Triple Crown Betting Preview: Horses to Consider for Belmont Stakes Picks Besides American Pharoah

Mark Lathrop

Sunday, May 17, 2015 11:38 AM GMT

Sunday, May. 17, 2015 11:38 AM GMT

American Pharoah has won the first two legs of the coveted Triple Crown. Our handicapper looks at his chances for pulling off the feat and gives his early lean on the Belmont Stakes.

Thirty minutes before the 2015 Preakness Stakes post time the heavens opened up a deluge that made the race more interesting than it was meant to be. Starting on the rail, American Pharoah busted out of the gate well, set the pace, and then turned it on after the final turn to win the race by the sixth largest margin in Preakness history. It was the sixth win in a row for the three year-old colt, and he gets the chance in three weeks to become the twelfth Triple Crown winner and first since Affirmed in 1978 at Belmont in New York.  

The final leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, is the oldest and was first run in 1867. It is also the longest of the races at 1½ miles, besting the Kentucky Derby at 1¼ miles and the Preakness at 1 3/16th miles. That length and the schedule – the entire Triple Crown is run in just five weeks – is one of the reasons that the Belmont is so hard to win after winning the first two legs of the Big Three. This is especially true in the modern era as horses are bred and trained to be fast right out of the gate. Owners who invest substantial amounts of money on an animal want a return on their dollar sooner than ever. It is not uncommon for horses to go six weeks between races nowadays to be primed for a speedy showing. In the past, and in the past I mean the last time a horse won the Triple Crown in the 1970’s, top horses would race every two weeks. That antiquated schedule would build the stamina needed to compete in the grueling series of races that is the Triple Crown. Champions were built from the ground up instead of bred lottery tickets hoping to cash in the right month of their third year.

Not only is genetics against American Pharoah in his quest for immortality, there are fresh horses in the mix in the Belmont that have taken the Preakness off after competing in the Kentucky Derby. Among those preparing to spoil the party are Frosted (fourth in the Derby), Materiality (sixth), Keen Ice (seventh), Mubtaahij (eighth), Carpe Diem (10th) and Frammento (11th). I’ll admit that I personally have affection for Frosted, if not only because he is the only horse I can pick out from the field in the account of his gray/silver coat. There is also the fact that the tracks are completely different in regard to surface. The analogy to this is a track star running on grass versus a composite rubber oval. Not only are the surfaces different, but because of the differing lengths, the turns are different as well.  Take these track factors when analyzing the betting odds, and add in the variables of a horse reacting to a demanding travel schedule, and you have a real crapshoot when it comes to predicting the performance of a horse from race to race.

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Past Triple Crown Hopefuls Since 1978 (Courtesy AP)

YEAR

HORSE

BELMONT PLACE

LENGTHS BACK

2015

American Pharoah

???

???

2014

California Chrome

fourth

1 3/4

2012

I'll Have Another

scratched

--

2008

Big Brown

ninth

eased

2004

Smarty Jones

second

1

2003

Funny Cide

third

5

2002

War Emblem

eighth

19 1/2

1999

Charismatic

third

1 1/2

1998

Real Quiet

second

nose

1997

Silver Charm

second

3/4

1989

Sunday Silence

second

8

1987

Alysheba

fourth

14 1/4

1981

Pleasant Colony

third

1 1/2

1979

Spectacular Bid

third

3 1/4

 

Betting Value
My favorite aspect about horse racing is the personification of the champions of the sport. Is Secretariat a humble gentleman off the track, tipping an ear to his defeated brethren? I would like to think so, although in reality all he was probably thinking of is ‘grass… grass… oats…. carrot… rock’. For this reason, I’d like to root for American Pharoah to win this year’s Triple Crown. Who wouldn’t want to see a little history made? But since we’d like to make a buck in the process, I’d suggest taking one of the rested horses from the Derby as your sports picks to Place or Show in the Belmont. Although I like Frosted, his pace setting style might not play well in the longer Belmont race. In this instance, I’m going to take Materiality, 6th in the Derby with the Belmont being just his fifth race, to Place and Show in the Belmont after taking the Preakness off. Let’s hope he gets a good post to boot.

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