The Triple Crown series wraps up with Saturday’s Belmont Stakes but without a Triple Crown on the line.
Still, I still like it because it’s a wide-open race with the connections trying to earn major “Black Type” (a horse racing term for a graded stakes winner) in breeding catalogs, especially at the mile-and-a-half distance. That’s another thing that makes the Belmont wide-open as none of these horses have ever run a race this far and probably never will again. That’s another reason to look for some prices as we’ve seen many longshots win the Belmont in recent years (in fact, 11 of the last 20 Belmont winners went off at double-digit odds, starting with Lemon Drop Kid in 1999 at 29-1 through Creator in 2016 at 15-1).
Before getting to this year’s Belmont, I’d like to repeat what my VSiN colleague Vinny Magliulo said on Ron Flatter’s pop-up horse racing pod this week: Belmont (the track) has two great cards on Friday and Saturday loaded with stakes races, so take a look at those in addition to just the Belmont (race). In fact, we went over one of those, the Met Mile (Belmont Race 9 on Saturday, approximate post 4:46 p.m. ET) and I gave out #9 Prince Lucky as my value play at 12-1. He had a three-race winning streak snapped in his loss as the favorite in the Grade 3 Westchester Stakes at Belmont on May 4 with Joe Bravo aboard. Trainer Todd Pletcher puts John Velazquez (who was the jockey for the previous three victories) back on in the Met Mile and they should be able to get a stalking trip. Prince Lucky is my top value play, but I wouldn’t talk anyone out of taking a flier on #8 Pavel, who I picked in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He finished a well-beaten 10th at 39-1, but I’ve had many cases where I was on a horse too early only to have them come in as a longshot later. As I’ve written many times (and repeated on the podcast), “I’d much rather be on a horse early than late when everyone’s on the bandwagon.” I’ll take a flier on Pavel at 20-1 or higher.
OK, now for the marquee race on Saturday:
Tuley’s Takes on Belmont Stakes
Belmont Park, Race 11, approx. post 6:37 p.m. ET
#1 Joevia (30-1): He’s the likely pacesetter from the rail, but he was the leader early in the Wood Memorial and couldn’t hold off Tacitus and Tax (or half of the rest of the field) and my initial thought is he won’t get the 1.5-mile distance or still be around in the stretch. However, I will say that while I write the above with 95% certainty, there is enough doubt – especially if he’s able to slow down the pace and conserve energy – that I’ll probably have a saver ticket on him if he really goes off at 30-1.
#2 Everfast (12-1): I didn’t like him in the Preakness as I thought he wasn’t fast enough. He ended up closing to finish second to War of Will, but after looking at his running times, I still don’t think he’s fast enough and his big rally was more due to other horses backing up. If he’s able to do it again (and I guess it’s possible as he was second at 128-1 in the Holy Bull in February), I’ll take the loss as he’s still too inconsistent for my taste.
#3 Master Fencer (8-1): I wish he had more stakes races in this country as he was expected to be a closer in the Kentucky Derby. He broke last and ended up finishing seventh (sixth after Maximum Pressure’s DQ) and I’d like to see him against smaller fields against this level of competition. He’s the X-factor in my mind. I won’t have him in my main group of exotic tickets, but I’ll use him in my secondary wagers to hit the board.
#4 Tax (15-1): Like many also-rans in the Derby, we can draw a line through it as he really didn’t get a chance to run his race. He should be able to sit off the pace and probably get first run on the pacesetters turning for home. Again, I don’t have him in my top 4, but he’s a definite threat and I’ll be using in exotics with Master Fencer and other late runners.
#5 Bourbon War (12-1): A lot of people were high on this new shooter in the Preakness, but he didn’t fire and didn’t really have an excuse. It was also the third straight time he’s run a worse race than the one prior and I can’t back him and expect a reversal of form.
#6 Spinoff (15-1): This is another Derby also-ran, but while most people see a lackluster running line, I see that he was forwardly placed and give me hope that he could be the speed of the speed in this race and perhaps steal it as my Longshot pick. I’ll have win money on him at 15-1 and also include him in my main exotics boxes.
#7 Sir Winston (12-1): He hasn’t won this year or even in this country (both career wins were at Woodbine in Canada). He did run second in the Peter Pan, the main “prep” race for the Belmont and keeps jockey Joel Rosario, so there’s hope he could be peaking at the right time, but I’m mostly going to use him on my secondary tickets with other closers.
