All distance races are not created equal.
Especially when you have a massive mile-and-a-half oval such as Belmont Park.
With such a long backstretch, races at a mile and a sixteenth and mile and an eighth are contested at a one-turn distance. Most tracks, including fellow New York tracks Aqueduct, Saratoga Race Course, and Finger Lakes, run those races around two turns.
That might seem like a minor difference, but it’s not. The early fractions in those one-turn races are generally faster than the two turn races, putting a strain on horses who run on or near the lead.
That’s why some horses who compete at route distances might thrive at Saratoga and Aqueduct but fizzle out at Belmont.
A good example of that phenomenon was offered in the second race on Aug. 1 at Saratoga through the victorious Giant Ending.
From July through November of 2017, the 4-year-old filly ran seven times at Finger Lakes in maiden and allowance races, all at two-turn distances of one mile and 40 yards or more. She finished first or second five times in those seven starts.
Then in December, she was shipped to Aqueduct where she was dropped into claimers and ran in three dirt races at a one-turn mile, one turf race around two turns at a mile, and a dirt race at a one-turn mile at Belmont Park.
In those races, she had a second and a third.
Prior to the Aug. 1 race, she was third at Belmont in a $16,000 claiming race at a one-turn mile while chasing an opening half-mile in a quick 46.65 seconds. The half-mile fraction in her last Finger Lakes race was 49.61 seconds.
At Saratoga, she was again entered in a $16,000 claimer, but this time at a two-turn, 1 1/8-mile distance.
Around two turns, Giant Ending was able to relax and track in fourth behind a 49.64 seconds opening half-mile. That left plenty of late speed in her tank and she was able to wear down the front-running My Girl Annie in the final furlong and post a 3 ¼-lenth victory at 5-1 odds.
The reward for backing her was $13.40 for a $2 win bet and a valuable lesson in noting the differences between one-turn and two-turn races at a mile or more.