The Belmont Stakes is an incredibly unique race to bet. If you are not aware of what makes it unique – and don’t adjust for those changes accordingly – then you don’t stand much of a chance of making a long term profit. Here are three of the biggest reasons why this is such a unique race for bettors:
Distance – The Belmont is a mile and a half. The longest race available for three years olds before the Belmont is the Kentucky Derby, and it is a full quarter mile shorter. Not only that, but there are very few races run on dirt at distances over a mile and a quarter all year, so this is the furthest the vast majority of the horses in the race will ever run. To understand the significance of the distance you need to get a sense of it in a different context. This distance is somewhat comparable to a marathon for humans – or at least a long distance run. These three year old horses are not fully mature – they are the equivalent of human teenagers. Human teenagers are not nearly as good at running distances as older, mature runners are. Teens don’t run marathons because they can’t physically handle them, and only exceptional athletes can excel at long distance runs of any sort. In the same way, horses are being asked to do something in this race that they have never done before, and which most of them are completely unsuited for. The distance is a serious concern in the Kentucky Derby, but it is far more of a factor in this race, and you absolutely have to be comfortable that a horse is capable of handling the distance before you decide to back them. To further complicate things, because this distance is a once in a lifetime experience for most horses it is hard to find clear evidence before the race that the horse will be able to handle the distance, and once we know a horse can handle it we never really get to effectively apply that knowledge in a later race because the distance is never again the same major factor.
The track – Belmont Park is the longest track in North America at a mile and a half. Most other major tracks are just a mile long. Since it is the same oval shape as other tracks it makes sense that the corners are much wider and longer, and the front and back stretch are much longer as well. They can run a one mile race around just one turn at Belmont, and the one and a half mile distance starts and finishes in the same spot and goes around just two turns. Turns can be difficult for horses to deal with, so the fact that the turns are wider and more gradual makes a big difference here. The track also means that jockeys who are familiar with the track and who have been successful over the surface are far easier to trust in the race than jockeys who have not raced over the track. One of the biggest problems that inexperienced jockeys have is making their move to soon. At most tracks you can make your move coming out of the final turn and still hold on to the finish line. If you move in the same spot at Belmont, though, you face a ridiculously long stretch that eats unprepared horses for lunch. Patience is a major virtue at Belmont, but you can only be prepared for that if you know the track well.
Fickle public – The betting public can have a big impact on the odds in horse racing just like they can in other forms of sports betting. It can be particularly tough to adapt to the public betting impact in this race, though, because the public is very fickle when it comes to the Belmont. If there is a Triple Crown on the line in the race the public turns out in droves – typically over 100,000 people – and they pour the vast majority of their money onto the back of the horse with a shot at making history. In those cases, because of the structure of pari-mutuel betting, the value on the favorite is non-existent, but the prices on the other horses can be very juicy, and you have to make your picks accordingly. If there is no Triple Crown potential but there is still an impressive and popular horse in the field then public attention won’t be quite as high but will still be significant and needs to be compensated for. When there is no Triple Crown potential and no strong horses that have captured the public imagination, though, then the Belmont barely registers on the national sports scene and crowds of closer to 50,000 are the norm. In those cases the public’s enthusiasm won’t be as focused, and bettors don’t need to consider and compensate for that impact.