Of all the Triple Crown races, the Belmont Stakes is probably the most “normal” from a betting standpoint. In Louisville, of course, the emphasis is on improvement — a quest horses that are ready to deliver a top effort on the first Saturday in May. In Maryland, the best horse usually triumphs, as evidenced by the phenomenal rate of winning favorites at Old Hilltop.
But in the Big Apple, it’s all about value handicapping — finding the best horse at the best price. Consider some of the recent Belmont winners. Yeah, Point Given, Afleet Alex and American Pharoah were great, but Sarava and Da’ Tara? The two of them never won another race.
Test of the Champion? More like a final exam.
But what about this year’s field? Will it be Da’ Tara/Sarava, Part Deux? Well, let’s take a look at some historical norms and (hopefully) find out.
Belmont Stakes (Grade I)
Where: Belmont Park (Elmont, New York)
Race Distance: 1-1/2 miles (12 furlongs)
- Although it’s called “The Test of the Champion”, recent winners of the Belmont Stakes haven’t exactly reminded racing fans of Nashua or Damascus. Since 1990, Belmont victors have won just 24.8 percent of their subsequent starts (41-165) — after having won 42.7 percent of their races beforehand (91-213).
- A few recent bombs notwithstanding, the Belmont Stakes has actually been relatively formful, as the post time favorite has won 57 of 136 editions of the race in which the odds were recorded (41.9 percent).
- 16 of the last 19 Belmont winners recorded at least two workouts since their last race, producing profits across the board.
- Since 2000, the entrant with the sole best last-race Brisnet speed figure has won the Belmont four times, returning profits across the board.
- Since 1999, only four horses that competed in the Preakness — American Pharoah (2015), Afleet Alex (2005), Point Given (2001) and Justify (last year) —were able to win in New York.
- The Belmont Stakes Brisnet speed figure par is a 107 — a number that none of this year’s entrants will likely match. Surprisingly, however, this doesn’t seem to mean much. Contrary to popular opinion, a field of horses not meeting par doesn’t necessarily lead to higher prices. Using my database of over 6,400 thoroughbred races run from 2003 to present, I found that the average payoff in races featuring one or more horses that met or exceeded the race par in their last start was $12.30. When that was not the case, the average win mutuel was $12.00.
- Although favorites in the Belmont Stakes have won at a rate well above the norm (see above), those horses have cost bettors 23 cents on every dollar wagered (well below the norm). So, even though he has the best chance of winning, it might be wise to shun likely Belmont favorite War of Will and look for other, more enticing play in the Test of the Champion.