War of Will has been arguably the most important horse in this year’s Triple Crown races. He was one of the horses adjudged to have been impeded by Maximum Security in the Kentucky Derby, and the winner was subsequently disqualified.
Next, War of Will romped home to record a triumph at the Preakness Stakes that his team may have felt was denied at Churchill Downs.
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He comes in next as one of the top contenders for the final leg of the Triple Crown. We are speaking, of course, of the 2019 Belmont Stakes. It all gets underway in New York on Saturday, June 8 and today we have much to discuss regarding War of Will, the other contenders and where the best betting value can be found.
We predicted Maximum Security would win the Kentucky Derby just a few short weeks ago and he did indeed come through for the win… before being disqualified. Unfortunately, our Preakness Stakes pick Improbable only finished in sixth. Interestingly, trend of a long shot runner-up continued as Everfast finished second at 50-1.
Only for the fact he was impeded at the Derby, we would be talking about War of Will winning a Triple Crown. Instead, he will be aiming for the still-impressive glory of back-to-back Triple Crown race wins. War of Will is the second favorite at 2-1, with Tacitus installed as the narrow 9-5 favorite in a race with just 10 runners.
In today’s guide, we’ll be looking for the best bets once again for the final leg of the 2019 Triple Crown. We will consider some potentially useful betting trends and then wrap things up with a brief history of the Belmont Stakes.
2019 Belmont Stakes Odds
The on-track oddsmakers have published the Belmont Stakes morning line odds so we now have a general idea of what to expect as far as payouts. It is little surprise to see Tacitus and War of Will leading the pack as of today.
|Post Position||Betting Odds|
(Irad Ortiz Jr.)
|War of Will|
Useful Belmont Stakes Trends
At the time of writing, there are 10 runners. With a relatively small field and a fair track, it should be a case of the fastest horse with the best stamina winning.
Aside from Tacitus and War of Will, the rest of the field is available at mid to long odds. Preakness runner-up, Everfast is 12-1 while Spinoff is 15-1. Master Fencer is 8-1, followed by Intrepid Heart at 10-1, Tax at 15-1 and Bourbon War at 12-1.
The biggest outsider by a wide margin is Joevia at 30-1.
With the stage set, let’s consider some of the trends that have developed over the many runnings of the Belmont Stakes.
Long Shots Can Win
One thing about this race is that long-odds winners have a chance. Over the last 20 years, 11 horses have triumphed at odds of 12-1 or longer. Five of those horses won at odds of 24-1 or longer.
This could be attributed to slower races. For example, half of the last ten races were won in times of 2:30 or longer. The 2:28 barrier has only been broken twice in the last decade, and six times in the last 20 years.
The main reason why there are so many longer odds winners is due to the nature of the race. The Belmont Stakes is a hard 12-furlong slog that can take out even the most gifted of horses.
Not many entrants have run 1m 4f before in general, so there is always a sense of the unknown. That’s not to mention it comes at the end of a grueling stretch of hard races for the horses that ran in other Triple Crown races leading up to this point.
Triple Crown Experience
19 of the last 25 winners of the Belmont Stakes ran in at least one of the previous two Triple Crown races. This is primarily because the top horses are readied for the Derby, and if they don’t get in, they target the Preakness. Any remaining horses don’t tend to be good enough to win a major event.
Of the six horses who won the Belmont Stakes without running in a previous Triple Crown race, Tonalist, Rags to Riches, and Drosselmeyer were all talented horses. The other three, Ruler on Ice, Da’Tara, and Sarava, all benefited from crazy races and were in the right place at the right time.
Not every Triple Crown runner that ultimately won at Belmont performed well. Creator was only 13th in the Derby in 2016, while Tapwrit was sixth in 2017.
The Importance of Rest
In 12 of the last 15 years, the winner only ran a maximum of two Triple Crown races. The exceptions were Justify, American Pharaoh, and Afleet Alex. The first two won the Triple Crown while Afleet Alex should have won the Derby but for a poor ride by the jockey.
The Draw is Almost Irrelevant
The distance and open nature of the track means that a horse’s draw is all but irrelevant. In the last 20 years, for example, there have been winners from stalls 1 to 13 barring stall 10. Tacitus is in stall 10 while War of Will is in Stall 9. Could it be that the jockeys on the two betting favorites are so focused on one another that they ignore other horses?
Who Will Win the Belmont Stakes in 2019?
Historically, the Belmont Stakes is the most open of the Triple Crown races, and this year is shaping up to be no different. The favorite, Tacitus, is bred for a longer distance and will hope to bounce back from disappointment at Churchill Downs. War of Will is the other likely winner having triumphed at the Preakness.
However, this is a long shot’s dream race, so perhaps the winner will be another unexpected outsider? Joevia is the rank outsider at 30-1 and could be leading the race by halfway. Alas, it seems unlikely that he will have the stamina to hold off the field in the homestretch and is likely to fade into midfield or worse.
