Betting on the Belmont with Longshot Scott Posted by: Dan | 0 Comments
Before we get into picking the winner of the Belmont Stakes we’ll need to talk a little about the Preakness Stakes. The two old dudes stole one. The oldest trainer and the oldest jockey (both Hall of Famers) took the short bus kids “to school.” There’s an old adage that “pace makes the race” and that has never been more true than in the Preakness. Stevens took Oxbow to the lead and set early fractions of 48.6 and 1:13.26 and NOBODY pushed him. I’ve seen donkeys run faster than that. When speed horses are allowed to set really slow fractions on the lead they’re virtually impossible to catch. They relax and run like the wind. It’s like spotting the fat kid a six-hot-dog-lead in an eating contest and trying to catch him. Ain’t gonna happen. Not likely to let that happen again, and I don’t see that happening in the Belmont.
On to the Belmont on June 8, in Elmont, New York. Bet you didn’t know but the Belmont is the oldest of the Triple Crown races. I didn’t until doing my research for this story. I assumed the Kentucky Derby was the oldest. And yes, smartass I do know what ass-u-ming does. The first Belmont Stakes was in 1867 followed by the Preakness six years later and the Kentucky Derby two years after that. The winners trophy is a solid silver bowl crafted by Tiffanys. It switches hands every year but the winning owner, trainer and jockey get smaller replicas to keep. The Belmont Breeze is the official Belmont Stakes drink. It’s a whiskey punch. Never had one, but it has whiskey in it, so it has to be good.
Now for the handicapping aspect. First for those of you that have never been to the track or even watched a horse race but accidentally clicked the wrong thing and ended up here … bet on the fastest horsey. They always beat the slow horseys. Let’s dig a little deeper for the rest of you. There’s a fundamental truth when it comes to handicapping. It is “the trend is your friend.” Trends develop for a reason. It’s just doesn’t have to make sense. “At the end of the day,” “it is what it is.”
Sorry, just had to go there. It’s been at least five minutes since I’ve heard anyone say that. Here’s a few trends for you. In the last 11 runnings, five of the winners ran in the Derby but not the Preakness. Four of the winners were fresh horses that didn’t run in either the Derby or the Preakness. One ran in the Preakness but not the Derby. One ran in all three.
In summary, 9 of the last 11 Belmont winners didn’t run in the Preakness and 4 of the winners didn’t run in either of the first 2 legs of the Triple Crown. Five of the winners ran in the derby only. There are no absolutes in horse racing but you have to give the edge to fresh horses. Nine of the last 11 winners had at least 5 weeks rest.
Horses with tactical speed win the majority of the Belmonts. In other words they’re usually 3 to 4 lengths from the leader most of the race. The major misconception is that stretch runners have an advantage because it’s a 1.5 mile race — the longest of the Triple Crown races. Not true. None of these horses have ever run this far. It’s like asking a sprinter to run a mile. They’re only going to have so much left for the stretch run. Last but not least, they have to be bred to run that far.
Here’s how I see it. First of all Oxbow will not be allowed an easy lead. Freedom Child won’t allow that to happen. There’s a couple more that could push him, too. Orb looked like a tired horse to me in the Preakness. He’s run five tough races this year and two in the last five weeks. He may still be good enough to hit the board, but I don’t like him to win it. Revolutionary looks to be the best horse that ran in the Derby and skipped the Preakness. He should be fresh. He’s bred to run this far and should make one hell of a stretch run. The only problem is that he’s a confirmed stretch runner and those types rarely win the Preakness.
He’ll need to be closer to the pace this time to win. Which brings me to Freedom Child. He didn’t run in the Derby or the Preakness. He’s a really fresh horse that has only run in three races all year. He won two of them by a combined 19 lengths. His last win was in the Grade 2 Peter Pan stakes at Belmont Park. In his other race, he was held at the gate by the assistant starter and not allowed to break with the others. He was officially declared a non-starter, which means they refund everyone’s money that wagered on him. He broke a good 10 lengths behind the others. He picked up horses like they were standing still sitting in fourth place, turning for home, and ran out of gas. It doesn’t look good in the racing form, but I’ve watched that race 9 or 10 times — yes, i know i need to get a life — and that may be his most impressive race all year. He was pointed toward the Kentucky Derby, but that race prevented him from qualifying. He was a late foal and has been slow to develop. He’s loaded with speed and is bred to get the distance. I think he’ll be right with or on the early pace and will be hard to catch in the stretch.
They call me “Longshot Scott” not “Chalk (favorites) Player Pete.” I’ll let the others play the chalk. I like Freedom Child to win and Revolutionary to run a fast closing second. Your guess is a good as mine for the third-place finisher.
All of that being said, while I’m quite confident in my handicapping skills if I were that damn good I’d be playing the ponies for a living not writing for these bourbon-drinking, boot-wearing yahoos. So in following the advice of our crack legal team, Dewey, Cheatam and Howe, I’m not suggesting you wager blah, blah, blah. We’re not guaranteeing results blah, blah, blah. We’re not responsible if you lose the pink slip on your Double Wide blah, blah, blah. Enjoy the Belmont Stakes and drink a Maker’s Mark and Seven for me.
Scott Copeland’s been playing the horses for more than 30 years. He’s cashed his share of IRS tickets. He’s also had days like that day at Evangeline Downs. All honest handicappers have. He learned much of what he knows from an old friend and professional handicapper named Ray “Sport” Jackson. He had an opportunity to do it professionally 23 years ago, but being married to a professional handicapper did not play well with Copeland’s wife. He kept his day job and his wife, but still has a passion for playing the ponies.
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