worked out last time, churning a profit, so let's try again. We'll choose three notoriously speed-favoring tracks, too. The aforementioned Belmont and Fairplex, plus the great Bay Meadows.

Race 2: Equinox (3)
Race 6: Straight A (13)
Race 7: Starrer (4)
Race 8: With Anticipation (6)

Race 8: Los Cabo (6)

Bay Meadows
Race 2: Pulzarr (2)
Race 3: Lexicon (4)

Fast horses! Go baby go!

September Contest Now Ready for Playing
It's called the Double or Nothing September Edition of the Big-Prize Handicapping Contest, and you can find the complete details at Double or Nothing

C&X Late-Breaking News Section Up and Running
It is here -- the C&X Report Late-Breaking News subsite of the Cynthia Publishing Company Web site.

Subscribers, we'll tell you the address and the procedure for establishing an identity and password. You'll find the instructions in your forthcoming September issue, along with excellent, exclusive features on the successful claiming-horse owner Richard Englander, longshot handicapper Kevin Gorg and, as promised, the research cheat sheet from including all the major C&X research from the past two years.

There's never been a better time get involved with racing's best hardcopy newsletter -- bar none.

Year 2 of C&X Is History; Resubscribe Now, or Start Fresh for Year 3 in September
(Reprinted from all of last month's editions, early, late and in-between.)

Mark Cramer is gearing up for another 12 spectacular issues of his acclaimed newsletter, C&X Report, and though it'll be a great feat for him to improve upon his output in Years 1 and 2, Cramer will do it -- and do it in style. Not like those artless techno-mopes or other assorted geekheads.

Yes, we're happy to report that Mr. Mark Cramer has a soul, and he shares it with readers each month. And he'll be off to a flying start in Year 3.

The first issue will contain a complete listing of all the probabilities of winning of all the C&X Report research articles from the first two years. All the techno-mopes and geekheads will want a bootleg copy of their own (they're notoriously tight), but they'll be sorely out of luck. (And if they ask if they can borrow your copy, look at them and say through gritted teeth, "I don't normally clench my fists, but what you just asked me angered me.") Don't be surprised if they retaliate with some sort of e-terrorism.

But their loss is your gain. For less than the price of a couple of off-track Racing Forms each month, you can get a monthly masterclass in both the art and science of Modern Thoroughbred Race Analysis. Cramer will take you on a dazzling, at times mystifying, at times breathtaking but always informative and entertaining tour of the waterfront of handicapping, wagering and winning horse-race psychology. Bottom line: You can't help but improve your bottom line.

Now for the tricky part. So you don't miss a single word of Cramer's wisdom during Year 3, you have to take action and either resubscribe or begin your subscription now. It's not too hard. Really. Just pick up your phone and dial (323) 876-7325 and have your credit card ready. Your subscription cost is $109 for 12 issues -- again less than the price of a couple of off-track Racing Forms each month. Or you can do it right here from your computer by getting on the Internet and going to Cynthia Publishing Company's Handicapping Store.

As always, thanks for reading, and see you next time.

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