08/11/2006 12:00AM

Bettor's guide to Spa track profiles


SARATOGA, SPRINGS, N.Y. - With 13 days of result charts from Saratoga in the books, from opening day July 26 through Thursday, Aug. 10, it's a good time to get a handle on how horses have been winning at the various distances on the main track and turf courses. What handicappers want to know is whether there are any consistent requirements in terms of where a horse has to be at the pace call - the three-eighths call in sprints shorter than six furlongs; the half-mile call in sprints from six to seven furlongs; and the six-furlong call in routes up to 1 3/16 miles.

Five furlongs: Only four short dashes for the 2-year-olds so far. Not surprisingly, two winners already had the lead at the pace call, and another was one length behind. The Bobby Frankel-trained Temecula Creek was seven lengths behind after three-eighths, and won clearly after Elusive Value sprinted off to a long lead and stopped.

Five and a half furlongs: More than two-thirds of the winners at this more commonly run short-sprint distance were in the thick of things early, with 11 of 15 winners either on the lead or less than two lengths from the lead at the pace call.

Six furlongs: Tactical speed has enjoyed its usual advantage through the first 27 races. Twenty winners were first, second or third at the pace call; only two winners were more than three lengths off the pace after the opening half-mile.

Six and a half or seven furlongs: In the long sprints, it has been possible to make up considerable ground, provided the closers get a contested pace up front. From a dozen sprints out of the chute, four winners were able to make up eight- to 11-length deficits at the pace call. Among them were Awesome Twist, who is headed to the Forego Handicap after a last-to-first win over 2005 De Francis Memorial winner I'm the Tiger, who had dueled through a half in 44.67 seconds; Court Folly, who was last in a field of four before running down 1-10 favorite Songster, who had cut a 44.38 half in the Amsterdam Stakes; and Swap Fliparoo, who was last of 13 early, 10th at the pace call, and came through on the rail to win the Test, which featured a 44.67 first half and a final furlong in a dreadfully slow 14.10 seconds.

A mile and an eighth: Positional speed has been vital in the two-turn routes. Of 17 route winners, 14 either led or were within two lengths of the lead at the pace call.

Turf sprints: Eight sprints on the Mellon (outer) course at 5 1/2 furlongs have not shown a set pattern. Four winners led or were head-and-head for the lead at the pace call, two others were two to three lengths from the lead, and two were deep closers.

A mile and a sixteenth, outer turf: Stalkers have done the best - five of seven winners were within a length of the lead at the pace call. Only one winner, the 2-year-old Admiral Bird, was more than three lengths from the lead at that point.

A mile and an eighth or a mile and three-sixteenths, outer turf: The profile shifts abruptly in the longer routes. Not one of the eight winners was within a length of the lead at the pace call. Five were running fifth or worse, and three deep closers overcame deficits ranging from seven to 15 lengths.

One mile, inner turf: Fair to all styles, with a mix of speed, stalkers, and closers winning the 10 races. The crucial requirement is a decent post and inside position with a short run to the clubhouse turn.

A mile and a sixteenth, inner turf: Early speed has done exceptionally well, with eight of the nine winners leading or within two lengths of the lead at the pace call. The lone exception was Magnificent Song, the last-to-first winner of the Lake George Stakes.

A mile and an eighth, inner turf: Only three races so far, won by a speed horse, a stalker, and a closer.

A mile and three-eighths, inner turf: Provincetown was left as the lone speed when True Crimson ran off prior to the start of last Sunday's opener, and set an extremely slow pace to wire the field.

Day-to-day trends on the main track

July 26 - Gold rail; inside speed advantaged.
July 27 - Off-the-pace types fared much better on day 2.
July 28 - Outside paths appeared best after mid-afternoon rain.
July 31 - Edge to stalkers and closers.
Aug. 3 - Edge to early speed and stalkers.
Aug. 4 - Very good rail.
Aug. 9 - Edge to stalkers positioned outside.