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Submitted by John Conte on Thursday, May 31, 2018 at 12:21 PM

John Conte
Previewing The Belmont Stakes
Wednesday, May 30

Once again bettors and race fans are faced with two dimensions of their love for the game.

With the prospects of a Triple Crown once again on the line, the acute majority of racing fans will be more than happy to witness Justify accomplish the feat.

By the same token, bettors looking to make a score would be happy to see a horse they bet to beat Justify accomplish that feat because the Value Return would be expanded.

For many of those fans/bettors this could be a dilemma. I find no such problem. I believe we can beat Justify and I have solid handicapping reasons to make that claim. However, should Justify indeed win the Triple Crown I will be the first to sing his praises and I see no contradiction whatsoever in being both a fan and a bettor.


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard Belmont Stakes bettors say of Kentucky derby participants who ran in the first leg of the Triple Crown and took the Preakness off before returning for the third leg, “As much ground as that runner closed in the Kentucky Derby, he will love the extra quarter mile of the Belmont Stakes.”

The assumption being that horses which wait for the pace to develop up from will have the advantage as they rally in the late stages.

The only difficulty with this assumption is that the “profile of Belmont Stakes winners” does not attest to this assumption. In fact, the Belmont Stakes is run so differently from the Kentucky Derby and even the Preakness that it demands an entirely different set of standards.

And it is these standards which make the Belmont Stakes, in my opinion, the most difficult race to handicap. That in turn has allowed me and my clients to get exorbitant overlay payoffs in recent years.

I mentioned that the “eye assumption” which tells less-than-careful bettors that closers at shorter distances will get an added edge in the Belmont Stakes is not born out.

In fact, the race is won by the horse with the best tactical running style, stamina and versatility and the following “winning profile” shows that.

For the purposes of this demonstration let me show you the last 19 Kentucky derby winners with how to view this profile and how it dispels the idea that a deep closer has an edge.

Below you will see the year and Belmont Stakes winner followed by where they were position wise and how far off the leader each winner was with one half mile and one quarter mile to go in the race.

2017 – Tapwrit – 4th (2 Lengths off the leader)…2nd (1.5 lengths off the leader)
2016 – Creator – 6th (3.5 Lengths off the leader)…6th (3 Lengths off the leader)
2015 – American Pharoah – Wire-To-Wire
2014 – Tonalist – 3rd (1 Length off the leader)…3rd (1 length off the leader)
2013 – Palace Malice – 3rd (1 Lengths off the leader)…1st
2012 – Union Rags – 3rd (3.5 Lengths off the leader)…2nd (1 Length off the leader)
2011 – Ruler On Ice – 2nd (1 Length off the leader)…2nd (1 Length off the leader)
2010 – Drosselmeyer – 5th (2.5 Lengths off the leader)…4th (1.5 Lengths off the leader)
2009 – Summer Bird – 9th (6 Lengths off the leader)…4th (3.5 Lengths off the leader)
2008 – Da ‘Tara – Wire-to-Wire
2007 – Rags To Riches (5th (1.5 Lengths off the leader)…1st
2006 – Jazil – 7th (2.5 Lengths off the leader)…1st
2005 – Afleet Alex – 8th (3 Lengths off the Leader)…2nd (Head off the leader)
2004 – Birdstone – 4th (5 Lengths of the leader)…2nd (3.5 Lengths off the leader)
2003 – Empire Maker – 2nd (Head off the leader)…1st
2002 – Sarava – 4th (2 Lengths off the leader)…3rd (1/2 Length off the leader)
2001 – Point Given – Wire-To-Wire
2000 – Commendable - 2nd (Head off the leader)…1st
1999 – Lemon Drop Kid – 8th (4.5 Lengths off the leader)…4th (1.5 Lengths off the leader)

Those numbers define as close to a consistent profile as you are going to get.

Whether the winning Belmont Stakes horse was on the lead or as far back as 9th place (Summer Bird) with a half mile left to go or 6th place as was Creator at the quarter pole, the following is what is to be noted:

*With one-half mile to go in the last 19 Belmont Stakes only three winners were further off the leader than 3.5 lengths. Summer Bird (6 lengths), Birdstone (5 lengths) and Lemon Drop Kid (4.5 lengths.) As to the quarter pole, only Summer Bird (3.5 lengths) and Birdstone (3.5 lengths were further off the leader than 3 lengths. In fact, with a quarter mile remaining in the race, 12 of the 19 winners were either on the lead or within 1.5 lengths of it at the quarter pole.

And as I wrap up for today, here is a final note. Many of those Belmont Stakes winners were not last out Derby, skip the Preakness runners or Preakness runners but horses which came out of final preps run at a mile and an eighth or even a mile and a sixteenth. And as I will show you in Monday’s addendum to the article (make sure you check back) it is the 8 ½ and 9 furlong prep races that each of these 19 Belmont Stakes winners ran leading up to their Triple Crown and/or Belmont Stakes race which is more of an indicator of how they would do in the final leg of the Crown than either the Kentucky Derby or Preakness is. But as I said…more on that Monday.



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