Guest post by Bill Peterson
There are two surfaces that Aqueduct races are run on other than the turf course. They are known as the Main Track and the Inner Track. The main track is used during the season when the weather is more clement while the inner track becomes the venue when winter weather sets in. To seasoned handicappers the switch is an important event and marks the beginning of the winter racing season, regardless of what the calendar may say.
For people who are handicapping the races and trying to pick some winners, there are some important differences between racing on one or the other. The inner track, because it is contained within the outer or main track, is smaller meaning tighter turns. This favors early speed and the inside post positions most of the time.
The old saying, “horses for courses,” rings true at Aqueduct. There are horses who race well over the main track but who don’t fare as well on the winter surface. Then again, there are horses who race well on the inner track, preferring the speed and rail bias to the more sweeping turns of the main track. One of the things to look for when handicapping the races at the “Big A,” is horses who are returning to the inner track after some poor performances, but who show success on the inner track in the past. The switch to the inside may help to move these types forward.
The same, of course, is true of horses who have been racing well and are now switching.
When handicapping maidens it is particularly important to look for blazing early speed if they are moving to the winter surface. They may have faded when on the usual surface but will be able to carry their speed farther on the speed favoring track. When I am looking for winners at Aqueduct I pay more attention to running style and fractional times for the first quarter mile and half mile marks.
Horses with a big advantage in those two categories often build such a lead that the chasers can’t catch them. The winter surface is often sealed because of inclement weather and that may account for the speed bias. Whatever the case may be, if you ignore speed in the winter time at the Big A, you’ll get burned.
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