Let’s make hay at the Big A

There are really only two ways to approach the shift in racing from the cavernous confines of Belmont Park to what would resemble a racing factory if there ever was one, New York City’s racetrack, Aqueduct.  You could lament the better racing days gone by and seek sunnier skies and classier horses for the fall, winter, and spring.  Or, as I know I will do, you can embrace the change in scenery by capitalizing on what racing at Aqueduct offers. 

In order to get a fresh look at some of the nuances of racing at Aqueduct I was lucky enough to ask a few questions of NYRA handicapper Andy Serling, whose interaction with the public has reached new heights in recent months.  In addition to co-hosting Talking Horses daily and previewing every race, Andy often updates his twitter page at twitter.com/andyserling and was available for a live chat last Friday evening on nyra.com.  The following is a transcript of my questions and his answers: 

Nick Tammaro: In last year’s Fall meet a staggering 59.7% of dirt races were won by horses with the ‘P’ pace designation (either first or second at the pace call).  Are you more inclined to give horses who might have a pace advantage a longer look at Aqueduct than you would at Belmont?

Andy Serling: Not unless I strongly believe there is an inherent bias on that given day. I analyze all races in a vacuum, essentially, to try to figure out the dynamics of that particular race, unless I am dealing with a reasonably certain bias.

NT: In terms of trip handicapping, what do you believe are the types of trips that you must take note of at Aqueduct that might not matter so much, specifically on the main track?

AS: That’s a tough question to answer as situations vary. I don’t have hard and fast rules. I will say that I often disagree with people about what are perceived to be bad trips as, in my opinion, you have to take everything that happened during the race into account, and not just an isolated incident.

NT: The word “bias” is going to be tossed around more with regard to NY racing than it is at any other point during the year.  What are the essential elements to determining that a given day had a bias in your opinion?

AS: Biases are determined when horses overachieve while taking advantage of the bias and conversely horses underachieve when against the bias. I don’t jump to conclusions on biases. Most tracks, at least in NY, are even. Race flow is the biggest determinent…..not the racetrack.

NT: Do you believe the Aqueduct turf plays to a certain type of runner? 

AS: No. Unless a turf course gets very firm, or hard, which rarely happens at Aqueduct, I find the surface to play fairly with, once again, dynamics the biggest determing factor.

NT: How do you plan to approach the large number of horses coming out of turf sprints going long on the grass at Aqueduct?  Granted they are treated individually but what about horses making up ground going 6 or 7 furlongs now going a mile or a mile and a sixteenth.

AS: I believe turf sprints live in a bubble, so to speak, and horses that are effective in them, especially at 6F or less, rarely transfer those talents when going longer. The ” a closer in a sprint wants to go longer ” adage is probably even less correct in regards to turf races than dirt if that’s even possible.

NT: How influential do you believe 2YO Maiden Special Weight races are at Aqueduct vs. the same type of races throughout the summer and fall?  We’ve seen many good 2YOs debut and break their maidens at Aqueduct in the fall including 2009 Grade I winners Quality Road, Flashing, and Gozzip Girl.

AS: The 2YO MSW races on the main track at Aqueduct in the Fall are some of our most competitive, if not the most competitive, of the year. With people taking, seemingly, longer and longer to get their 2YOs ready every year, we often see some good horses, and competitive full fields during this five week period.

NT: Does Ramon Dominguez collect another easy riding title?

AS: Easy would be unfair to Ramon. Plus, he hardly crushed at either Saratoga or this past Fall at Belmont. But, he is the deserving favorite.

I’d like to thank Andy for taking the time to answer some questions as far as some of the finer points of making money betting the races from Aqueduct. 

As far as racing on the national landscape we are now less than 48 hours away from seeing the pre-entries for the Breeders’ Cup and the DRF Breeders’ Cup Advance Edition will be available on Wednesday evening.  There have been no significant developments in the news save the announcement from Bob Baffert that champion filly Indian Blessing will not run in the Filly & Mare Sprint.  The reports from Santa Anita regarding workouts by Summer Bird and Regal Ransom were extremely positive and you are certain to hear many more rave reviews between now and November 6.

Since Aqueduct was the focal point of this entry I’ll leave you with a replay of the crown jewel of the fall meet, the Cigar Mile, the 2008 edition.


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