How to Bet the Belmont Stakes in 2014
by Trevor Whenham - 5/21/2014
Betting the Belmont Stakes is often the easiest challenge of the three Triple Crown races - though that doesn't always mean it is easy. This year it is going to be far, far from easy. First we have to decide whether California Chrome is good enough to do what 11 horses have failed to do since the last Triple Crown winner in 1978 and win his third race in five weeks. Then we have to figure out how we are going to deal with the microscopic odds we'll face betting on him.
Normally we would look at things like horses ability to handle the distance, the expected shape of the race, and so on when trying to figure out how to bet the Belmont. With history on the line, and with such a popular favorite, though, we need to really focus on finding what value there is, and looking for ways to make the profit there is to be made.
Here are six factors to consider when handicapping this race.
Take your stand on Chrome: The first thing we need to do with this race is by far the most important. We have to decide whether we think it's more likely that California Chrome will take his place in history or that he will fall short in this test. With the odds so low for the favorite, we can't really afford to bet on both possibilities - at least not if we want a shot at a decent profit. The side that you take in this debate will go a long way to determining how you approach the race from a betting perspective. If you do like the favorite then you aren't likely to be attracted to betting on him to win, so you'll have to look for other ways to leverage exotic bets to seek a decent return. If you think that he is going to be beat, though, then you can look closer at win betting, and you can also afford to go deeper in your exotic bets because the potential return is much larger.
Watch the odds as they move: When you have such an overwhelming favorite in a pari-mutuel system you need to be very aware of how the lines are moving and what that means for potential returns - and therefore for bet selection. You can't rely on the morning line odds to make your decisions because the actual lines can vary significantly from those. By watching how the futures odds move in the weeks before the race, then how the odds move in early betting action the day before the race, you can make sure that you are making the best decisions possible and give yourself the best chance for success. For example, at the Preakness it became clear as the race drew nearer that Social Inclusion was the clear second choice of bettors and that his odds were going to keep falling. If you liked the horse and didn't factor the odds movement into your bet selection then you likely wound up with a much lower return than you were dreaming of.
Focus your intensity: If you are going to be betting that California Chrome will win the race then you need to decide on one, or at most very few, bet to make and focus on it. It could be a trifecta or a superfecta or really anything else. If Chrome wins then the returns will not be great for any bet, so you can't afford to bet on a whole lot of bets to diversify and hedge your exposure. You can't afford to go wide in your bet selection, and you can't go as deep as you normally would with a given bet, either. You are also better off betting larger amounts on one bet in this case than smaller amounts on several bets - betting a $1 superfecta instead of a series of 10-cent superfectas, for example. That way your potential profit is larger, and the chances that a single lost bet will eat up all your profits are eliminated.
Look at multi-race bets: Depending upon how the rest of the race card shapes up on Belmont day, we might find that multi-race bets - a pick-three or pick-four, for example - might be the best way to find nice value. If you like Chrome then you could use him as a single choice in his race, and that can allow you to keep the costs of the ticket lower or to bet on more combinations in the other races. If a couple of horses come in at decent prices in the other races then you could have a very nice return even if California Chrome wins and pays virtually nothing.
Buy a souvenir just in case:
If you are a big horse racing fan like I am then be sure to invest two dollars in a win ticket on the favorite. Is there a better souvenir for a passionate
horseplayer than a winning bet on a Triple Crown winner? Not for two bucks there isn't.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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