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Last updated: May 22nd, 2023
Keys to Belmont Handicapping Success
The Belmont Stakes presents a different challenge for handicapping than the first two legs of the Triple Crown.
The Kentucky Derby is about trying to assess which lead-up form is the best; the Preakness is largely about whether the form from the Derby will hold up, but the Belmont is about stamina and hardiness as well as class.
Horses are not usually asked to run 1-1/2 miles on dirt any more and it is almost certainly the first time any of these 3-year-olds have run the trip.
- So the first question for Belmont Stakes punters is whether a horse has the required stamina. Pedigree analysis is important here – look at whether the sire and dam have produced horses that showed stamina before, and if there are stamina influences further back.
- Also, look at the way the horse runs its races; if it looks full of running at the end of its races, it probably has more chance of staying 1-1/2 miles.
Hardiness then comes into play, especially for horses that ran in both the Derby and Preakness.
Are they capable of running a grueling 1-1/2 miles after two tough races in the previous five weeks?
Punters should consider how tough the horses looked in earlier races, and how they are training. If they seem a little tired, they may struggle in the Belmont.
Then comes the form assessment.
Will the form from the Derby and the Preakness will hold up? Were there unlucky horses that might improve, especially at a mile and a half?
If a Triple Crown is on the line, the horse going for it is likely to be under the odds it should be due to sentimental betting. Punters need to consider the horse’s chances with as little emotion as possible –more horses have failed to win the Triple Crown (20) than have succeeded (14). If there is no Triple Crown going, the odds are likely to be a more genuine reflection of each horse’s chances.
One major feature of the Belmont Stakes is that unlike the Preakness, new shooters have a good record.
In the past decade, five of the 10 winners didn’t run in the Derby or the Preakness. Ask yourself if any of these new shooters look to be improving and are likely to have stamina. Derby runners that skipped the Preakness also have a useful record, winning four of the last 10 renewals.
BRISnet charts have plenty of details regarding stamina, speed figures, and form which will aid punters to make these decisions. If you succeed, chances are you’ll get some good odds – 10 of the winners this century have been at double-figure odds.
Belmont Handicapping Conclusions
Handicapping the Belmont Stakes is a referendum on the first two legs of the Triple Crown, with a hefty dose of pedigree analysis to find horses who can stay the 1 1/2-mile trip.
If the same horse won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, do you think he can pass the “Test of the Champion” and become a Triple Crown legend?
Sentiment might lead you in that direction, but considering the long drought between Affirmed in 1978 and American Pharoah in 2015, the Derby/Preakness hero usually has to buck a weighty trend. Wear and tear over the series can take its toll, and bad luck has been known to strike too.
If different horses have won the Derby and Preakness, did you find one much more persuasive in victory?
Horses are more impressive if they overcome trouble in running an unfavorable pace scenario, or an excessively wide trip. Also compare the BRIS Speed ratings for the first two jewels of the Triple Crown: was one considerably faster than the other or did a sloppy track on Derby or Preakness Day help the winner in those rating scenarios, and will he find similar conditions?
Don’t forget about top horses who ran in the Derby, sat out the Preakness, and point explicitly for the Belmont Stakes. Aside from getting some extra time to regroup from their exertions at Churchill Downs, these runners are often just the type to excel over the added distance of the Belmont.
That brings us to the key factor, pedigree. Although bloodlines are important in separating contenders from pretenders in the 1 1/4-mile Derby, real champions can sometimes push their pedigree envelope at Churchill Downs. But toss in two more furlongs at Belmont Park — a marathon trip they’ll likely never try again — and a pedigree without sufficient stamina turns merciless.
New shooters to the Belmont often have the right pedigree, but are untested at this level of competition. Take a good look at the newcomers, while remembering that the percentages lean heavily in favor of Triple Crown veterans.