The Belmont is a great spot for long shots. Time and again we see horses pay at really solid prices here. It leads to nice win prices and some especially juicy exotics. Even though Exaggerator clearly seems like the class of the field, it's worth our time and effort to look deeper for horses that could pull off an upset at big prices, or at least be a part of the exotics and boost the payouts that will be somewhat deflated by Exaggerator's favoritism and huge public appeal. Here are three Belmont live long shots this year. Unfortunately, I'm not dabbling in the realm of the truly big prices - horses like Trojan Nation just don't do anything for me, even as memories of Sarava and his win at 70/1 are burned into my brain.
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Creator: The Kentucky Derby was a total disaster for this horse. He endured a whole lot of contact - some caused by him - and it zapped him of his will to run. Instead of dwelling on that, though, I'm willing just to pretend it never happened and move on.
That leaves me with four things to like, then. First, I was really impressed with his Arkansas Derby win. He made a dynamic move through some pretty serious traffic, and when he got the lead he showed no interest in slowing down. He knew he was going to win. He also beat a pretty decent field there, including Suddenbreakingnews, who is going off at a price a quarter of what Creator is in this race. Second, the horse has shown a little versatility in terms of running closer to the pace if he needs to. He has been a deep closer his last three races but was further forward a couple of times earlier. Third, I like the breeding. Tapit sired Belmont winner Tonalist, so we know he is capable. Both Creator's dam and damsire won at the rare and significant distance of a mile and three-eighths. Couple Tapit's precociousness with plenty of stamina on his dame side and you have a horse that could like this challenge better than some seem to think. Fourth, we have a truly great jockey change. Ricardo Santana Jr. had been on him six of nine starts, including the last four. He's a decent jockey but not a spectacular one at the higher levels of the sport, and his ride in the Derby was a hot mess. Irad Ortiz Jr. takes over here. He is based in New York, so he knows how to win on this tough and unique track very well. He's also one of the most talented and hottest riders in the country. He just plain makes this horse better. Fifth, and perhaps most importantly, Gettysburg has been entered as a rabbit with his primary job being to set the race up for Creator. That increases the chances of him getting the race he needs - it worked perfectly when a similar strategy was employed in the Arkansas Derby, which Creator won.
Add all those factors up and if he goes off at anywhere near the 25/1 price he sits at in futures pools at Bovada there will be mountains of value in him - especially lower down in the exotics. Unfortunately, his morning line odds for the race are at just 10/1 - things seemed too good to be true, and they were.
The Pletcher Duo: We are admittedly stretching the term long shot a bit here, but both Stradivari (12/1) and Destin (14/1) are well into the double digits in futures betting at Bovada, and with the heavy favorite in Exaggerator soaking up so much money there is a decent chance that they will stay in the double-digit territory. In a Triple Crown race a horse that pays more than $20 to win is a long shot in my books.
There is a lot to like about both of these horses. For starters, while Todd Pletcher is a major liability in the Derby, in the Belmont he has actually done well - winning twice and finishing second four times with just 20 career starts. He also has long owned racing in New York, so he knows this track well. His two jockeys here - Javier Castellano and John Velazquez - know Belmont as well as anyone and will have their horses where they need to be. Stradivari was a disappointing fourth in the Preakness, but he was so uncomfortable early on in that race that I am willing to toss it out. He's a fast horse who hopefully won't be forced to go to fast early on. He could set the pace, but my hope is that he finds someone to sit behind for the first six furlongs at a decent pace before starting out on his own. If he can do that then he'll be tough to beat. Destin was a big disappointment in the Derby, and I am a bit concerned by how he flattened out late and gave up some of the ground he had gained around the final turn. He needed that race for seasoning after a too-long break between races, though, and I really like how he has trained since. These two would represent nice value at these prices or close to them.
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