Belmont Stakes Odds 2015: 10 Betting Tips from Handicapping Expert
Other than the Run for the Roses, the Belmont Stakes (G1) can be one of the trickiest races for horseplayers to handicap all year.
A group of relatively lightly raced three-year-olds will be tested at 1 ½ miles, a distance none have travelled and likely never will again.
For American Pharoah, it will be his third race in just a five-week span, and five others they come into the race with a five-week break after getting defeated in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Will it be a Triple Crown or another upset in the making?
Here are a few betting tips if you are planning on firing up the wagering account or heading out to the racetrack for a little wagering. Or maybe a lot of wagering.
Post Position Not a Factor
With the potential of a 20-horse field in the Kentucky Derby, the post position draws offers up some drama, as It is not great to draw an outside post and really not good to draw the rail at Churchill Downs.
However, when it comes to the Belmont Stakes, post position is not a factor. There is a long enough run to the first turn, and with the race at 1 ½ miles, there is plenty of time to get into a good position before turning into the stretch.
It will be even less of a factor with a field of eight lining up. Last year’s winner Tonalist broke out of the 11-post, and two years ago Palace Malice won out of the 12-hole.
Trainer Bob Baffert was not concerned at all with the five-post for the favorite American Pharoah. "I don't really think it's a horrible post position," Baffert said per Jeremy Balan of Blood Horse. "I've always liked the 5. It's one I've had good luck with. The main thing is that the horse is doing well. I think that's the most important thing."
Look for a Long-Winded Pedigree
It’s common knowledge that horses are not bred as sturdily as they were a few generations ago, and tend to be bred more for speed than stamina.
The Belmont Stakes is contested at 1 ½ miles, a distance none of the participants have run and most likely will never run again.
Tonalist had one of the most long-winded pedigrees last year, which served him well. He is by Tapit out of a Pleasant Colony mare. The 2009 winner Summer Bird’s sire Birdstone was a Belmont Stakes winner. Rags to Riches, the 2007 Belmont winner, was sired by A.P. Indy, who won the race in 1992.
In this year’s race, Materiality is sired by Belmont winner Afleet Alex, and Keen Ice has a solid pedigree, by two-time Horse of the Year Curlin.
American Pharoah’s sire Pioneerof the Nile ran second in the Kentucky Derby while his dam side does not offer a ton of stamina, but his talent seems to supersede his pedigree.
“Like his rivals at Belmont Park, his pedigree is ill-suited to the anachronistic distances of 1 ½ miles on dirt,” wrote Andy Beyer of the Daily Racing Form. “That’s why the Belmont Stakes has become such an unpredictable race – even when the field includes a superior talent trying to win the Triple Crown."
Stalking Running Style the Key
The Belmont Stakes is the longest of the Triple Crown races, and there is a misconception that horses come from the clouds to win the race because of the long distance.
Actually, over the last 29 runnings, only two winners have been deep closers. In addition, just two of the winners took the field gate to wire for the victory.
The best running style tends to be from horses that sit close to the pace, within several lengths of the leader in the early going. Stalkers account for 17 of the last 29 winners, according to the Triple Crown Handicapper.
While American Pharoah took the Preakness field gate to wire, he showed in the Kentucky Derby and Arkansas Derby he can stalk the leader. He has the ability to adapt to the pace scenario, which will give jockey Victor Espinoza options if the unexpected happens.
Focus on Kentucky Derby and Skip Preakness Angle
One of the reasons we have gone such a long time without a Triple Crown winner is horses that exit the Kentucky Derby often skip the Preakness Stakes and come back to race in the Belmont Stakes with a five-week break.
In six of the last dozen years, the Belmont Stakes winner was beaten in the Derby, skipped the Preakness and won the Belmont Stakes.
This year there are five such horses that will take on American Pharoah, who returns off just a three-week break.
Those five are Frosted, Materiality, Mubtaahij, Frammento and Keen Ice.
In fact, we have to go all the way back to 2005 to find the last Belmont Stakes winner that competed in the Preakness Stakes. Afleet Alex was third in the Kentucky Derby before taking the final two jewels of the Triple Crown.
Betting Favorites Struggle in Belmont
Betting favorites have fared below average over the past three decades in the Belmont Stakes, winning just five times, according to the Triple Crown Handicapper by Jim Mazur.
