Betting the Belmont
Tacitus may be the horse to beat in the third leg of the Triple Crown, which will hit the track this Saturday in Elmont, New York.
Belmont Park is more than the site of the Belmont Stakes, the third jewel in thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown.
It’s one of the first tracks to recognize the value of packing big events on one day. That foresight will likely be rewarded Saturday because the Belmont Stakes—a glorious stamina test at 1½ miles—will not produce a Triple Crown winner(Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes).
That means millions of potential wagering dollars lost.
What a Card!
What to do? Make the entire day a festival.
Taking no chances on a disinterested public, Belmont loaded up with more than $7 million in purses for June 8. Besides the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes, the lineup includes:
- The $1.2 million Metropolitan
- The $1 million Manhattan
- A trio of $700,000 races including the Acorn, Ogden Phillips and Just A Game events
- The $400,000 Jaipur Invitational, Woody Stephens and Brooklyn races
This is a phenomenal card, well worth handicapping in advance and also throughout the day as patterns emerge.
It’s also a move that will protect the event long-term, in years when there are no Derby and Preakness winners descending on destiny in a Triple Crown quest.
What’s At Stake
That’s a big issue for tracks. Last year, when Justify went for and won the Triple Crown, Belmont sported nearly $138 million in handle. One year earlier, with no Triple Crown up for grabs, it was approximately $93 million.
That disparity could be more significant this year, because the Triple Crown concept is a yawn. Preakness Stakes ratings on May 18 hit an all-time low once Derby winner Country House didn’t run it.Neither did Maximum Security, the initial winner, who later suffered the first disqualification in Kentucky Derby history.
The Preakness still did reasonably well, with nearly $100 million wagered, but the absence of a Derby controversy would have added at least a couple millions of dollars to that.
Get the Edge
Regarding the Belmont Stakes itself, in the five years since 2012 when the Triple Crown wasn’t on the line, four of its winners were horses who raced in the Derby but skipped the Preakness. That’s an edge for Tacitus, Master Fencer, Spinoff and Tax, who skipped the Preakness after not winning the Derby. Of that group, Tacitus was by far the best. Preakness winner War of Will also will be a contender this weekend.
The big variable of the race is the grueling distance and long homestretch. Jockeys have often made premature moves with their horses at a distance they rarely compete at. Whereas the Derby and Preakness may be decided by luck and which horse gets the best position, the Belmont will usually be won by the best horse. Smaller fields. Fewer traffic problems.
Belmont Park owns the day, but Woodbine, should you be able to squeeze it in, has the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks.
One weekend later, on June 15, Churchill Downs commands center stage with the $600,000 Stephen Foster. The Fleur de Lis and Wise Dan come in at $150,0000, while the Regret and Matt Win are $150,000 events.
Place your bets!