We’ve finally made it to Belmont Stakes Day. The final leg of Horse Racing’s Triple Crown will take place at 6:49 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 5, but that is not the only world-class race going down at The Big Sandy this weekend. In fact, there are stakes races basically all day, starting with Race 3 at 12:47 p.m. ET.
Before we get to the picks, check out below for a quick refresher on some best practices for playing the ponies.
New to Horse Racing?
For those of you that might be new to horse racing, the wagering pools are pari-mutuel, which means that, unlike in sports betting, you aren’t trying to beat the house but rather the public at large. The key to long-term success in betting the ponies is being disciplined in identifying value in the pools.
Speed Ratings and Beyer Speed Figures
Speed ratings are relative performance indicators that allow us to compare performances across tracks where not all factors are even. Some tracks might be naturally faster like Gulfstream or Santa Anita, where the surfaces are harder, compared to a track like Belmont or Aqueduct, where the surfaces are generally a bit deeper.
They also account for the condition of the track as most horses will travel slower over softer ground. This means that simply comparing times is ineffective as they need some kind of leveling factor.
That’s what is built into speed ratings and they give a nice, although imperfect indicator of relative performance and ability.
A relative strength index for the field of a specific race. This gives you an idea of the level of the competition the horse was facing, as it can vary wildly from track to track even with the same win conditions.
How often do favorites win in horse racing?
Generally speaking, the favorite in horse racing wins at about a 35% rate but that number varies depending on the number of horses in the field. Armed with that knowledge you might want to just pick the favorites, frequently known as the chalk, but a closer look at the implied odds shows that you’d need average odds of 2-1 or better to break even on “win” bets.
So, in order to profit horseplayers must pick and choose the horses that they feel have a better chance to win than their implied odds, which is known as positive expected value (+EV). Expected value is not unique to horse racing and something that all bettors should get familiar with if they want to succeed.
Post: 12:47 p.m. ET
We kick off the graded stakes action in Race 3 with the Grade 1 Woody Stephen for three-year-olds run over the main track at seven furlongs.
This is a race where you either take a stand or you have to go deep. In this case, I’m taking a stand with the morning-line favorite No. 3 Jackie’s Warrior (7-5). He’s coming in off an impressive win in the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile at Churchill where he put away No. 4 Dream Shake (5-2) in a stretch battle.
That day I was against Jackie’s Warrior and on Dream Shake as I wasn’t sure if Jackie’s Warrior could return to his two-year-old form. Jackie’s Warrior answered that question with that performance.
Race 3 Bets
- Win: 3
- Pick 3: 3/2,6,9/2,6
Post: 1:22 p.m. ET
Race 4 is the marathon mile and a half Grade 2 Brooklyn for four-year-olds and up, run over the main track.
For a marathon, mile-and-a-half race, it appears that there will be a decent amount of pace between No. 5 Musical Heart (9-2) and No. 8 Tizamagician (7-2). In a mile-and-a-half race with pace pressure I’m looking to horses that can stalk or close.
No. 9 Lone Rock (9-2) has five wins in his last six starts, and his only loss was by a neck. That said, this will be the first graded stakes race of his career and trainer Robertino Diodoro is only 10% in graded stakes races. However, he has two wins and one second from 3 career starts going the distance.
While No. 6 Moretti (4-1) has never run this exact distance, he has proven he can get to this mark after winning the Birdstone last August at Saratoga going a mile and three quarters. He also has one win and one second-place finish from 2 career starts at Belmont. He’s been training really well for Todd Pletcher leading up to this spot and gets top jock Irad Oritz Jr. aboard.
My top pick is No. 2 Ry’s the Guy (12-1) for trainer Ian Wilkes. While he’s never run at Belmont, he does have one win and a second from two career starts at this distance. After leading at the top of the stretch last time out, he was swallowed up by Lone Rock, but that was Ry’s the Guy’s first start as a five-year-old off the bench. Wilkes is 14% with horses second time off the layoff and I’m looking for Ry’s the Guy to take a step forward and put away the competition at a nice price.
