The Triple Crown concludes this weekend with the 154th running of the Belmont Stakes. Much has been made of the field size for this year’s Belmont Stakes card, or lack thereof. Personally, I find most of these fields to be high on quality, even if they are short on starters. Looking at most of these fields, there aren’t very many horses that skipped the races that I thought could have won. In the past, I have just broke down the premier race, however, with so many marquee races on the card, I wanted to share my thoughts as well as include a betting guide on how I would play the card. While there may not be as many opportunities to make money by playing exacta’s and trifectas, we still have the option to play daily doubles and Pick 3’s. We have to take what the board gives us and it will pay to have strong opinions and hammer those opinions.

Race #3: G1 Acorn Stakes – 1 Mile, Dirt

The first stakes of the card, this is a five-horse field but really only two have a chance to win, it appears. The #5 Echo Zulu (3-5) is the morning line favorite in this spot, but is the most vulnerable favorite on the card, in my opinion. Echo Zulu was the two-year-old champ, but she hasn’t really taken a step forward as a three year old. Both Ragozin Sheet numbers and Beyer Speed Figures confirm this. She does cut back to a one-mile distance in this race, but that does not move her up in my eyes. Instead, I will be using the #4 Matayera (6-5). She has won 3 in a row, all one-turn races, so the stretch out to one mile should be to her advantage. If you were inclined to play an exacta or trifecta, using the aforementioned two plus the #2 Inventing (20-1) would be my play. The horse is still a maiden, with two-second place finishes in two career races. The Beyer Speed Figure came up light on the last race. I thought that race was better than it appeared and the Ragozin numbers agree.

Race #4: G1 Just A Game Stakes – 1 Mile, Turf

One of my best bets on the card occurs in this race with the #3 Speak of the Devil (EVEN). This horse announced herself in a big way to American racing bettors on the Kentucky Derby undercard. Of the five horses in this field, Chad Brown, including Speak of the Devil, trains three. The presence of stable mates #2 Regal Glory (6-5) and #4 In Italian (9-2) might guarantee we get a square price on our top choice. The #2 and the #4, as well as the #1 Leggs Galore (12-1) all have forward running styles, which should insure an honest pace for the #3 Speak of the Devil. If Speak of the Devil is 4/5 or higher, I will place an individual win bet on the horse, but in order to maximize value, I will place a daily double in Race 3 with the #4 Matayera and the #3 Speak of the Devil in this race.

Race #5: G2 Brooklyn Stakes – 1 1/2th Mile, Dirt

This might be the best betting race of the weekend, in terms of the dirt races that are scheduled. The #7 Fearless (3-1) is probably the best horse in the race, but I have serious doubts about whether or not this horse wants to run and win at a mile and a half. The horse has not won a race at longer than 9 furlongs and now they’re asking him to run 12 furlongs. The favorite here is #1 Lone Rock (2-1) and rightfully so. This horse has carved out a niche of winning these marathon races but I am willing to play against here for a few reasons. One, this field is much deeper and better than most fields he has faced thus far. Second, he is used to getting his way on the lead and there is a ton of other speed signed on. The #3 Warrant (3-1) and the #5 First Constitution (9-2) should insure that the pace is swift, Warrant will most likely be over bet as he is trained by Brad Cox. The horse I am going to try to beat this field with is the #2 Max Player (6-1). The horse is coming off of a two consecutive last place finishes, but those were in graded stakes races, one of which was the Breeders Cup Classic. An angle that I’ve used to cash multiple times is in play here though. Max Player is a horse that has struggled to run more than one race without heading to the sidelines for an extended period of time. When he has been able to make consecutive starts in a form cycle, he has always improved substantially in the second race. He is also a G1 winner, a race he won over the Belmont surface, nonetheless. There is a chance of rain in the forecast, if the track comes up wet, it moves the horse up in my eyes as well, he is a perfect two for two over wet tracks.

Race #6: G1 Woody Stephens – 7 Furlongs, Dirt

Short field, heavy favorite. Story of this card, but there are a couple alternatives to the heavy favorite here that I like a little bit. The #1 Jack Christopher (1-2) is the “What could have been?” horse of this class. A trainer before the Breeders Cup told me that this horse “just breathes different air than the others”. Unfortunately he got injured before that race, and just now made his return to the track on the Kentucky Derby undercard last month. A perfect 3 for 3 in his career, this is the toughest field he has faced so far. If he improves off of his last effort, and trainer Chad Brown has a knack for getting horses better as they race, then everyone else is probably running for second place. The #3 Wit (7-2) has a chance to pull the upset here if he takes another step forward in his progression and Jack Christopher doesn’t. Wit was a late foal in his crop, having not been born until May, so he just now actually turned 3. A lot of signs point towards another improved effort. Another logical contender here is the #4 Morello (9-2). He is undefeated at one-turn races and he has numbers both from a Beyer and Ragozin standpoint that put him right there with Jack Christopher. The #6 Provocatuer (15-1) is a must use for the second and third spots on your ticket if you are playing exotic wagers. The effort last out was better than it appears on paper. He was stuck down on the rail and it looked like the horse wanted no part of being on the inside of the track. He also didn’t have a lot of room. That most likely won’t be an issue here with him breaking from Post 6.

