Tonalist Odds to Win the 2014 Belmont Stakes
by Trevor Whenham - 5/27/2014
Tonalist is looking to crash the party, beat all the horses with prior Triple Crown experience, and win the Belmont Stakes in just his fifth career start and second stakes outing. He's an impressive-looking and obviously talented horse, but can Tonalist win the Belmont? More significantly for bettors, what are Tonalist's odds to win the Belmont, and do they offer any value? Let's take a look at that, and at four other factors that will help us decide whether this is a horse worth betting on:
Tonalist's odds to win the 2014 Belmont Stakes: Oddsmakers love the prospect of a new and shiny toy at this stage in the Triple Crown trail, and Tonalist fits the bill on that front here. Sportsbook.ag has him at +700 to win the race, which means that he is the third choice behind only California Chrome and Ride On Curlin - the two runners who have appeared in more Triple Crown races than Tonalist has stakes starts. Given the strength of the last win, and the fact that it happened at Belmont, I wouldn't at all be surprised if he were to wind up as the second favorite. I don't think he should be, but logic and Triple Crown betting are rarely friends.
Race experience: The lack of experience is a big knock against this horse - he has run only four times and just once in stakes company. He made his debut in November, but he didn't break his maiden until his second outing in January at Gulfstream. Then it was a second-place showing in an allowance at Gulfstream followed by a break before his stakes debut the week after the Kentucky Derby at Belmont in the Peter Pan. It was an impressive performance - he took a big early lead, held it throughout, and still had enough left to kick away and win by daylight. It obviously has bettors excited, but there is real cause for concern as well - the track was muddy that day, so that could have added to his advantage, setting the pace isn't as attractive in the Belmont as it can be in shorter races, just one stakes outing means he is in for a shock heading into the circus that Belmont day will surely be, and so on. Add it all up, and two things seem evident - he's a talented and promising horse, and he is likely to get far too much attention from bettors given all that is working against him, so there won't be any value to be had. In that sense he reminds me a lot of Social Inclusion in the Preakness - another lightly-raced stunning talent who inspired the public but didn't have a huge base of experience to pull from.
Breeding: There is some decent breeding here - not perfect, but solid. His sire is Tapit, which seems to be a requirement for the Triple Crown this year given how many Tapit sons were in the Derby. He has yet to convince me that he can produce winners at the Classic distance and beyond, but he certainly is producing classy horses. Tonalist's damsire is Pleasant Colony, and that is very fitting given the circumstances here this year. Pleasant Colony won the Derby and the Preakness is 1981 just as California Chrome has done this year. He finished third in his Belmont attempt in a race in which he gave a valiant effort despite coming up short. As a sire he produced some very nice horses that won over longer distances.
Jockey: Joel Rosario has given this horse an early vote of confidence. Rosario rode Ride On Curlin in the Preakness, and the two looked very comfortable together en route to a strong second-place showing. Staying on that horse would have been the path of least resistance, but Rosario wasted little time in committing to Tonalist - a horse he had ridden last time out in the Peter Pan Stakes. There is more to that than just the horse - Rosario rides other horses for Clement and doesn't want to risk that relationship - but he still wouldn't have made the jump if he didn't feel that Tonalist was at least as competitive as his former mount.
It feels odd to see Christophe Clement on the Triple Crown trail. It's not that he isn't a great trainer - you don't win nearly 1,500 career races by
fluke. It's just that when I think of him I think of turf horses and older horses that have been patiently and skillfully developed, not precocious
three-year-olds who are asked to do a lot early in their careers. Given his involvement with the horse, it shouldn't be a real surprise that he has only
raced four times in his career or that he wasn't ready for the Kentucky Derby. The advantage Clemente brings to this challenge is that because he has had
such success on the turf and with older horses, he is used to training horses to face longer tests, and developing stamina is well within his skill set.
That should come in handy here and at least makes up for some of the challenges of the lack of Triple Crown experience.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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