Race 4 Bets
- Win: 2
Post: 2:01 p.m. ET
Next up is the Grade 1 Acorn for three-year-old fillies run over the main track at a mile.
The odds on, morning-line favorite, is No. 6 Search Results (1-1). She’s coming in off a very game second-place finish in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. While she deserves to be the odds-on favorite, she’s too short for me to make a win bet.
My top pick is No. 2 Obligatory (6-1). I liked her in the 8 Belles at Churchill on Oaks day and she had the pace to run into there, which she should get again in here today. On that day she beat No. 4 Dayoutoftheoffice (4-1) and No. 5 Make Mischief (20-1). As I mentioned she should get plenty of pace to run at in here and with her being a square price, she will pick off the pace setters.
Race 5 Bets
- Win: 2
- Pick 3: 2,6/6,10/2,7
Post: 2:41 p.m. ET
Race 6 is the Grade 1 Jaipur for three year olds and up, which will be run over the inner turf at six furlongs.
No. 6 Bound for Nowhere (2-1) is the morning-line favorite. He’s coming in off of an impressive victory in the Grade 2 Shakertown. He had a troubled start and was able to overcome to get up at the wire for the win. Bound for Nowhere showed versatility coming from well off the pace to win. I expect him to be much closer, if not on the pace in here. Even at the short price, he’s the horse to beat here. He is also 1-for-1 over the Belmont turf course.
The other horse who caught my attention is No. 10 Stubbins (6-1). While he hasn’t won since the fall of 2019 and hasn’t made a start this year, he had an excuse last time out in the Grade 3 Turf Sprint, where he took a bad step on the turn. If he can find his footing, he has the speed figures to be competitive in this spot. He’s one to include in horizontal and vertical wagers.
Race 6 Bets
- Win: 6
- Exacta box: 6,10
Post: 3:18 p.m. ET
Next up we have the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps, run over the main track at a mile and a sixteenth for fillies and mares four years old and up.
We have three of the best older female horses in No. 1 Swiss Skydiver (5-2), No. 3 Letruska (9-5) and No. 5 Shedaresthedevil (5-2). All three of them want or will be close to the lead. Because of the pace scenario, I’m looking elsewhere in this race.
My top pick is No. 2 Valiance (4-1) for trainer Todd Pletcher. She is coming in off three consecutive 100+ brisnet speed figures, which would put win her this race. This will be her first start of 2021, but Pletcher is 29% off the long layoff and only finished second by a length and a quarter to Monomoy Girl last time out.
Due to the pace scenario the other horse that caught my attention is No. 7 Bonny South (10-1). She is coming in off a win in a Grade 3 race at Keeneland for trainer Brad Cox. As I mentioned earlier I expect the pace to be hot with the three top choices, which sets up beautifully for Bonny South as a closer. With her being a square price at 10-1 she’s once to include in your bets.
Race 7 Bets
- Pick 5: 2,7/4,8,9,11/5,6/4,7,10/2,6
Post: 3:58 p.m. ET
Race 8 is the Grade 1 Just A Game for fillies and mares four year olds and up, to be run over the turf course at a mile.
Trainer Chad Brown has three runners in here, two of which I like. No. 11 Blowout (4-1) is my top pick. With the turf course expected to be good at best, Blowout looks to be the lone speed in here. If he can get an easy lead, he will be able to take this field gate to wire.
The other Chad Brown horse that I like is No. 4 Regal Glory (8-1). Regal Glory should sit just off of Blowout and has proven he can win, regardless of the condition of the turf course. He has seven wins and two seconds from 12 career turf starts, with one win and one runner-up from three starts over the Belmont turf. As I mentinoed earlier, Chad Brown always has his horses queued up to run in New York and Regal Glory is one that you must include at a price.
