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2014 Belmont Stakes: Statistics and Picks

With the first two jewels in horse racing's Triple Crown behind us we look towards the "Run for the Carnations", the Belmont Stakes and whether history can be made.  In the Derby and Preakness we took a look at some unique statistics, and now for the Belmont Stakes we're doing the same thing - including my betting interests (at the bottom).

While it doesn't carry the same purse and media circus as the Derby ($2 million), the Belmont is still a healthy $1.5 million (60% goes to the winner).  And all eyes will be on Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome, who has won 6 consecutive races by a combined margin of 29 1/2 lengths, and goes off as the 3-5 favorite.  In other words it'll cost you a $5 win bet to make $3 profit.  

California Chrome is looking to become the 12th Triple Crown winner ever, and first since Affirmed in 1978.

Even if you don’t know how to read a race program, here are a few statistics that will hopefully help you with your pick.  Let's start by looking at win percentages by post position.

Post Position Winning %
While the shortest path to the finish line is at the inside rail, the #1 position is tough to win from in both the Preakness as well as the Kentucky Derby...but not the Belmont Stakes.  In fact the #1 horse has won the Belmont Stakes 3 of the last 30 races run, and all time at the Belmont the #1 has double the number of wins over any other post (23 all time)

Here’s how the post positions have fared since 1984 (the last 30 years):

Post Position

# of Starts Wins Win %
7 25 5 20%
4 30 4 13%
9 24 3 13%
8 25 3 12%
1 29 3 10%
3 30 3 10%
12 11 1 9%
5 29 2 7%
2 30 2 7%
6 30 1 7%
11 14 1 7%
10 21 1 5%

Looking at the above grid, the #7 post position sure sticks out like a sore thumb.  The #2 has had a tough go. The #1 and #2 are typically bad spots for the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.  At post time the #1 and #2 horses are usually the first to load in the gate and can sometimes sit for a minute or more before the starting gate opens.  This can allow the inside horses to relax and leave the gate late, or let anxiety build and build to the point where it is no longer focused on the race.  This isn't the case with every horse, but with big crowds and noise you can imagine sitting in a gate for a lengthy period isn't an advantage.  

The post position 2 (where California Chrome will be) has produced just two winners, furthermore the last horse to win from that starting position was Tabasco Cat in 1994 (20 years ago).

Biggest Longshot Payoffs
The Belmont Stakes has produced a lot of long shots over the years, in fact the post time favorite has only won 6 of the last 30 races, and just 1 time in the last 13 years (Afleet Alex in 2005).  Meanwhile long shots have been a plenty.  In a race with 11 horses and one hot favorite (California Chrome) - the pari mutual odds will be inflated for every other horse in the race.

Here are the biggest Belmont Stakes payoffs ever, notice how recent some are:

Year Winner $2 Win Payoff
2002 Sarava $140.50
1961 Sherluck $130.10
1980 Temperence Hill $106.80
1971 Pass Catcher $79.00
2008 Da' Tara $77.00
2004 Birdstone $72.00
1999 Lemon Drop Kid $59.50
2011 Ruler on Ice $49.50

Here are some other Belmont fun facts:

  • Longshot fishing, 6 of the last 10 races have been won by a horse of 10-to-1 odds or higher.
  • Girl Power - female jockey Rosie Napravnik will ride General a Rod, but a female has already won this race...Julie Krone in 1993 aboard Colonial Affair.
  • Triple Crown - a horse coming into the Belmont Stakes with a shot at racing's triple crown has won 42% of the time.
  • 11 Kentucky Derby winners have come back to win the Preakness since Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978 (35 years ago). 
  • 1 1/2 Miles is the length of the Belmont Stakes, the longest of the 3 triple crown legs
  • 2 mins 24 seconds - the time ran by Secretariat in 1973, it's a race record and a World Record that is still held to this day.
  • 6:18pm ET - the Belmont Stakes post time this Saturday.

My 2014 Belmont Stakes Picks
As a long time racing fan, it's about time we see a Triple Crown winner, we're passed overdue. But the gambler in me wants to see someone light up the board, here are my picks for the Belmont after riding a pretty solid track record in the Derby and Preakness:

  • #9 Wicked Strong (6-1) - he is fresh after missing the Preakness. This horse is bred to go long, in fact his racing form breeding index is the 2nd best in the race (behind Medal Count).  His trainer has a 36% win percentage at Belmont Park this year.  And oh yeah, this horse finished 4th in the Derby after stumbling to his knees out of the starting gate and getting caught up in traffic.  The rest and 9 less horses in the field will give Wicked Strong a much better trip and he'll win going away.

  • #2 California Chrome (3-5) - he has been scintillating in his last four victories, and made his derby and preakness wins look easy.  His status as the hot favorite is well earned. That said, he had a perfect trip in the Derby and Preakness, no traffic problems in a lead stalking ride.  In fact he has barely had any dirt kicked in his face.  I'm betting that Chrome gets caught in this marathon race (longer than the Derby and Preakness), but stays in the top 2.

  • #1 Medal Count (20-1) - this 'come from behind' horse was shuffled back early in the Kentucky Derby.  He's fresh, had had some excellent training times leading up to this race, and his style might set up perfectly with all the front speed.  I see Medal Count rolling late and picking up the pieces for a Top 3 score.

I'm also throwing #11 Tonalist (8-1) in my exacta and triacta boxes, as well as #7 Samraat (20-1) in my triacta box...good luck with your picks!

And PS) If California Chrome gets beat out of his Triple Crown attempt, please don't make it as close as Smarty Jones was in heart can't take it.


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