The last betting favorite to win the Belmont was Afleet Alex back in 2005, the colt returning $4.30 for a $2 wager. That is nine straight betting favorites not getting the job done in the third jewel of the Triple Crown.
California Chrome came up short last year at odds of 4-5. Big Brown saw his Triple Crown bid go up in flames in 2008 at odds of just 1-5.
The Belmont can be an unpredictable race, which will make some horseplayers think twice about backing this year’s favorite, who is currently at betting odds of 5-7 at Odds Shark.
Baffert and Espinoza Bring the Experience Factor
American Pharoah is going to be a short price as the betting favorite, but if we are going to take a chalky price, it is comforting knowing the experience factor is in the colt’s corner.
Baffert is a Hall of Fame trainer who will be making his fourth attempt at the Triple Crown. His three previous bids came up short, with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002) each losing the Belmont Stakes.
However, Silver Charm was beaten by less than a length, Real Quiet was beaten a whisker and War Emblem stumbled badly coming out of the gate.
Espinoza was aboard War Emblem for Baffert and was fourth aboard California Chrome last year in his Triple Crown bid.
Pletcher Runners Will Be in the Mix
Trainer Todd Pletcher will send out two viable contenders in Saturday’s race. Materiality won the Florida Derby and was a troubled sixth in the Kentucky Derby.
Madefromlucky missed the first two jewels of the Triple Crown and was an impressive winner of the Peter Pan Stakes (G2) in his last outing. Last year’s Belmont winner Tonailst came in off a win in the Peter Pan.
Pletcher not only has a pair of Belmont wins (Rags to Riches in 2007 and Palace Malice in 2013), he has run second four times including last year with 28-1 long shot Commissioner, who was beaten in a photo.
His other runner-up finishers were Stay Thirsty (2011), Dunkirk (2009) and Bluegrass Cat (2006). In addition, toss in thirds by Ready’s Echo (2008) and Sunriver (2006).
Pletcher has a poor record with his Derby runners, usually skips the Preakness and tends to have his horses ready to fire in the Belmont.
No Triple Crown? Look for a Bomb
If horseplayers decide to avoid playing the chalky American Pharoah, it might be a good idea to look at an improbable runner at a big price.
When a Triple Crown gets derailed, the tote board lights up. Last year Tonalist returned $20.40 while California Chrome had to settle for fourth.
In 2008 Big Brown was eased in the stretch and the winner was Da’ Tara, who took the field gate to wire and returned his backers $79.00. Birdstone ran past Smarty Jones, who was 2-5, and paid a hefty $74.00.
War Emblem’s Triple Crown bid was over after he stumbled out of the gate and the winner was Sarava, who returned a record $142.50 for the win.
If we do not see a Triple Crown, there is hope long-shot players will make a score.
Be a Smart Bettor
While some horseplayers go overboard for the big races, this year’s Belmont Stakes is not the greatest betting race unless you want to take a stand against the favorite.
However, there are 13 races on the card at Belmont Park over the program, which lasts nearly nine hours. If you want to make money, it takes preparation and strategy.
Most importantly, plan your wagers and which betting pools you are going to wager into. There is a wide variety of wagers, everything from basic win, place and show bets to a Pick 6 that has a guaranteed pool of $1.5 million.
Along with trifectas and superfectas on every race, several Pick 4 wagers and a Pick 5 with a $300,000 guaranteed pool, the wagering opportunities are nearly endless.
Plan your wagering strategy ahead of time, and it could keep your bankroll in the black.
Look for Drought to End
37 years is a very long time to go without a drink. Can we really be talking about American Pharoah on Saturday joining the ranks of greats like War Admiral, Seattle Slew and Secretariat?
Will the Racing Gods finally make it an even dozen Triple Crown winners?
We are long overdue, and all indications are American Pharoah is coming into the Belmont Stakes in good form and has not lost his edge in the three weeks since his impressive win in the Preakness Stakes.
The race shape sets up for him, as he should be on or near the early lead, and the chance of him getting a bad trip seems very unlikely.
The colt has a Hall of Fame trainer making his fourth bid at a Triple Crown and a seasoned jockey trying for the third time.
All systems are go that we could see history on Saturday in the Big Apple.
Previous Triple Crown odds via Equibase
Belmont Stakes odds via Odds Shark
Follow Michael Dempsey on twitter @turfnsport