Betting the Belmont Stakes

Favorites Not Best Most Often in Belmont Stakes

Betting the races offers a variety of opportunities. Many people like to bet favorites with the feeling that they have the best chance to win. But like sports betting on ‘inflated favorites’, many horse racing favorites are often overbet, and they offer little return.

That was the case in last year’s Belmont Stakes as American Pharoah won as the 3-5 favorite to capture the coveted Triple Crown. He returned $3.50 on a $2 wager. The second-betting choice Frosted finished second at 4-1 making the exacta return $13.60 on a $2 wager.

But over the past 15 years, just three betting favorites have won the Belmont Stakes: American Pharoah (2015), Afleet Alex (2005) and Point Given (2001). In fact, other than American Pharoah, only Curlin (2007) as a favorite was able to finish top-2 since 2006. So in the last 10 years, the Belmont Stakes betting favorite has finished first once and second once.

That should tell you why the 1 ½ mile Belmont Stakes is so grueling and nicknamed The Test of the Champion.

This year’s betting favorite looks like Preakness winner, Exaggerator. He happens to be the son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin.

But before you bet the favorite or Exaggerator and consider him a ‘sure bet’ to win or make the money, recognize the results above and below and perhaps take a shot at a bigger score in the exacta and exotics.

After all, here are some hefty paydays produced in recent Belmont Stakes history.

In 2014, California Chrome was unable to win the Triple Crown as the heavy 4-5 favorite. He finished fourth. But the $2 exacta with winner Tonalist (9-1) and runner-up Commissioner (28-1) paid $348. Add in 24-1 Medal Count in third and the trifecta was terrific paying $6,781.

In 2013, Orb was the betting favorite at 2-1 and finished third. The 12th place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, Palace Malice, won the Belmont at 13-1 odds and paid $29.60 on a $2 win wager. The $2 exacta with Preakness winner Oxbow (10-1) finishing second paid $323.50.

In 2011, Ruler on Ice delivered a bomb in the Belmont, winning as a 24-1 long shot to pay $51.50. Combined with Stay Thirsty (16-1) in second and Brilliant Speed (10-1) finishing third, and you had big payoffs on the exacta, $928, and trifecta, $8,268.  Race day favorite Animal Kingdom (5-2) finished sixth.

In 2010, the 2-1 favorite Ice Box never fired and finished ninth. Drosselmeyer (13-1) and Fly Down (5-1) came from off the pace to finish 1-2 and provide an exacta payoff of $144.50. The third betting choice First Dude (6-1) finished third for a trifecta of $766.

In 2009, Mine That Bird (6-5) was another favorite that faltered in the brutal Belmont, finishing third. Summer Bird (12-1) circled six wide at the top of the stretch and surged to the front in the final sixteenth to capture the carnations and reward his betting backers with a $25.80 payday for 2 bucks. Dunkirk (4-1) got up for second by a neck to pay a $121 exacta.

When wagering on horse racing, understand that in parimutel betting, the house takes a cut of each pool, called the takeout. The takeout varies depending on the track and type of wager. Belmont Park rakes 16% for straight bets (those on a single horse) and 18.5% for exotic bets (those involving multiple horses). You can review all of the North American racetrack takeout rates here, and know that Canterbury Park in Minnesota recently reduced their takeout rates to the lowest in the country. It resulted in a smashing success opening weekend with a handle increase of 31% from the same opening weekend in 2015. Let’s hope more tracks follow Canterbury’s lead!

This year’s Belmont Stakes has 10 horses confirmed thus far with a lack of front-end speed creating an intriguing setup. While it may lack the luster without a Triple Crown threat like the last two years, and Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist sitting on the sidelines for this race, it’s still got plenty of betting opportunities with a potential big payoff when betting the Belmont.


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