Handicappers break down the race
Hey, it’s early – even for over-prepared horseplayers – as we go to press Tuesday night before the Belmont Stakes, but we’ve got handicapping opinions from some of the best in the business. For more up-to-date information – and opinions – check out thisishorseracing.com.
First off, the race revolves around Justify. He’s undefeated in five starts. He’s going for the Triple Crown. He’s already beaten most of Saturday’s opponents. He’s also fast enough to dictate or press the pace and will be in a comfortable position early.
He’ll also be 2-5 or even shorter on the tote board, which means the odds really aren’t in your favor if you’re trying to get something other than a souvenir win ticket.
So, how do you make money betting the 2018 Belmont Stakes? You look for value and hope for a big upset or you find a longshot to key with Justify in exacta, trifecta and superfecta wagers.
Our group delivered some opinions before Tuesday’s post-position draw. Here’s to watching one of the world’s greatest sporting events – and to cashing a few tickets.
Director of marketing for brisnet.com the official data source of twinspires.com, he was a writer and editor at Thoroughbred Times magazine for nine years. He grew up going to Thistledown racetrack with his grandfather. DeRosa’s favorite horses are Real Quiet, Ghostzapper and Rachel Alexandra. Find him at twinspires.com.
Wagering on this year’s Belmont Stakes is not about whether Justify will win the Triple Crown but rather correctly identifying which longshot will perform best on June 9 at Belmont Park.
It was a strategy that paid great dividends in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, as Justify won both races as the favorite but keyed tremendous payoffs in the Derby superfecta ($19,000 with Instilled Regard fourth) and in the Preakness trifecta (147-1 with 2-5 Justify on top of Bravazo and Tenfold with Good Magic off the board).
As a win bet proposition, I don’t love Justify at even money to win the Belmont Stakes, but it’s impossible to ignore that he doesn’t have to lose for there to be value in exotic wagers such as the aforementioned trifecta (top three finishers) and superfecta (top four finishers).
My key horse will be Blended Citizen, who won the Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park in March before faltering in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in April in a bid to qualify for the Kentucky Derby field. Trainer Doug O’Neill opted for Belmont Park’s Peter Pan instead of the Preakness Stakes, and the horse responded with his first win on dirt. He can get a similar trip as Birdstone did when upsetting Smarty Jones in the 2004 Belmont Stakes. I will play him across the board (win, place AND show) as well as keyed with Justify, Hofburg, Bravazo, and Tenfold in exotic wagers.
Managing editor of thisishorseracing.com and The Saratoga Special – and the winner of this year’s Joe Hirsch Award for the best Belmont Stakes story of 2017 – Law has been a racing fan and handicapper since his youth in Saratoga Springs. When he’s not winning writing awards, he picks out gems like Battle Of Midway ($30.40) at the Breeders’ Cup.
The most obvious statement of the year is that the Belmont Stakes goes through Justify – he’s the controlling speed and if he needs to be, he’s the tracking speed. That said, this year’s Belmont is a prime opportunity to make money if you don’t think Justify will get there and if you can come up with the winner.
The race is somewhat similar to 2004, when Smarty Jones possessed all the tools –cruising speed and the ability to rate if he needed to – but ran into a rival a bit better suited to the 12 furlongs with a rider very familiar with Belmont. So, who is the Birdstone of this year’s Belmont? Figure that out and you might walk away with a nice chunk of change.
Justify won the Derby and Preakness getting the jump on his rivals as a superior gate horse and thanks to his high cruising speed. He will take the field as long as he can last and expect him to be in front with a half-mile to run. Bravazo and Tenfold will most likely try to make the first runs at him but should come up short coming off their best career efforts. Todd Pletcher’s entrants pose challenges for Justify off five weeks’ rest and are right at home at Belmont. Blended Citizen looked like a Belmont horse training at Keeneland and Churchill, and won the key prep in the Peter Pan four weeks ago. He’s one of two upset possibilities with Hofburg.
The picks: Justify, Blended Citizen, Hofburg, Vino Rosso.
A handicapper for The Saratoga Special daily newspaper each summer, Shapazian is a longtime horseplayer and one of the best in the business. He’s won the Saratoga meet for years with The Special, and annually ranks among the top public handicappers at the upstate track. Beyond that, he’s a retired college professor who splits his time between Florida and Ballston Spa.
Horses that are going for the Triple Crown tend to get overbet in the Belmont. I think many horseplayers like to say, “I had the Triple Crown winner” even though it only pays $2.60. Many players believe that the Belmont favors closers because of the mile-and-a-half distance. False, horses that are on or near the pace usually win.
I always thought that New York connections did not like the fact that a non-New York based horse might win the Belmont. Remember what happened to Smarty Jones and others. Obviously, American Pharoah was clearly the best of that generation of 3 year olds.
My advice, if you are looking to play against Justify, is to look for a lightly race colt who has shown some ability to be up close in the early going, and maybe, just maybe, may show some courage and bring down the big prize.
This year, that description fits several horses – most notably Hofburg, Noble Indy, Tenfold and Vino Rosso.
OK, lets be realistic, if Justify shows up with his A game, A- game or B+ game the race is over, he wins. But if he does not, the probability of him coming in second is about the same as him not hitting the board. If you are playing an exacta, trifecta or superfecta, either you put Justify on top or not use him at all.