There has been much talk about a track bias for yesterday’s Belmont Met Mile card, so I’ve decided to present some facts for you on this issue. Listed below are the five races ran on the Belmont main track yesterday, and where each winning horse was at the calls. Also I’ll list the farthest back the winner was from the leader during the race.
Belmont Park 5-28-12
Race 1: 4-3-3-1-1 3 1/2 lengths back
Race 3: 2-1-1-1 1 length back
Race 6: 3-3-2-1-1 2 lengths back
Race 8: 2-2-2-2-1 1 1/2 lengths back
Race 9: 1-1-1-1-1 Wire to Wire
Race 10: 1-1-1-1-1 Wire To Wire
In race 8 the 2nd longest shot on the board, Cash For Clunkers, set very solid fractions of 22.68 and 45.78, and was still able to almost hold off a Grade 1 winner in It’s Tricky, and did hold off a Grade 1 winner in Awesome Maria. For a horse running in her first ever graded stakes, that seemed a little odd to me. Perhaps she ran a freak race, but more likely this should have been our biggest indication that something might be up.
The 9th race was a reasonable wire to wire winner. Contested is a solid horse who set very similar fractions to Cash For Clunkers, but this race was a mile compared to one and one sixteenth mile. So in this case I just wrote this one off as Contested being much the best.
In the Met Mile I believe Shackleford is due more credit than some are giving. His half mile of 44.73 was very impressive, and he did pull away from all the stalkers in the race that should have had an advantage over Caleb’s Posse. You have to respect this horse for showing up and dancing every dance. But, I do believe the track helped Shackleford hold off Caleb’s Posse. Remember that 3 1/2 lengths was the farthest a horse came back from to win all day. Caleb’s Posse was 9 off the lead and came within a nose of winning. That’s a very impressive. These two are probably going to develop a rivalry as the year goes on.
So was there a track bias yesterday at Belmont? I would have to so yes. In my estimation the track was giving speed/stalkers a 2 to 3 length advantage. If you think about it, was Contested really 8 lengths better than the field? No, but 5 sounds a little more reasonable. Is It’s Tricky only 3/4′s of a length better than Cash for Clunkers? No, but 3 lengths sounds about right. Finally, Is Shackleford and Caleb’s Posse dead even going around one turn? History says that they certainly are not. Caleb has beaten him by 4 lengths and 1 1/2 lengths in their other two races at a mile or less. So you can see why I believe that in this case the track favored speed. I’m usually not one to play this angle, but in this case the evidence is sufficient.
In the end it doesn’t really matter. Results will not be changed, and uncashed tickets will not be cashed. There are two important things to take from this for future reference though: 1) Pay attention to how the track is playing because there are times it can make a difference. 2) Be sure not to overrate some of the speed horses that ran freak races yesterday when handicapping future cards.