Of all the Triple Crown races, the Belmont Stakes is probably the most “normal” from a betting standpoint. In Louisville, the emphasis is on improvement — a quest for 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. In fact, over the past 17 years, in the four editions of the Belmont that didn’t feature a Kentucky Derby or Preakness winner among the entrants (like this year), three were captured by horses that failed to return to the winner’s circle for the rest of their careers.
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).
Brisnet Speed Figure Par: 102
Early Speed Ration (ESR) Par: -9
Late Speed Ration (LSR) Par: -6
1) 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 25.3 percent of their subsequent starts (41-162) — after having won 42.7 percent of their races beforehand (94-220).
2) A few recent bombs notwithstanding, the Belmont Stakes has actually been relatively formful, as the post time favorite has won 56 of 135 editions of the race in which the odds were recorded (41.5 percent).
3) 16 of the last 18 Belmont winners recorded at least two workouts since their last race, producing profits across the board.
Advantage: Justify (2), Free Drop Billy (3), Hofburg (3), Restoring Hope (4), Gronkowski (2 in US), Vino Rosso (2), Noble Indy (2) and Blended Citizen (2).
Disadvantage: Bravazo (1) and Tenfold (1).
4) Proving that slow and steady wins the race, horses with 0-1 Quirin speed points are 5-for-65 (-29.3 percent ROI) in the Test of the Champion since 2000, while those with 6-8 points are just 1-for-28 (-93.8 percent ROI).
Advantage: Bravazo (5), Hofburg (2), Restoring Hope (4), Tenfold (5), Vino Rosso (3), Noble Indy (5) and Blended Citizen (2).
Disadvantage: Justify (8), Free Drop Billy (1),
5) Since 1999, only three horses that competed in the Preakness — American Pharoah (2015), Afleet Alex (2005) and Point Given (2001) —were able to win in New York.
Disadvantage: Justify, Bravazo and Tenfold.
6) Over the past 18 years, horses with a Brisnet distance rating of 108 or less are just 2-for-60 in the Belmont Stakes, returning an average of 73 cents on every $2 bet on them to win.
Disadvantage: Noble Indy (100?) and Blended Citizen (106).
The Belmont Stakes Brisnet speed figure par is a 107 — a number that none of this year’s entrants can 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.
Perceived Ability Rating (PAR)
Since 2000, the entrant with the top PAR has captured the Belmont seven times — a 38.9 percent win rate — and produced an ROI of 160 percent when bet to win.
Since 2000, morning-line overlays (horses going off at odds equal to or greater than their morning line odds) have produced a win ROI of 134.5 percent and a place ROI of 30.5 percent), while morning-line underlays (horses going off at odds less than their morning line odds) have produced a win ROI of -23.1 percent and a place ROI of -35.3 percent.
2018 Belmont Stakes Field
2-FREE DROP BILLY (30-1)
5-RESTORING HOPE (30-1)
8-VINO ROSSO (8-1)
9-NOBLE INDY (30-1)
10-BLENDED CITIZEN (15-1)