Race #7: G1 Ogden Phipps – 1 1/16th Mile, Dirt

There is a case that could be made for all five horses in this field. Last year’s winner, #1 Letruska (6-5) is the favorite again and I have a feeling you’re going to know where this horse is going to win or not by the halfway point of this race. If they let her get an easy lead, no one is catching her. That makes the #5 Search Results (9-2) the key to this race, as I think she is the only other horse in this field with enough natural speed to push Letruska a little bit early on. If last year’s Kentucky Oaks winner, #3 Malathaat (5-2) takes a step forward second off the layoff, then this could be a changing of the guard race in the distaff division. This is a race I am going to need to see the horses before the race before making any bets.

Race #8: G1 Jaipur Stakes – 6 Furlongs, Turf

If you are someone who prefers to bet exacta’s or trifecta’s, this is the first race on the card that I think offers some really good ROI potential. The #5 Arrest Me Red (5-2) is a legitimate favorite here but it would be disappointing if he were to win this race from a betting standpoint. Wesley Ward, who usually ships his best turf sprinters to Royal Ascot, a festival that takes place next week, trains him. I hope another horse pushes him on the front end to help setup the race for a couple other horses I like here. In terms of single digit odds, my favorite of those horses is the #8 Scuttlebuzz (6-1). He has continued to improve for trainer Rudy Rodriguez and he took another step forward in his first start this season. Out of 8 career races at 6 furlongs on the turf, he has won six and finished second twice. He also has three wins and two-second place finishes on the Belmont turf, out of six career races. The #11 Chasing Artie (15-1) is an intriguing long shot as well. He finished 8th place last out, but that performance is deceptive. Chasing Artie stumbled badly at the start, which eliminated any chance he had at winning. Despite the stumble, the horse still managed to post lifetime best speed figures. He draws the services of legendary jockey John Velazquez for this race. The longest shot in the field, the #6 Greyes Creek (30-1) also caught my eye. The horses best lifetime figure came in this race last year. He also has had one start off of the layoff so fitness shouldn’t be an issue. He adds blinkers, which has been a high ROI move for trainer Paul Lobo, who I really respect on the turf. Greyes Creek also adds back jockey Tyler Gafflione, whom was aboard for all three-career victories. It would be a disservice to not mention the #4 Casa Creed (9-2) in this space. Last year’s winner, he makes his first start since shipping back from Dubai in March. Trainer Bill Mott is ultra-conservative, so if this horse is running Saturday, and by the looks of his works, he is, you have to assume he has a big chance.

Race #9: G1 Met Mile – 1 Mile, Dirt

This is the heavyweight fight of the card that most fans are eagerly awaiting. The two best horses in training, #1 Flightline (3-5) versus #2 Speaker’s Corner (8-5), decide who is the best horse in the United States. The Beyer Speed Figures paint this as a matchup where Flightline has a slight advantage. The eye test and Ragozin Sheets indicate that Flightline has a HUGE advantage. There is some unknown here, as Flightline has never raced outside of California. His trainer, John Sadler, also has a reputation as being a liability when he as to ship. This horse is different though. From the workouts videos and the video’s I have seen of him schooling, it looks like he is going to be ready to go Saturday. If you can find -140 on this horse in fixed odds, hammer it. With the prices so short, I am going to single Flightline in multi-race bets. If you look to gain value, I would play a cold exacta with Flightline in first and #4 Happy Saver (8-1) in the second spot. I was really impressed with Happy Saver in his last race, and now he gets a cutback to a distance I think suits him better. He also loves the Belmont surface, with three wins in four career starts at Big Sandy.

