For the eighth time since 2000 and the first time since American Pharoah in 2015, we have a Triple Crown contender heading into the 2018 Belmont Stakes. All eyes are on Justify after another big win on another difficult course in Baltimore last weekend.
On May 19th, Justify took charge on a sloppy track at Pimlico covered in fog so thick NBC’s cameras lost track of the runners at one point. Between the thick fog and competitive race from beginning to end, this year’s Preakness Stakes made for some great television.
Where to Bet on the 2018 Belmont Stakes Online
Now, we head to Belmont Park in Elmont, New York for the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes. The way it’s shaping up right now, it looks like Justify will have his hands full in his quest to follow in American Pharoah’s hoof steps and become Bob Baffert’s second Triple Crown horse.
When and Where to Watch the Belmont Stakes
The 2018 Belmont Stakes racing festival lasts from 7-9 June. The festival gets underway with 9 races on Thursday, 8 June starting at 2:00 PM local time. Friday will feature 11 more races beginning at 12:50 PM.
Belmont Stakes Day, the day of the big race, happens on Saturday, 9 June with 13 races on schedule. The Belmont Stakes itself will be the 11th race on the card and the post time is scheduled for 6:37 PM.
You can see a full list of races and times here.
Where to Watch
In the US, NBC Sports Network will run pre-race coverage from 3-5 PM ET. NBC will take over at 5 PM for about an hour-and-a-half of Belmont Stakes preview coverage before showing the race live at 6:37 PM. Coverage is planned to wrap up by 7 PM.
2018 Belmont Stakes Betting Odds
The best bookmakers have released early Belmont Stakes betting odds and are now taking wagers on the winner. In addition to Justify, we have at least seven other horses marked as likely runners so far.
We’ve gotten quite a head start on the 2018 Belmont Stakes with this post, so there are still some things to sort out regarding runners. The prices you see below are for antepost or futures wagers. These bets can give you significant value if you get a great price early and something changes to lower your horse’s odds. Once you lock in your bet, that’s your price no matter what.
Of course, the flip side is antepost bets can also work against you. Anyone who had wagers on Audible, for example, just lost their money after he pulled out earlier today. But if we flip back to the positive point of view one more, anyone who had prices locked in on Justify should be feeling pretty happy watching his odds shorten now that his chief rival is out.
Everything will solidify once post positions are finalized at the post-position draw on 5 June.
Betting on Justify to Win the Triple Crown
If there was any question Justify was a special horse after a flawless Kentucky Derby run, his follow-up at the 2018 Preakness Stakes may have sealed the deal. This is a horse that clearly has no qualms running in poor weather, as once again he won at the highest level under rough racing conditions.
Under foggy conditions and on a sloppy track, Justify held off a strong challenge from Good Magic over most of the race. Just as Good Magic fell off, Bravazo and Tenfold surged forward to finish in second and third place, respectively. Justify did not have it easy at any point in this race, yet still got it done.
Kentucky Derby winners have a solid track record at the Preakness Stakes, but the Belmont Stakes is by far the bigger challenge for Triple Crown contenders. As we noted above, this will be the eighth time we’ve had a potential Triple Crown horse since 2000. The only horse to make it thee-for-three over that time was American Pharoah. And of course, we have to look back much further to find a Triple Crown winner predating 2015’s American Pharoah.
The Belmont Stakes is a longer race at 1 ½ miles and he’ll be facing a new round of challengers, many of them fresh and rested. Bravazo’s late surge at the Preakness Stakes may also portend trouble for Justify on a longer track. Even as they surged across the wire at Pimlico, Bravazo was gaining ground on Justify every stride.
Justify will also have to face fresh horses heading into the longest race of the stretch. Triple Crown contenders are uncommon and winners are even rarer for a reason. This is a grueling stretch that only grows more difficult with every race. Justify will have to be a truly exceptional horse to turn around and do it all over again one more time.
In any case, online racing bookmakers have priced Justify as the early favourite. Racebets.com has him at 3/5 followed by Hofburg at 9/2, Bravazo at 7/1 and Tenfold at 11/1. William Hill has Justify at 8/11, Hofburg at 9/2, Bravazo at 8/1 and Tenfold at 10/1. Whoever you back, it can only help to get the best odds you can by checking the price at multiple racing sites.
Looking at the Competition
With Audible out of contention, no other horse stands out as a singular challenge to Justify winning the Belmont Stakes and achieving Triple Crown glory. What Justify faces in terms of challenges is more in terms of the brutal racing schedule, the length of this course and sheer number of contenders.
The 2018 Preakness Stakes ended up having a field of just eight horses. With less traffic tod deal with and a shorter field and weather that apparently suits Justify just fine, he had a lot going for him.
Based on the betting odds alone right now, the toughest challenges look to come from Hofburg, Bravazo and Tenfold. Good Magic could be a contender, but at least half the online bookmakers out there haven’t even added him as a possibility for a wager.
Hofburg is the one horse of these three that did not race at the Preakness Stakes and will be the freshest of the bunch. We last saw Hofburg at the Kentucky Derby on 5 May where he finished in seventh place. Hofburg has just four races to his name and plenty of room to improve between races.
Trainer Bill Mott sounded mostly pleased with Hofburg’s Kentucky Derby run despite the lowly finish. Traffic problems up front gave him trouble, but Mott said “he seemed to have a lot left” after finishing the race. Prior to the Kentucky Derby, Hofburg finishes a respectable 2nd place behind Audible at the Grade 1 Florida Derby on 31 March.
What Hofburg has going for him is rest time. While his Kentucky Derby finish was forgettable, he has a solid track record over his four starts to date. His main competition in Justify, Bravazo and Tenfold all raced at the Preakness Stakes.
Bravazo made a strong case for himself at the Preakness Stakes not just by finishing second, but the manner in which he did it. Bravazo ran behind the leaders for most of the race, but made his move as the pack entered the deepest of the fog down the stretch and disappeared from camera view. As the dark forms of the horses emerged into view once again, Bravazo came full-throttle to pass Lone Sailor, Tenfold and Good Magic to finish in second a half-length behind Justify.
The speed at which he made his comeback was remarkable and there’s no question he was gaining on Justify as they crossed the line. We can’t say he definitely would have won had there been just a bit more track to go (like there will be at the 1 ½ mile Belmont Stakes), but he was definitely gaining quickly.
Bravazo has considerably more experience than the others at the top of the odds with eight races to his name. Bravazo finished sixth at the Derby, then improved to finish second at Preakness. Between his better finishes and the strong run at the end of the Preakness Stakes, Bravazo has plenty of momentum. Now, one of the biggest questions is whether or not he has the stamina to be competitive in what will also be his third Triple Crown race this year.
Tenfold’s Preakness Stakes run was similar to Bravazo’s in that he started off behind and then made a strong comeback near the end. What Tenfold showed in that performance was tenacity and stamina even in poor racing weather.
Tenfold has four races to his name now with a couple of first place finishes in February and March, a 5th place finish at the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby and his 3rd place showing at the Preakness Stakes. This is a horse that is improving every outing and the fact that he’s the son of the vaunted Curlin doesn’t hurt much, either.