2016 Belmont Stakes Picks and Preview
Category : News
Thu 09/06/2016 - 13:59 EDT
The interesting thing about the long, grueling Belmont Stakes is that horses that come from the back of the pack rarely win it.
As the field began to take shape for the 2016 Belmont, it became clear that the top contenders Exaggerator (9-5 in the Belmont Park morning line), Suddenbreakingnews (10-1), Cherry Wine (8-1) and perhaps a couple others all do their best running coming from off the pace. In fact, it appeared there was going to be so little early speed in the race that the connections for another closer - Creator (10-1) - entered front-running Gettysburg (30-1) to ensure there was an honest pace for him to run at.
Horses usually win Belmont running close to the lead
But a check through the last 10 editions of the race reveals that although late runners get a lot of hype in the Belmont due to the 1 1/2 mile length, only one horse in the last 10 has come from farther back than 10 lengths at any point to win, and three of the other nine have led wire-to-wire. All other winners were never more than six lengths off the lead. In his recent past, Exaggerator tried to run close to the pace in races with only mixed results, so his connections changed tactics to bring him from the back. Here, he just may have to stick a little closer to the lead early to ensure the race doesn't get away from him, and that could have some effect when they get down to the serious running in the stretch.
Stradivari could play catch-me-if-you-can
If there's any horse in the field with enough natural speed to take them gate-to-wire it's probably Stradivari (5-1), who ran a credible fourth over the sloppy track from the outside post at the Preakness. He gets a much better middle post position here, but has to prove he can carry his talent around two turns in graded-stakes company. After Gettysburg fades, he could very well be in the lead turning for home.
But this could be the year for closers...
While Exaggerator has shown he's the best in the field, the unusual pace setup in this year's race (not to mention likely even-money-or less odds) warrants taking a shot against him. Having said closers rarely win the Belmont, it's equally rare to have a closer like Exaggerator as the favorite, so the trend-against has already been bucked. At double-digit odds, Creator might be a reasonable choice. The Arkansas Derby winner was making a strong move following Exaggerator when badly blocked in the Kentucky Derby and lost all chance. It's significant to note that he has finished ahead of Suddenbreakingnews twice. Although agonizingly slow early, he's shown good acceleration in the middle stages of his races which will help him get in contention off the sweeping last turn at Belmont Park. He's going to be at the back anyway, so the outside post isn't a problem, and should actually help to keep him out of trouble early.
OTB New York Picks:
Full field analysis and odds
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