2014 Belmont Stakes Betting Trends and Handicapping
by Trevor Whenham - 5/22/2014
For the first time since 2008 we head into the Belmont Stakes on the verge of a potential Triple Crown. When trying to find a winner and a road to profit betting on the race, these Belmont trends will help to point you in the right direction:
Triple Crown attempts
History has not been kind to horses attempting to win the Triple Crown since 1978 when it last happened. In other words, California Chrome has a lot of history to overcome to make history.
California Chrome makes an even dozen - he's the 12th horse to win the Preakness and the Belmont since 1979. Ten of the 11 failed to win the Belmont, and two years ago I'll Have Another didn't start in the race. Some have come close - I was sure Real Quiet was going to take the win, and Smarty Jones and Silver Charm looked strong in the stretch as well. For a combination of factors, though - the distance, the pressure, the fact that every horse is out to beat you, the fresher horses, the huge test of racing more in five weeks than horses often race in three months these days, and so on - the previous 10 contenders have not been able to make it all the way.
I'm confident that we will have another Triple Crown winner - likely more than one - but the failure of some very good horses to get it done shows just how hard it is. And it also shows how big the task in front of California Chrome really is.
Iron horses do not rule
As a horse racing purist, I love few things more than an iron horse - a horse that runs in all three legs of the Triple Crown. That's how it is supposed to be - the true test. It doesn't happen very much these days, though, and for good reason - it doesn't lead to wins in the Belmont.
Afleet Alex in 2005 was the last horse to win the Belmont after running in the first two legs. Last year the iron horses did better than usual - Oxbow was second after his Preakness win, and Orb was third after winning the Derby.
This year there are just two horses looking to earn iron horse status. California Chrome obviously qualifies, and so does Ride On Curlin, who made up for a disappointing Derby thanks to a horrible ride from Calvin Borel to finish a strong second in the Preakness.
Some experience is better than no experience
While running in both prior legs of the Triple Crown has not served horses well in the last decade, horses that have run in at least one prior race have done much better than horses that come into this race without prior Belmont experience.
Last year Palace Malice finished 12th in the Derby, took the Preakness off, and then returned to win the Belmont. That marked the 15th time in the last 20 years that the winner had run at least once in the Derby or Preakness. Another winner, Rags to Riches in 2007, hadn't run in a previous Triple Crown race, but winning the Kentucky Oaks in front of over 100,000 people the day before the Derby is as close as you can get.
There are a number of reasons to explain this trend - a smaller number of new invaders than repeat runners many years; horses that haven't run in a Triple Crown race haven't run as far as Triple Crown runners, so the distance is less familiar; the horses likely were slow to mature or weren't talented enough or they would have been entered in the Derby; and so on.
Longshots pay off
When Palace Malice won the Belmont last year he paid $29.60 on a $2 bet to win. While that was a nice price to have, it was actually lower than we have seen several times before in recent years. When Ruler on Ice won the year before at 25/1, it was the seventh time in 17 years that a horse had come in at odds of at least 25/1. Needless to say, that is far beyond expectations and way beyond what we see over the normal course of races. In those same 17 years we have seen just two Belmont favorites win - well under the one-in-three winning rate that favorites have established over the long term in racing.
This is all just another way to say what should be clear by now - this is a very tough race to win and a challenging one to handicap.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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