Sir Winston may be a more interesting bet since he finished second at Belmont in a 9-furlong race in May. He is trained by Mark Cisse (who also trains War of Will) and is ridden by Joel Rosario who is known as a world class closer. If Sir Winston is in with a shot near the end, he has a great chance to take the title.
Bourbon War has the highest Equibase Speed Figure in the race but performed poorly at the Preakness where he finished eighth. He is known as a good finisher and could be a threat to at least hit the board in what could be a slow race.
Tax was deemed to be a potential longshot winner of the Derby but finished in 15th place. It was by far the worst performance of his career, and on his best form, he probably ranks third behind the two principals.
Intrepid Heart is very inexperienced and didn’t look great in the final stretch of the 9-furlong Peter Pan Stakes which doesn’t bode well for a longer race at Belmont. However, he is ridden by John Velazquez, who is a Belmont expert and could be in a position to guide his mount to a surprisingly good finish.
Master Fencer is the first Japanese-bred horse to enter this race and has a good Equibase Speed Figure. His seventh place finish in the Derby was promising, and the longer distance should suit. However, he needs a reasonable pace to make the most of his finishing kick.
Everfast was a major outsider at the Preakness and finished in second place. However, it is probable that this performance was an anomaly because the horse had finished way off the pace in his previous three contests. Also, deep closers haven’t historically performed very well at Belmont.
Spinoff finished second last in the Kentucky Derby although he could be excused by having a bad draw. Spinoff’s pedigree suggests that this test of stamina will suit and is ridden by Javier Castellano, a jockey who has three second-place finishes in this race.
Overall, War of Will and Tacitus are the best horses in the race, but their speed may not be enough if their stamina doesn’t allow them to complete 12 furlongs at a decent clip. If you fancy a bet on an outsider, there are a few options such as Master Fencer, Spinoff, and Intrepid Heart. However, it could be a day for Sir Winston. While he a long way from being the fastest in the race, he will likely run strong while others fade.
A Brief History of the Belmont Stakes
Belmont Park hosts this race and is known as The Championship Track because almost every important American champion horse has raced there. The track is considered as one of the “fairest” because it has wide, sweeping turns and a long run home. As a result, the draw shouldn’t play a major role in deciding the winner.
The Belmont Stakes is traditionally the final leg of the Triple Crown and is also the longest race at 1m 4f. The race was inaugurated in 1867 although the first running took place at Jerome Park Racetrack in The Bronx. Ruthless won that race and General Duke was the 1868 winner. The race gets its name because the Jerome Park Racetrack was financed by August Belmont Senior.
The Belmont Stakes moved to Morris Park Racecourse where it remained until it was switched once again, this time to its permanent home at Belmont Park in Elmont, Long Island. Anti-gambling laws in New York threatened the existence of the race, which was not run in 1911 or 1912.
Upon its return, some great horses graced the track. Sir Barton was the first Triple Crown winner in 1919 although the term was not yet used. Man o’ War won the 1920 renewal by an incredible 20 lengths. Today, winning trainers receive the August Belmont Trophy and keep it for a year along with a silver miniature cup for keeps. The cup was first presented in 1926.
The phrase Triple Crown was initially used in 1930 after Gallant Fox won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes races. His son, Omaha, repeated the feat just five years later. The existing order of Triple Crown races was set in 1931 with the Belmont Stakes installed as the final leg. There were five further Triple Crown winners from 1937 to 1948 as the nation produced some phenomenal horses.
From 1963 to 1967, the race was held at Aqueduct Racetrack as Belmont Park was renovated and restored. 1973 was a memorable year as Secretariat, arguably the greatest American horse ever, romped home by a remarkable 31 lengths in a time of 2:24, a record which remains intact today. It is also the fastest ever time for a 12-furlong race on the dirt in the United States.
In a case of like father, like son, Secretariat’s offspring Risen Star won the race in 1988 with the second-fastest time ever at that point. From 2001 to 2014, no fewer than six horses came to Belmont with dreams of a Triple Crown only to taste defeat. Finally, American Pharaoh broke the curse in 2015 and was followed by Justify who became the 13th and latest Triple Crown winner.
Eddie Arcaro and Jim McLoughlin are the most successful jockeys with six Belmont Stakes wins apiece. James G. Rowe Sr. is the record-setting trainer with eight wins. Belmont has also seen some memorable long shot winners including Sherluck at 65-1 in 1961 and Sarava at 70-1 in 2002.
Overall, 23 horses have won the first two Triple Crown races and lost at Belmont. Interestingly, 14 Belmont Stakes winners have sired at least one subsequent winner. It is rare for fillies to enter this race. Only 23 have run in the race, and there have been just three winners, with Rags to Riches the most recent in 2007.