Race #10: G1 Manhattan Stakes – 1 1/4th Mile, Turf

Ten horses make up this field, and every single one has a legitimate chance at winning. The morning line favorite, #2 Gufo (3-1) comes into this race better than his form indicates, I believe. Trainer Christophe Clement said before his race two back that the horse was only about 70%. Gufo won easy that day in a graded stakes. Last out he finished second, in a four-horse field, where the weather was awful and the pace was incredibly slow. All of those things worked against Gufo. I expect a big performance from him here. #4 Adhamo (4-1) looks to be the best of the Chad Brown horses in here, but I think there is a little bit of a buyer’s beware at this point. His two races stateside have left something to be desire. I am not looking to back this horse at a short price. I am much more interested in the #9 Santin (7-2) than Adhamo. Santin is a horse that I have thought was talented for sometime and he finally broke through and secured a Grade 1 Stakes win in his last race. With plenty of early speed signed on here, I expect him to be tough here. Fade the #3 Tokyo Gold (30-1) at your own risk. Jockey Christian Demuro comes in from overseas to ride just this horse, in just this race. He has no other mounts as of now. A horse with Japanese connections that races mostly in France and Italy, he finished second at this course, at this distance when shipping to Belmont last year. If Japan is sending a horse over for a major race, that horse should be respected. #8 Highland Chief (6-1) is another short price horse I am not afraid to fade here. He won his first race in two years last out, the same race Gufo was in. Maybe the horse is finally getting sound and getting this thing turned around, but the race just felt like a fluke to me.

Race #11: G1 Belmont Stakes – 1 1/2th Mile, Dirt

This is one of my favorite races to handicap every year. We’re trying to predict how horses will fare at a distance they’ve never run and probably never run again.  Breeding plays a crucial role in this race, and the Tapit line has been dominant as of late. Going back to 2014, five of the winners have of this race have either been sired by Tapit or one of his sons. There are two horses that fit the bill here; #1 We The People (2-1) and #8 Barber Road (10-1) while the #5 Creative Minister (6-1) has Tapit on his dam’s side. From a pace standpoint, the Belmont Stakes is usually favorable to horses who like to be on the lead or near the lead. In fact, in the last twenty years, only three horses have won the race after being more than three lengths off the lead turning for home. That is disadvantageous for horses like #4 Rich Strike (7-2) and the #6 Mo Donegal (5-2). Let’s address Rich Strike first; he was the beneficiary of a hot pace in the Kentucky Derby. Since then he has supposedly been working really well. I wouldn’t be shocked if he wins here, but I am also not betting on it. I would need odds of 10-1 or higher to consider him in this spot. Mo Donegal, I like a lot more. I trust Irad Ortiz to have the horse closer to the pace in this spot and trainer Todd Pletcher has been a master of going from the Derby to the Belmont with his top horses. Mo Donegal has also looked great, physically, in pictures and videos of his works. On paper, it projects to be an easy lead for We The People, which is a huge reason why he is the favorite here. However, the jockey’s have the same PP’s that we do also and easy leads rarely materialize when they appear that way on paper. I think Barber Road is the biggest wild card in this spot. He is a horse that they’ve continually said they wanted to be closer to lead after every single race. They finally made a jockey change and will use Joel Rosario here, who has won the Belmont Stakes twice. As the races have gotten longer, Barber Road has improved and with his running style, the distance won’t be an issue. At 10-1 or longer, I think there is enough value there to include him on your tickets and I expect him to run a big race. It is worth mentioning that he finished right behind Mo Donegal in the Derby with arguably a worse trip.


$10 Pick 3/$60 total bet.

Race 1: 3, 4, 5

Race 2: 2, 7

Race 3: 3

True North (Race 9)/Jaipur (Race 8 Saturday)

$15 – 3 / 4,8

$5 – 3/ 6,11

$100 Total

The aforementioned wagers are what I will bet on Friday. The early Pick 3 contains a horse named Commandperformance who will take a lot of money but I think is easily beatable. We’re fading him in the first race, playing Mike Maker and Chad Brown’s horses in the second leg and hopefully setting up Bella Sofia to need a score in the third race on the card. I think Jackie’s Warrior is a lock in the True North, so I will take advantage of that and parlay him with some of the horses I like in the Jaipur, a race that I think has much more betting value than anything else on Friday.


Race 2: $10 P3 4,6,8/4/3 = $30

Race 3: $25 Win 4

Race 4: $50 Win 3, $5 Tri 3/2,4/2,4 =$60

Race 5: $25 Win/Place 2 =$50

Race 6: NO PLAY

Race 7: $10 Win, $20 Place 4 =$30

Race 8: 4,6,8, 11, 13 .50 Tri Box = $30

Race 9: $10 Exacta 1/4, $20 Met-Belmont Double 1/1,5,6,8 = $90

Race 10: 2,3,6,9 $1 Tri Box, $25 Win 2 =$50

Race 11: $25 Win/Place 8, $2 Tri 1,5,6,8 = $100

Above is how I would play it on a $500 bankroll, adjust that for your own personal bets though, races 8 and 10 on Saturday offer the most upside. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @WinWinWinners as I will be tweeting throughout the weekend and posting multi-race wagers on the Twitter account. Thanks for reading and good luck!