Drosselmeyer (above) prevailed at 13-1 odds in the 2010 Belmont Stakes after not competing in either the Kentucky Derby or Preakness Stakes that year. (Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire)
The Belmont Stakes is a tough race to pick. It’s a mile and a half, the longest distance in the Triple Crown and one of the longest distances run on any racetrack anywhere in the U.S. None of the horses running in the Belmont Stakes has ever raced that far before. The fact that 19 horses have won the Derby and Preakness since Pensive in 1944 only to meet defeat at Belmont (not counting I’ll Have Another who did not compete in the race last year) shows what a tough race it is to win, especially on the heels of a Triple Crown campaign.
Often the race draws a diverse field; Triple Crown competitors take on newcomers (and sometimes local horses whose connections are taking a big flyer). It makes for a unique race and difficult one to handicap. It also makes the race ripe for picking longshots.
Since 2000, there have been seven big longshot winners in the Belmont. In fact, the favorite has only won the race twice in that time. Could this year see another big longshot winner? There’s no Triple Crown on the line, so there won’t be any massive underlays from the public loading up on a fan favorite. But the favorites are beatable in this race.
Our three top choices are likely to be Orb, the Kentucky Derby winner; Oxbow, the Preakness winner; and Revolutionary, the third-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby. Since 1993, only six horses have won the Belmont after racing in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. That would seem to eliminate both Oxbow and Orb. It also would eliminate the other D. Wayne Lukas-trained horse, Will Take Charge. After finishing third in the Kentucky Derby, however, Revolutionary skipped the Preakness.
Skipping the Preakness and heading straight to the Belmont is a popular move these days. Ten of the last 11 Belmont winners didn’t race in the Preakness, including last year’s winner Union Rags.
UNION RAGS EDGED PAYNTER IN 2012 BELMONT
Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
In fact, four of the last six Belmont winners didn’t race in either the Derby OR the Preakness! They were Triple Crown virgins and they won! And all of them, save for the amazing filly Rags to Riches, paid big money.
The Triple Crown virgin angle would eliminate the other top choice, Revolutionary. It also eliminates Giant Finish, Golden Soul, Overanalyze and Palace Malice. This leaves you plenty of longshots to pick from if you want to stick to this angle. Among them, the best is probably the Kentucky Oaks-winning filly Unlimited Budget.
I think you probably tossed the winner, though. I’m going to play one of those Kentucky Derby horses that sat the Preakness out and freshened up for their day at Big Sandy.
Among those horses, I think running style and conditioning is probably more important than speed figures here. (I’m trying to beat the favorites, folks. You gotta have an angle!) The Belmont is rarely won by a deep closer. That eliminates Golden Soul and Revolutionary. Palace Malice was the pace horse in the Kentucky Derby for some reason. If he tries that again at Belmont, he’s likely going to get beat again. Horses just as rarely win the Belmont leading from start to finish. If he rates off the pace, he has a chance, though. And his workouts have been good leading up to this race so far. The Belmont is a stamina contest, so conditioning matters a great deal.
Perhaps he won’t be a huge longshot, but my pick in the Belmont is going to be Overanalyze. Call me a homer, but I love the Arkansas Derby prep before Kentucky. They say he wasn’t up against anybody good, but I was there and I seem to remember a horse named Oxbow eating his dust in the stretch.
There’s still more than a week until the race, so I have plenty of time to change my mind. But if you want to play a decent longshot in the Belmont, try Overanalyze or Unlimited Budget.