While the field is missing some divisional heavyweights, it’s still a fun betting race worthy of your attention. Let’s see if we can make some money on the race known as “The Test of the Champion.”
The biggest question to answer
Your handicapping should start with one simple question: Who can go the grueling 12-furlong distance? It’s not a route any of these horses have run before, and many will almost certainly never go this distance again.
It’s for that reason I love No. 6 Mo Donegal. His running lines tell you he’s a closer, which may be seen as a red flag in a race without much early zip. However, he’s not a flashy, “one-run” closer who makes up lots of ground in a short time. He’s a grinder.
That style works well for this race. When others may be slowing down, Mo Donegal should have plenty left. Trainer Todd Pletcher has won this race three times, and I think he’s got a good shot at doing it again.
Leveraging a Belmont Stakes opinion
I don’t see any value in No. 1 We the People. Yes, he’s the main speed in the race, and his win in the Grade 3 Peter Pan was very good. However, that was such a huge improvement that I think a bounce might be coming. At his likely short price, I can’t play him.
Instead, I’ll focus on two bigger prices to use along with Mo Donegal. No. 3 Nest is very, very interesting. I didn’t like her in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. I thought she’d regress off of her two-back romp. Instead, she ran a similar race to finish second behind Secret Oath.
Here’s what gets me. Mike Repole bought into Mo Donegal prior to the Belmont Stakes. He’s also a part owner of Nest, who’s been working with Mo Donegal for the past few weeks. They’ve posted similar times in the mornings, and the decision was made to run both. My thinking is if you like Mo Donegal, you sort of have to like Nest at a bigger price.
I’ll also use No. 5 Creative Minister, who ran third in the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes three weeks ago. Based on speed figures, he ranks with the top contenders and will likely be a bigger price than We the People, Mo Donegal, and No. 4 Rich Strike (more on him later). He’s improved in each of his starts to date, and another step forward puts him right there at a nice price.
Can Rich Strike strike twice?
Rich Strike’s Kentucky Derby win sent shockwaves through horse racing. The also-eligible drew into the field at the last minute, weaved through the field, and won at odds of 80-1.
In this race, though, I think he’s a bet-against. He got a dream setup five weeks ago when Summer Is Tomorrow blazed the opening half-mile in :45 and change. He’s not getting that sort of pace in front of him here. Add in that he’s likely to be less than 10% of his Kentucky Derby price this time around, and that he hasn’t shown an ability to string together two top-tier races, and you have a runner that hits me as an underlay.
Betting strategies for the Belmont Stakes
I’m leaning on Mo Donegal. He hit me as a Belmont horse with his win in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial. That effort only looked more impressive after Early Voting won the Preakness.
I’ll have a win bet on him, and I’ll key him in exactas with my other two horses. Ones with Mo Donegal on top will be played for a few extra bucks, so as to hopefully capitalize on my strongest opinion.
- $15 win: 6 ($15)
- $5 exactas: 6 w/3, 5 ($10, $25)
- $2 exactas: 3, 5 w/6 ($4, $29)