Saturday, June 8, 2013

Belmont Stakes Prediction 2013

By John Woods

Over the 14 years that I have considered myself a bettor, I have slowly come up with a set of rules I use to guide my betting strategies. My final rule is “Don’t bet with your heart,” which is in direct contrast to my father’s penchant for betting horses for the stupidest reasons possible. Another, “Don’t bet the horse that Andrew Beyer picks,”which I touched on in the Derby preview. But my first rule of betting comes into play at this year’s Belmont Stakes: “Bet a filly if it’s running against colts.”

To quote Beyer’s classic book “Picking Winners”: “The reason fillies don’t beat colts very often in this country is because trainers are afraid to run them.” There is no reason that a filly cannot beat a colt in a race, and foreign trainers have realized this. In the last five runnings of the Arc de Triomphe, Europe’s biggest open race, three fillies (Zarkava, Danedream, Solemia) have won. Last year’s winner of the Japan Cup (the equivalent Japanese race) was the filly Gentildonna, the first one to do so. And even in America, Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and Havre de Grace all won Horse of the year consecutively from 2009-2011.

Since 2007 four fillies have entered Triple Crown races. Rags to Riches defeated Curlin in the 2007 Belmont Stakes. Each would go on to win Eclipse Awards later in the year, Rags to Riches getting Three-Year-Old Filly and Curlin Three-Year-Old Male and Horse of the Year. Eight Belles placed to Big Brown in the 2008 Derby (and helped win me $1700) before breaking down. Rachel Alexandra easily won the 2009 Preakness before winning Horse of the Year herself. Only Devil May Care, a 10th in the 2010 Derby, failed to finish in the money, but she would win multiple Grade I stakes races before developing cancer and being euthanized the next year.

I do not believe that Unlimited Budget, the filly entered for this year’s race, is as good as the other four horses. Although she has three graded stakes wins, she has never put up a 100+ Beyer. But she’s better than most of the colts this year. As for her bad post position of 13, the race is long enough that post position really doesn’t matter at all. The rest of the field is weak enough that I have to pick her. But not to win.

My win pick is Orb, who (like Unlimited Budget) had a terrible trip in his last race and never fired. It’s been 18 years since Thunder Gulch became the last horse to win both the Derby and Belmont. That streak ends. Meanwhile Oxbow, the Preakness winner, benefited from a total lack of speed to go wire-to-wire. Although I have to include Oxbow in any exotic bet, I don’t believe for a second he can get the same trip again.

So for a third horse I have 11 other horses to choose from. Frac Daddy and Overanalyze have proven that the Arkansas Derby’s slow Beyer figures weren’t an aberration. Giant Finish, Will Take Charge, and Palace Malice did nothing in either of the other two races. Midnight Taboo and Incognito have shown nothing to suggest either of them deserve to be in a Triple Crown race. (Which may lead to them being bet down – look at similar long shot winners Da’Tara and Ruler on Ice. But I won’t be among the idiots betting either one.) Golden Soul placed in the Derby, but I place about as much stock into that as I did with Dullahan’s show last year.

That leaves Freedom Child, Vyjack, and Revolutionary. I’ll take the latter because of his better Beyer figures. If there was no speed in the race I’d consider Freedom Child or Vyjack, but they’ll be at the lead with Oxbow and Midnight Taboo. It’ll also be a wet track at best. I didn’t consider Revolutionary in the Derby because Calvin Borel was riding him. He’s not now.

Prediction: Orb (win); Unlimited Budget (place); Revolutionary (show).