#8 Intrepid Heart (10-1): Sons of Tapit have had a lot of success in the Belmont, winning three of the last five years (the two Triple Crown winners being the two exceptions) and Intrepid Heart is my value play among the three (which also include Bourbon War and Tacitus). He’s a late-developing 3-year-old as he didn’t debut until February and wasn’t ready for the Derby or Preakness. He won his first two career races before losing as the favorite in the Peter Pan, but I think that’s the only reason why we’re getting double-digit odds. He certainly can be excused for coming up short in his stakes debut (he did still finish third, so it wasn’t a complete clunker) and is certainly eligible to rebound and take another step forward and hopefully back into the winner’s circle.
#9 War of Will (2-1): As has been oft-discussed elsewhere, the top two choices are stuck on the outside. It shouldn’t be too much of an issue with the 1.5-mile distance, but I do like them having to overcome some kind of obstacle as War of Will is obviously a threat. In fact, I could make the argument that he could possible be going for the Triple Crown if he had been able to get by Maximum Pressure in the Derby. Still, his low odds make him unusable here, especially as I still have Tacitus rated better. I’m making him my No. 3 choice out of respect for what he’s done, but will probably just use him in a few smaller tickets with the other stalkers/closers, but mostly trying to beat him.
#10 Tacitus (9-5): The morning-line favorite is my second choice and, in my opinion, the “most likely to win the race.” He finished third in the Derby after the DQ and we’re left to wonder “what if” he hadn’t been shuffled so far back before making his late run. A cleaner trip should put him right in the mix down the stretch and the Tapit bloodline certainly hints that he’ll be able to go the distance.
As is customary, I’m going to list my top picks in the 1-2-3-Longshot format:
1-#8 Intrepid Heart (10-1)
2-#10 Tacitus (9-5)
3-#9 War of Will (2-1)
4-#6 Spinoff (15-1)
As for my bets, this is how I could recommend playing my picks (certainly feel free to include horses you like or drop horses of mine that you don’t like:
Win bet on Intrepid Heart (pass on Place bet unless higher than 10-1)
Win bet on Spinoff (15-1 or better)
Win saver on Joevia (30-1 or better)
Exacta boxes with top picks, but not using Tacitus and War of Will on same tickets, so 6-8-9 and 6-8-10
Trifecta wheel using Intrepid Heart and Tacitus in 1st and 2nd and 1st and 3rd, so 8,10 w/ 8,10 w/ ALL and 8/10 w/ ALL w/ 8,10.
Superfecta using Intrepid Heart, Tacitus and Spinoff in first two positions along with the stalkers/closers mentioned in the main article and also adding War of Will in the second spot, so something like 6,8,10 w/ 6,8,9,10 w/ 3,4,6,7,8,9,10 w/ 3,4,6,7,8,9,10.
Tuley’s Takes on MLB 1st Inning Yes/No wagers
I hope readers followed along with my recommended plays in this week’s Point Spread Weekly, even after going 0-2 with my two parlays on Wednesday. Thursday went much better as the Rays-Tigers/Astros-Mariners “Yes” parlay paid plus-3.1 units (for me on tickets bought at Circa Sports, your odds may vary) and the Red Sox-Royals/Rockies-Cubs “No” parlay paying plus-2.85 units. If you had bet 1 unit on the four parlays over Wednesday & Thursday, you would have gone 2-2 on the parlays but showing a profit of 3.95 units (note: straight bettors using same odds would have gone 6-2 and the same plus-3.95 units).
As promised in PSW, I’m posting my update for the weekend here:
As mentioned in the earlier article, we don’t see 1st Inning Yes/No lines until the morning of gameday, so we’re flying a little blind here, but the bets I’m focusing on this weekend are Orioles-Astros 1st Inning “Yes” and the Twins-Tigers 1st Inning “No.” The Orioles have cashed at a .645 rate in their 1st Innings (40 of 62 games, including Thursday night) while the A’s have been a solid “Yes” team at .532 (despite a “No” on Thursday night). That averages out to .589, so I would lay (or use in my parlays) up to -140. The Twins are the second-best “No” team at .541 and the Tigers are also in the Top 10. They average out to .521, so I’ll lay up to -110 on the “No.”
Going with my usual strategy of using my strongest plays in my biggest wager, I’ll parlay those together and then also look for other matchups offering better odds than their expected hit rates. We do have an unusually high number of matchups between top “Yes” teams vs. top “No” teams (the most extreme example being the Ray, the No. 1 “Yes” team, visiting the Red Sox, the No. 1 “No” team), so I’ll be passing those series. But if I can get plus-money on the Yankees-Indians “Yes,” A’s-Rangers “Yes” or Rockies-Mets “No,” those are plays I’m looking to include in my other parlays with my two best bets.
Good luck in however you decide to play these!