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Belmont and Churchill Return as Breeder’s Cup Looms
This weekend marks the official beginning of the racing fall season. Churchill Downs and Belmont Park both begin racing this week. The kickoff to the meets means that Breeder’s Cup is just months away.
One of the reasons the fall meets from Belmont and Churchill carry such clout is the history of the two tracks.
Undoubtedly Churchill Downs is the most recognizable horse track to most casual fans. The signature race, The Kentucky Derby, is the most widely viewed horse racing all year. Although the fall meet doesn’t include the Derby there are a host of other significant graded stakes that will have major implications moving into the Breeder’s Cup.
Belmont is the host site for the final leg of the Triple Crown in June. However, in the fall “Big Sandy” has plenty of quality racing action for the avid horse racing fan.
Both race tracks will feature an impressive list of graded stakes including several Breeder’s Cup “Win and You’re In” events. For many horses these races, challenge series or not, will be the final prep races before they take a shot at the Del Mar 2021 Breeder’s Cup in November.
Stakes listed below are graded stakes scheduled for the meet. A race followed by a (BC) indicates the race provides an automatic birth to the Breeder’s Cup.
Iroquois Stakes (BC)
Locust Grove Stakes
Pocahontas Stakes (BC)
Ack Ack Stakes
Lukas Classic Stakes
Jockey Club Derby (BC)
Gallant Bloom Handicap
Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational
Champagne Stakes (BC)
Miss Grillo Stakes
Fasig Tipton Waya Stakes
Frizette Stakes (BC)
Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes
Vosburgh Stakes (BC)
Futurity Stakes (BC)
Sands Point Stakes
Hill Prince Stakes
Nobel Damsel Stakes
Bold Ruler Stakes
Using Daily Horse Picks to Handicap
Using the Track Bias tool which can be found under the statistics drop down menu Churchill Downs dirt course has typically favored horses that DHP rates as “Fastest”. These horses have won 36% of races over a nearly 860 race sample size. From a race flow perspective “Leader” and “Closers” have done the best with “Leads”, “Stalkers”, and “Deep Closers” not eclipsing 20% winners.
The same trends are true in dirt route races. “Leaders” do hold on more frequently however with a 27% win percentage in 780 races. “Stalkers” and “Closers” both hover around 20% in the win column when the distances are longer than a mile on the dirt.
Turf races on the other hand favor horses from deeper in the field. While “Fastest” horses still win overwhelmingly on the turf, the track profile suggests that horses from the “Stalker” or “Closer” designation have the most success.
Jockeys and Trainers
The jockey colony at Churchill Downs tends to be a cut below that of the New York circuit, but still will feature some really talented riders. In the past jockeys like Corey Lanerie, Brian Hernandez, Ricardo Santana Jr, Tyler Gafflione, and Florent Geroux have been among the leaders in the jockey standings. Only Tyler Gafflione is rated as Good with the rest being Avg and below in the jockey ratings.
The trainer standings at Churchill’s fall meet will be littered with trainers who winter in the southeastern United States at tracks like Fair Grounds and Gulfstream Park. The DHP trainer tool indicates that the following trainers are rated great or good at Churchill. Using the filters at the top of the page you can adjust the data pull to fit specific conditions for a better picture of what they do in specific types of races.
Using the track bias tool to look at Belmont Park there are both commonalities and differences with the profile at Churchill Downs. Belmont with its big sweeping turns tends to play much fairer than a lot of tracks around the country. This can be seen in the fairly equal distribution of winners from all of the pace styles regardless of distance and surface.
One truth that remains is that speed matters. Horses rated in the “Fastest” or “Fast” category have overwhelmingly been where you want to be heavily invested. Nearly 70% of all races are won by horses with this designation regardless of where the horse does its best running.
Jockeys and Trainers
The jockey colony at Belmont Park is very similar to the one that many racing fans watched at Saratoga. One sneaky facet of the fall meet is that you will often see the 2nd tier of jockeys get more opportunities than they do at Saratoga. Look for riders like Dylan Davis, Jose Lezcano, Eric Cancel, and Junior Alvarado to make jumps forward in terms of number of mounts and victories.
DHP jockey tool has the following jockeys rated good or great at Belmont. As previously mentioned players can adjust the filters in the tool to fit the race conditions, surface, and even the horse’s post. Using these advanced features will give you a clearer picture of who might be ready to fire on a given day.
Irad Ortiz Jr.
Flavien Prat (California-based)
As for trainers, horse racing fans will recognize a number of familiar names as well. Chad Brown, Todd Pletcher, Steve Asmussen, and Christophe Clement will continue to run horses through the meet.
DHP trainer tool has the following trainers rated good or great at Belmont.
Claude “Shug” McGaughey