By: Kevin Martin
On Saturday, I’ll Have Another will attempt to become the twelfth horse in racing history to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes. Since Affirmed became the last Triple Crown winner in 1978, eleven colts have entered the Belmont with a chance to sweep the triple and lost. While most will be rooting for I’ll Have Another to win, bettors aware of the recent history of the Belmont know that he will not be a good bet. For the horseplayer, the opportunities for a big payday trumps the chance for history.
Since 1999, five horses have entered the Belmont Stakes with a chance to sweep the Triple Crown. They all failed. The winner of those races, on a $2 win bet, paid: $61.50, $142.50, $6.00, $36.00 and $79.00. None of the last four winners of the Belmont Stakes paid less than $25 to win. Needless to say, crazy things can happen in the Belmont. I’ll Have Another has both history against him and the trend of longshots hitting the wire first in the final leg of the United States Triple Crown.
Considering the trend of surprises, here is a look at all of the contenders (in post position order) that will run in the big race on Saturday :
Morning Line: 12-1
Finished a fast closing third at Belmont Park in last month’s Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes, but showed little in his only try against Grade 1 company in the Wood Memorial back in April. He is trained by Chad Brown, an up-and-comer on the New York circuit, who will saddle his first starter ever in a Triple Crown race. He could have the energy at the end to make a run in the stretch.
Morning Line: 30-1
With only two career starts and none beyond a mile, he doesn’t seem to belong among the competitors in this year’s Belmont. With his lack of experience, the only scenario for him to have a chance is if he gets away with an easy lead, lulls the field to sleep, and kicks away at the end. Such a scenario seems unlikely, but an unheralded horse named D’Tara did just that in 2008 to thwart the last Triple Crown try.
Morning Line: 6-1
The horse who went off as the second choice in the Kentucky Derby but finished seventh is flying under the radar a bit coming into the Belmont. He skipped the Preakness so he is fresh and he gets a new rider in John Velazquez. Velazquez worked Union Rags at the horse’s home base in Maryland and came away impressed. Some have questioned Union Rags pedigree for the mile and a half trip, but he is one game race horse and will be a square price considering his career resume.
Morning Line: 30-1
He won his last race over a speed-favoring Churchill Downs track from off the pace and has had three solid works over the Belmont surface since that win. His late running style and distance pedigree indicates he will still be running when others in the field begin to tire. His trainer, Kenny McPeek, who also trains Unstoppable U, ended War Emblem’s attempt for a Triple Crown in the 2002 Belmont Stakes with a 70 to 1 shot named Sarava. He is one of the big longshots that is not an entirely implausible upsetter.
Morning line: 5-1
The fast closing third place finisher in the Kentucky Derby has been touted by many as the most reasonable alternative to I’ll Have Another. He skipped the Preakness so he is well rested and has looked outstanding in training over the Belmont dirt since arriving in New York last week. He will not have the fast pace that he closed into for the Derby but the added distance of the Belmont should be no problem. He seems the most likely horse to put an end to this year’s Triple Crown bid.
Morning Line: 50-1
One of the three 50-1 shots entered, he has two wins from thirteen career starts. He has never raced beyond 1 1/16 miles and has not raced in three months. If you need anymore negatives on this one, he has never raced or clocked a workout over the Belmont Park surface.
Morning Line: 50-1
Another of the 50-1 shots who has one win in six career starts. In his last start, in a low level allowance race, he finished fourth beaten by eleven lengths. The only bright spots are his jockey Rosie Napravnik and a pedigree for the distance. However, even if he had the most skilled jockey in history and a perfect pedigree his 50-1 morning line would still be justified.
Guyana Star Dweej
Morning Line: 50-1
The last of the big longshots was pointing to the Preakness but was pulled from consideration a week before the race. It took him eight tries to finally get his first win and he finished six lengths behind Belmont Stakes entry Unstoppable U in his last start. Like Five Sixteen his pedigree is for distance, but his career so far gives little indication that he can compete at this level.
Morning Line: 8-1
The fourth choice on the morning line, he has the same connections as Bodemeister who finished second in the Derby and Preakness. He has registered fast speed figures in his last two starts and will likely be on or near the lead from the start. In his second career start, he ran in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby and finished fourth about four lengths from I’ll Have Another. The Belmont will be only his fifth career start but he is an intriguing entry. He stands a solid chance to pull the upset and exact some revenge for his owner and trainer after their two straight second place finishes to I’ll Have Another.
Morning Line: 20-1
The only other colt beside I’ll Have Another to race in all three Triple Crown races. He showed little in the Derby and Preakness, finishing a combined twenty seven lengths from the winner. His best races have come when he made a late run, so the added distance in the Belmont should give him a chance to make a closing move. Would be a shocking winner but not a huge surprise to see him round out the bottom of the trifecta or superfecta.
I’ll Have Another
Morning line: 4-5
Not much more can be said about I’ll Have Another, he is the best horse on paper and appears to have everything in place to finally break the Triple Crown drought. However, the Belmont Stakes is unlike any other in American racing, which is one of the reasons why upsets seem to be the norm. He will likely go off at less than even money and will offer little value for the bettor, but he will have widespread support among the throng at Belmont and the millions watching on TV.
Morning Line: 20-1
A late edition to the race for the same owner and trainer that won last year’s Belmont Stakes with Ruler on Ice. He has finished in the top three in eight of his ten races but has only one career race at a 1 1/8 mile when he finished a disappointing seventh in this year’s Wood Memorial. He will break from the outside post and could be on or near the lead when they make the first turn onto the backstretch. Hard to envision trainer Kelly Breen following his surprising win last year with another shocker from My Adonis.
Betting the Belmont
I’ll Have Another will be heavily bet in all pools. Should he somehow run out of the exotics, they will pay huge. However, it’s hard to envision a scenario where I’ll Have Another does not finish in the top three so he is a must use if you plan on cashing an exotic ticket. If Dullahan, the most likely upsetter, should hold his 5-1 morning line by post-time he is a solid play to win. Paynter is another potential upsetter and will also be a value play to win based on his 8-1 morning line. If you are looking for value in the trifecta and superfecta pools, longshots Optimizer and Atigun look like solid plays underneath.