How to Bet the Belmont Stakes in 2013
by Trevor Whenham - 5/30/2013
Betting the Belmont Stakes successfully may be harder than any other race all year — and that’s saying something given how tough it is to cash in on the Kentucky Derby. There are so many different factors that go into the race that you can give yourself a headache trying to figure it all out.
I’m sure you’d like to know how to bet the Belmont Stakes. There are no simple answers, but you are going to give yourself the best chances of success when you consider these four questions. The questions are relevant in any race, but particularly important here.
Can they handle the distance?
The mile and a half distance of the Belmont is very rare in North America — especially on dirt. It is absolutely not something any horse has come close to doing before the Belmont, and it is not a distance most horses tackle at any time in their careers. Horses in North America are typically built to excel over short distances at high speeds. This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Any one of these horses can run the whole distance, but only a few of them can still be moving forward and feeling good by the finish line, and that’s what it takes to win.
You can never truly know how a horse will handle the distance until they do it. There are two ways you can get good clues, though. First, how is their breeding? You don’t have to be a pedigree expert here. Just look at two horses in the pedigree — the sire, or father of the horse, and the damsire, or the maternal grandfather. If those two horses had success running at a mile and a quarter or longer or have had offspring who have, then there is a reasonable chance that this horse will as well. Second, how have they handled distance? Have they had better success and better statistics as races have gotten longer, or were they at their best earlier in their career when races were short?
What is the race going to look like?
There is no bigger factor to the outcome of a race than the pace of that race. This year’s Kentucky Derby is a perfect example. Palace Malice ran away at the front of that race and set up a brutally-fast early pace. In the end, every horse that chased that pace was destroyed by it — Oxbow was the best finisher among the early leaders in sixth. The Top-5 finishers all sat well off the pace early and closed late when the leaders had put it in reverse. Were the best horses at the back? Perhaps — Orb was the deserving favorite — but they certainly were helped by the shape of the race.
The same is true in the Preakness. Oxbow was able to sit on a ridiculously slow early pace because no other horse wanted to get burnt out early and set things up for Orb. Oxbow had a full tank down the stretch and held on well. In both races, the winner was determined by the pace.
When you look at the horses entered in the Belmont this year, you need to decide who you think will set the pace, how fast it will be, who will sit just off the pace, who will be running deep, and so on. Once you have that in mind, you can see which horses will best benefit from that pace. If your pace picture is correct, then your handicapping is very likely to be successful. In the Derby, for example, I didn’t think the early pace would be as fast as it was, but I thought it would be solid. That would set things up well for the closers, and Orb was by far the class of the closers. The pace found the winner, and the payoff was sweet.
How fresh are they?
This is a huge question in this race. Orb, Oxbow and Will Take Charge will enter this race having run in the Derby and Preakness. They could be worn out, but they are also well-seasoned. Revolutionary, Overanalyze, Golden Soul, Palace Malice and Giant Finish all took a break after running in the Derby. Unlimited Budget ran in the Oaks the day before the Derby. The other contenders have taken different paths with different amounts of rest. There is no single approach that is best — horses can win off of tons of rest or very little rest. What you need to figure out is how the horses are handling the rest they have had and whether it improves or diminishes their chances. As much as rest here, you also have to consider the experience they have had and how able they are likely to be to handle the stress and strain of this tough spectacle of a race.
What tactics might we see?
This race sets up in very interesting ways. D. Wayne Lukas will have two horses in the field. Todd Pletcher could have as many as five, with three owned by the same owner. Any time you have multiple horses involved from one barn, you have to consider how they might work together and what tactics they may use. In the Derby I believe that Palace Malice got away from Mike Smith and went way faster than he was supposed to. That being said, I am also confident that Palace Malice was supposed to be up front forcing the early pace to ensure it stayed honest so that the race set up well for two other Pletcher horses — confident pace stalker Verrazano and deep closer Revolutionary. Palace Malice wasn’t an obvious speed horse, but he was the most logical horse to fill that role for Pletcher, and it was to his advantage to have a strong pace.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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