Archive for the Distance Category

May 28 2015

Belmont Park – The Green Monster of Racetracks

Belmont Park is The Green Monster of Racetracks, with the largest oval of any thoroughbred racetrack in North America, 11/2 miles in circumference. That’s 12 furlongs, or put in relative terms, 3 furlongs longer than Saratoga and Aqueduct (the other two racetracks on the NYRA circuit). It’s 4 furlongs longer than Santa Anita, Churchill Downs, Monmouth Park, and other 1-mile tracks. Again, in relative terms, that 50% longer than those racetracks. Also, unlike many other racetracks, there are virtually no restrictions on the possible distances of races that can be run at Belmont.

Belmont is a visually stunning racetrack to witness in person. From the stands it seems like the backstretch is miles away. And, due to the structural design, there are no televisions mounted near the grandstand seats. For that reason, binoculars are as essential to the racing patron as a copy of the racing program and a cold draft beer. Fancy hats are optional.

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Oct 24 2014

Breeders’ Cup 2014 – Navigating The Santa Anita Dirt Track

Breeders Cup Logo

In a prior article we provided an overview of Santa Anita turf course and how it’s unique configuration might impact the running of Breeders’ Cup races in 2014.  Click here to read that article.

In this article we are going to cover the Santa Anita dirt track, and although it isn’t quite as unique as the turf course, there are still factors to consider for each distance run in the Breeders’ Cup races.

For example, where is the starting gate position for each race?  How close is it to the first turn?  Is there an advantage to inside or outside post positions at each distance?  How does  the Santa Anita track layout compare to other racetracks?

Breeders' Cup Dirt Races

Breeders’ Cup Dirt Races

To the right is a table listing the Breeders’ Cup dirt races that will be contested at the various distances.  You can see that other than the two Juvenile races, every other distance is only run once for Breeders’ Cup races.

For some distances, the location of the starting gate is very similar to other racetracks.  For other distances, it is much different … even when the size of the oval (1 mile) is identical to that of Santa Anita.

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Oct 19 2014

Breeders Cup 2014 – Navigating The Unique Santa Anita Turf Course

Breeders Cup Logo

Breeders’ Cup 2014 is right around the corner, and we thought it would be a good time to feature an article about the unique layout of the Santa Anita turf course and how it might impact the running of the Breeders’ Cup races this year.

We will limit our review to include only the four distances of Breeders’ Cup races contested over the turf course.  To begin, we will show a diagram of the turf course layout and include the starting gate position (in colored boxes) for each distance included in the 2-day set of Breeders’ Cup races.  And we will discuss how post positions are affected by the location of the starting gate and it’s proximity to the first turn at each distance.  Distances of 1-mile or more show the furlong equivalent for individuals (like myself) who think in terms of furlongs.

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Sep 16 2014

For A Change Of Pace, Try The Cutback Angle

In a prior article we discussed the dynamics of a horse “stretching out” from a short race (sprint) to a longer race (route).  In particular, we covered the paradox that often occurs when a horse closes in a sprint race, comes up short, and appears to just “need a little more ground.”  Click here for review of that article.

In that article we provided an example of a horse named Pan Dulce, who finished 2nd in a 6-furlong race at Belmont, and subsequently was the 9-5 favorite in an 8-furlong race at Saratoga.  Unfortunately, for supporters of this horse, she tired in that race and was a well beaten 3rd.  But, the story doesn’t end there, and in fact her next move back into a sprint race provides material for the cutback angle. Read More >>

May 28 2014

Belmont Park – Where All Distances Are Not Created Equal

Belmont Park is The Green Monster of Racetracks, with the largest oval of any thoroughbred racetrack in North America, 11/2 miles in circumference.  That’s 12 furlongs, or put in relative terms, 3 furlongs longer than Saratoga and Aqueduct (the other two racetracks on the NYRA circuit).  It’s 4 furlongs longer than Santa Anita, Churchill Downs, Monmouth Park, and other 1-mile tracks.  Again, in relative terms, that 50% longer than those racetracks.  Also, unlike many other racetracks, there are virtually no restrictions in the possible distances that races can be run at Belmont.

Belmont is a visually stunning racetrack to witness in person.  From the stands it seems like the backstretch is miles away.   And, due to the structural design, there are no televisions mounted near the grandstand seats.  For that reason, binoculars are as essential to the racing patron as a copy of the racing program and a cold draft beer.  Fancy hats are optional.

Read More >>

Apr 30 2014

Recent Derby Trends – Long Stretch Runs Make Better Preps

UPDATE: Article was updated on April 25, 2015 to include information from the 2014 Kentucky Derby.

In a seminar this past week I provided some trends about recent Kentucky Derby winners and other horses that have finished in the money for the Derby.  Part of this discussion was explaining the special challenge of distance for Derby contestants and related to that, the added challenge of horses facing a stretch run that is quite long at Churchill Downs.

As most people are aware, the Kentucky Derby is 1 1/4 mile (10 furlongs) long.  A distance that no horse in the field has ever run prior to the Derby.  That alone is challenge enough.  In addition to that, many of the horses are coming from racetracks that have a stretch run considerably shorter than at Churchill Downs.  Below is a slide I gave in the presentation that shows the stretch runs for Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita Park.  The length of the stretch runs are shown in feet beneath the blue arrows.
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Jul 26 2013

Stretching Out And The Sprint Closer Paradox

In a prior article we explained that Sprints are short races (less than 1 mile) and Routes are long races (1 mile or more).  We also opined that some horses are better suited to run in Sprints while others prefer a Route of ground.  Frequently you will come upon a horse that has been running in Sprint races and is now stretching out for the first time in a Route race.  You look at the Past Performances (PPs) and find in her Sprint races she has been steadily gaining ground at the end, but often falling short.  You surmise (enter the Paradox) that “if she only had a little more ground” she would eventually catch the leaders and win the race.  So when she is finally entered in a Route race, you think “Aha, perfect … this horse is going to win for sure.”  Unfortunately, many times you will be wrong. Hence, completion of the paradox. Two examples follow. Read More >>

Apr 22 2013

Other Turf Courses

In the prior post we looked at the two turf courses at Saratoga.  Now we’ll look at a few other interesting turf courses in North America.  Below is a diagram of the Mellon (Outer) turf course at Belmont Park.

Belmont Mellon Turf

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Apr 20 2013

Saratoga Turf Courses

Saratoga is a Race Track that has two turf courses located inside of the Main Dirt track.  The outer turf course is officially known as the Mellon Turf Course, in honor of the Mellon family (whose members were prominent owners and breeders in the Thoroughbred industry).  The inner turf course is located directly inside of the Mellon Turf Course.  As far as turf courses go, it is pretty straight-forward with no chutes or extensions like turf courses at some other race tracks.

The following diagram highlights the Mellon Turf course (in light green) and includes the location of the starting gate (in a box) for each distance from 5f to 9.5f.
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Apr 18 2013

From Furlongs to Ovals – More Racetracks and Stretch Run Variations

In a prior article we looked primarily at the Saratoga and Belmont main tracks. Click here to read the article From Furlongs to Ovals (How Distances Vary by Racetrack).  Now we’ll look at a few other tracks in North America, and show a comparison chart of the oval size and stretch run distances for the most popular tracks.

First there is Aqueduct, located in New York State.
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