This is not exactly the dream Belmont scenario this year. The Derby winner is on the sidelines, the prospective field is not hugely impressive, and at this point there is a shocking lack of early pace, so the large number of closers in the field are going to have to make tough choices and take big risks. It is certainly not going to be the easiest race you have ever bet on.
To come out on top in a race like this you need to have a strategy, and you need to focus on making great decisions and avoiding costly mistakes. To help you in that regard here are four things to concentrate on when figuring out how to bet on the Belmont this year:
Take a stand on Exaggerator: As has been the case in the two previous years with California Chrome and American Pharoah we are going to have a very heavy favorite in this race. Exaggerator won the Preakness and was highly-regarded even before then. With Nyquist gone he's the obvious class of this field by a wide margin.
There are some nice horses returning to the Triple Crown after running in the Derby, and Cherry Wine will return after his solid second in the Preakness, but there is no other horse that will come close to capturing the public imagination like Exaggerator will. When we have such a strong favorite we only have two choices - we can either bet him and only him to win straight up and in our exotics, or we can look to beat him and leave him out of our win considerations entirely.
With his low price there is no middle ground - we can't afford to bet Exaggerator and other horses up top if we hope to wind up with profits if the favorite wins. In your gut you either believe in the horse or you don't, so now is the time you have to act on that belief - after doing some handicapping to make sure your belief makes sense, of course.
Map out the race in your mind: This is crucially important in any race, but especially in a race this brutally tough. You can't have a true expectation of any single horse in a race until you have an idea of how the race is going to play out. Which horses will be leading early on? Will the pace be fast or slow? Are there closers in the field? Will they get the early pace they need? Does your vision of the race give a particular horse a big edge or is it a big disadvantage for a horse? Would different track conditions affect one horse positively or negatively?
This is going to be a very tough thing to do this year. As it currently stands there are a whole lot of horses that will want to be well off the pace early on and no horse that clearly wants to set the pace. One way or the other, then, several horses will have to do something here that they aren't likely comfortable with.
Watch the 'other' horses: When there is one horse that will be this heavily bet the odds of the other horses are going to be high and often higher than they probably should be. The odds might suggest that many of the horses have little chance. There are some winners of nice prep races here, though.
The Belmont has also had a habit of providing big paydays - in the last two decades seven horses have won at 25/1 or more. It can be easy in a race like this to assume that the favorite is unbeatable, but that obviously isn't necessarily the case.
Be sure to look for value in all spots, not just where the public is looking.
Look beyond the Belmont: The Belmont is the highest-profile race on the card, but there are plenty of good and important races on the schedule. It is often a good idea to look beyond just the Triple Crown race and to seek out profits in multi-race bets like the pick three or pick four. This is especially the case if you are a big believer in Exaggerator - multi-race bets can be a great way to find nice profits when dealing with a heavy favorite you are confident to single in one race.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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