Bet a $2 Win Ticket on American Pharoah and Not a Penny More: Belmont Stakes Betting Guide

Jay Pryce

Wednesday, June 3, 2015 3:57 PM UTC

Wednesday, Jun. 3, 2015 3:57 PM UTC

Triple Crown contenders are always huge “underlays” coming into Belmont. This sports handicapper look at reasons why, including the idea of the $2 souvenir bet, and offer wagering advice for the race.  

Here at SBR Picks, in addition to offering daily selections and wagering analysis, we strive to educate sports bettors in practices to maximize return on their investment (ROI). Proper money management and risk assessment is the key to making a profit long term in this game, and betting a substantial amount of money on American Pharoah to win the Triple Crown on Saturday is disadvantageous and darn right silly. Period. 


An Underlay
In addition to the many reasons we've already covered leading up the race on why the odds are stacked against the Bob Baffert-trained colt to win on Saturday, the horse is an “underlay,” as are the majority of Belmont Stakes favorites for that matter. An “underlay” means a gambler is not being adequately compensated for the true risk that he is bearing on his or her wager. Even if American Pharoah wins, which he very well might, betting on undervalued horses fails to compensate the bettor for true risks involved, ultimately resulting in long-term losses. Dating back to the first running of the race, for example, favorites have won the Belmont Stakes 42% of the time, which is surprisingly an above-average rate. But, if one were to place a $2 win bet on every post-time favorite in every running, then they would have loss -23% of their investment. In an industry with more informed bettors and increasing “takeouts” and vigorish every penny counts as profit margins potentially grow smaller every day. Maintaining best practices should be a daily order.


Triple Crown Betting Market
Triple Crown candidates decrease a favorite's potential value to even more unplayable levels when considering the Belmont Stakes. For a variety of reasons, the betting market is incredibly bullish on Triple Crown contenders. For one, the media showers the horse and their potential record breaking attempt with a lot of attention, attracting many casual fans and new public money. 21 million viewers tuned in to watch California Chrome's attempt at greatness last year, for example, three times more than the year before when there was not a Triple Crown runner. They often jump on the bandwagon in search of a winner—for some, it is the only runner in the race they've ever heard of! In fact, seven of the eight highest win pool mutuals for the Belmont Stakes have happened in the most recent Triple Crown attempts. Not to place all the blame on new or casual interests, even a lot of regular horse players buy into the hype. It's impressive to see a horse string victories together at the highest levels of racing, and confidence in that animal can grow to unhealthy levels. But perhaps my favorite factor in the Triple Crown underlay is the gross number of $2 win bet souvenir tickets purchased as mementos or future investments.


True Value of $2 Tickets:
Overlooking the psychological, social, or financial implications regarding material culture and souvenir collection, this practice grew en vogue with potential Triple Crown contenders during the great Secretariat's run at history in 1973. On the surface, it seems antithetical to the world of horse racing, where there is nothing more gratifying than tearing up a losing ticket into a little ball of confetti and tossing it over your shoulder in disgust. The media hype surrounding “Big Red” and his attempt to become the first horse in 25 years to win all three races, the longest drought prior to today's current mark, was intense. He donned the cover of national magazines such as Time, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated even before his Belmont romp of 31-lengths. Many, gripped by the discourse making up the super horse, purchased $2 win tickets in one of his Triple Crown starts with the intentions they go uncashed, either to share in potential history or with the purpose to turn them into profit later. In fact, 5,617 winning parimutuel tickets went unredeemed in Secretariat's Belmont victory at 1/10 odds. The trend has continued. In 1977, nearly 10% of the $1.73 million wagered at the Preakness on Seattle Slew went unclaimed two weeks after the race, and the track superintendent predicted similar numbers for his Belmont run. One savvy investor, in fact, drove to New York and purchased $1,000 worth of $2 win tickets with the idea of framing and selling them for $50 a pop. In the modern era, during Smarty Jones' ill-fated 2004 Triple Crown run, fans pressured track officials to lobby parimutuel ticket providers to start labeling the horse's name on tickets and not just their number, to boost authenticity and potential value, a practice that continues today. There is potentially big business in these uncashed tickets, folks.

In fact, this may be the only way to conjure up some sort of positive value on a potential win ticket. In 2004, an unredeemed $2 ticket and program from Affirmed's victory in the 1978 Kentucky Derby sold for more than $22,000. By the way, if a ticket goes unclaimed for set period of time, the money goes back to the state, like with lotteries. In 2003, $5,000 won someone a 1973 win ticket on Secratariat's Kentucky Derby victory. You can actually go on ebay today and for $40 ($45.95 including shipping and handling) purchase a $2 win ticket from Seattle Slew's Belmont victory. When you factor in inflation, we're talking a $150 return on your original investment—far more lucrative then the 10 cents return one would have garnered cashing out at the window. Ironically, you can make more profit holding the losing $2 Belmont tote ticket of a Triple Crown candidate in the long run than cashing out if he won. One savvy seller is hawking multiple losing $2 Belmont win tickets of Big Brown’s 2008 disappointing attempt at the Crown for $3 with shipping and handling included. Heck he made 20 cents on the tickets via inflation alone. Before you go spouting off that there isn’t a market for said items, seller “norebounds” has already vended three of seven expired tote tickets since the start of the year. Of course, these tickets are purchased from a New York Racing Authority machine with the Belmont brand imprinted on the paper, but the fact of the matter is, the $2 souvenir bet can be more lucrative than cashing out at win bet on a Triple Crown underlay the day of the race. Sad.


Measuring Impact on Belmont Stakes Betting Odds
How much these souvenir bets lessen a favorite's price in today's Belmont Stakes Betting Odds is probably pretty negligible on the surface, and almost considerably less than in the 1970s and earlier when 85% of the handle was taken at the track versus 85% wagered off-site today with the installment of computerized tote systems. At most, they probably move a price 30-40 cents, but again, talking value and ROI this is a 10% difference or more in win probability and critical to one's potential return if investing sizable money in the runner. Even without the Belmont branded ticket, many people will buy a $2 souvenir bets to share in the moment, as a keepsake, or to flaunt in the future that they were on the winning side. I know I will.


Final Betting Verdict:
But if you're looking to invest a sizable amount of money in sports picks for this race—which you should, there is always value to be had when there is an underlay—than it is wise keep American Pharoah out of the top spot. In what is now an eight-horse field, after factoring in the favorite's historical finishes and prices in the race, fair odds on American Pharoah should be no lower than 7:5. Anything under this screams underlay. Come post time, 3-5 is not out of the question. Moreover, in addition to the 37-year streak and 0-11 record of recent Triple Crown candidates, favorites overall have played poorly over the last few years. Since 2000, only two have won the race: Point Given (2001) and Afleet Alex (2005). Do look to put American Pharoah in the money otherwise, if playing single-race exotic tickets. Out of the Triple Crown candidates to start the race since 1978, 8 of 11 (73%) of the last have come in third or better, and only one finished outside of fourth place to spoil superfecta wagering. The Todd Pletcher trained duo of Materiality and Madefromlucky, and the overseas invader Mubtaahij will sit a top of my trifecta ticket when the race starts, nestled in my lucky shirt pocket right beside my $2 win bet on American Pharoah.

As always, use this information to support your leans and best of luck!

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