We have two Eurpoean invaders in this field with No. 8 Althiqa (8-1) and No. 9 Summer Romance (6-1). Summer Romance beat Althiqa last time out, but Althiqa has never missed the board in nine career turf starts. They are both horses to include in your horizontal wagers.
Race 8 Bets
- Win: 11
- Exacta key box: 11/4,8,9
Post: 4:42 p.m. ET
Next we have the Grade 1 Met Mile for three year olds and up, which is run over the main track.
The morning-line favorite and the horse to beat is No. 6 Knicks Go (6-5). Prior to his last start in Dubai, he had won four straight for trainer Brad Cox. He looks to be the controlling speed here and if he can run back to his US form, he’s the one to beat.
Just to his inside is No. 5 By My Standards (10-1). He is always a horse who I’ve liked and, in my opinion, is one of the best in the handicap division. By My Standards is coming in off a non-graded stakes victory at Oaklawn in his five-year-old debut. Prior to that he ran two clunkers, but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt, given the fact that both of those were true route races. He gets back to a one-turn mile here, which suits him well. At a nice price, he’s one I will be including in my wagers.
Race 9 Bets
- Exacta Box: 5,6
Post: 5:38 p.m. ET
The last graded stakes race before the Belmont is the Grade 1 Manhattan, which will be run over the inner turf course at a mile and a quarter for four year olds and up.
As I’ve mentioned multiple times, this turf course will have taken a decent amount of rain over the last few days. Because of that I’m looking to No. 7 Channel Cat (12-1) as my top pick. He is coming in off a win in the Grade 1 Man of War right here at Belmont. Notably, he won that race over a good turf course, which is what I expect the turf course to be listed at today as well. He’s run a 100+ brisnet speed figure in eight of his last 10 races and only one other horse has run at least a 100 before.
The other two horses I like are No. 4 Domestic Spending (3-1) and No. 10 Colonel Liam (5-2), who finished in a dead heat last time out in the Grade 1 Turf Classic.
Frankly, Domestic Spending was the better horse that day after having to navigate through traffic in the stretch to get up at the wire for the dead heat. Had he not encountered traffic trouble, he would have easily beat Colonel Liam.
As for Colonel Liam, he has won four straight and had it not been for some traffic trouble of his own it would have been six straight. While he clearly hasn’t done anything wrong for trainer Todd Pletcher, this is one of, if not not, the deepest fields he has faced yet. I’m not going to let him beat me, but I like Channel Cat and Domestic Spending more at better prices in here.
Race 10 Bets
- Win: 7
- Exacta box: 4,7,10
Race 11: The Belmont Stakes
Post: 6:49 p.m. ET
For my full breakdown of the 2021 Belmont Stakes, click here.
No. 2 Essential Quality (2-1) is the morning-line favorite. He was also the Derby favorite, finishing fourth that day. He was caught four wide the entire trip and traveled further than any horse in that race. At the top of the stretch, it looked like he was going to be able to make his move and go by for the win but just didn’t have enough.
While I don’t think there’s much value in Essential Quality today, he is the most likely winner and one that you have to use in both horizontal and vertical wagers.
No. 6 Known Agenda (6-1) was initially my top pick for the Derby before the draw. When he drew the rail, he dropped down, but I thought he would still be able to work out a trip, which he wasn’t.
With his post position and the pace scenario, he should be able to sit just off the pace, in a stalking trip similar to his Florida Derby victory. One of the big questions is who will be aboard as jockey Irad Oritz Jr. took a nasty spill on Thursday and is off all his mounts.
Trainer Todd Pletcher always has his dirt horses ready to go in New York and Known Agenda has been training really well leading up to the Belmont.
No. 5 France Go de Ina (30-1) is my longshot play. There were a number of people who thought he had a chance to hit the board in the Preakness. He acted up before prior to entering the gate, which significantly hurts his chances.
If jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. can get France Go de Ina to relax, he stands a chance to be a part of the trifecta/superfecta at a huge price.