Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Historical Breakdown of the Belmont Stakes - Last 30 Runnings

Over the last few weeks I have been analyzing the last 30 runnings of the Belmont Stakes. Why, you may ask?

(1) Greed and envy.

While I stumble on a Belmont Stakes winner every few years, I have been much more successful selecting winners for, in order, the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby. I would liken my struggles to the student taking an ACT exam who does well on the first two-thirds of the test, but runs "out of gas" on the last section. My game is identifying brilliant speed horses up to a mile, ideally one turn mile races. That kind of horse is not what the Belmont, with its 12 furlong distance over usually dry, sandy terrain, calls for. I am hopeful that doing this years' research will put me on more winners, or at least the RIGHT winners.

(2) NYRA.com made the charts for EVERY Belmont Stakes (going back to 1867) available on its website. This made the research relatively painless. Here is the link:


(3) The 30 year period I researched correlates with the last time there was a Triple Crown winner (Affirmed in 1978), and supplied enough runners to give me confidence in the data.

The Belmont Stakes has thrown a LOT of price horses in the last 30 years, starting with Temperence Hill winning in the slop in 1980 and paying $108.80 to win. Other significant longshots in the Belmont Stakes over the last 3 decades were Sarava ($142.50), Da' Tara ($79), Birdstone ($74), and Lemon Drop Kid ($61.50). As you can see, the modern era of the Belmont Stakes has produced some shock prices. The Belmont Stakes has been called the "Test of the Champion," but a better name for it might be the "Test of the Handicapper."

From a parimutuel perspective, there are two kinds of winner payouts - horses who won at least one race in the Triple Crown, versus a horse who did not win a Triple Crown race.

In the last 30 years, 7 horses have won the Belmont Stakes after winning at least the Kentucky Derby or Preakness. There are 23 winners over that same span that DID NOT win a Triple Crown race. Please go to my Google Docs link for the complete breakdown:


What I find interesting is the huge disparity in WIN PAYOFFS between horses with Triple Crown form, and those without such form. Of the 7 horses coming off a Kentucky Derby or Preakness win, the average winning mutuel was $6.32. Not terrible, if you were able to pick the right horses on other criteria. The other 23 winners, in contrast, had an average win mutuel of $31.68, a much, much higher return! So my first recommendation on betting the Belmont stakes is picking a horse that did not win or run notably well in the Kentucky Derby or Preakness Stakes.

Now, who are the glamor horses in the 2010 running of the Belmont Stakes? There would be Ice Box from the Kentucky Derby (2nd) and First Dude from the Preakness (2nd). The crowd will make these two horses the favorites off their Triple Crown efforts, which may be a good reason to avoid them. Here is the list of the 7 horses who won a Kentucky Derby or Preakness and then the Belmont:

Swale - very nice horse
Risen Star - very, very nice horse
Hansel - very nice horse
Tabasco Cat - very nice horse
Thunder Gulch - very nice horse
Point Given - just voted into the Hall of Fame
Afleet Alex - potential Hall of Fame horse

That's a pretty imposing list. So my recommendation on using Ice Box or First Dude would be to DEMAND VALUE, because history is going against you.

Lastly, I looked at this Belmont Stakes data and tried to see any patters in running style and wagering profits. I broke the running styles of horses in the Belmont into five categories:

(a) Horse on the LEAD at the 1/2 mile (second call)
(b) PRESSING the lead horses (0 to 2 lengths off the lead - second call)
(c) MIDPACK horses(2 to 4 lengths off the lead - second call)
(d) "BACK MARKERS" (the last 2 horses - second call)
(e) TOWARDS the BACK - horses between "midpack" and "last." - second call

Note: If a running of a Belmont Stakes was run with 10 or less horses "BACK MARKERS" were combined into the TOWARDS THE BACK category.

The result of this analysis is shown at the BOTTOM of my Belmont Stakes spreadsheet:


I thought the results were stunning. THREE of the running styles (LEAD, MIDPACK,and TOWARDS BACK)threw profits if the player bet EVERY horse that fit that style over 30 years!!! The crowd probably overbets (see the expectation value" calculations in the spreadsheet) PRESSING and "BACK MARKERS" compared to the other styles.

(1) Focus your win keys on horses that do not have Triple Crown form
(2) Don't be afraid to bet a big price. LONGSHOTS WIN THE BELMONT STAKES OFTEN!!
(3) Look at horses that you expect will be on the lead, or sitting 3 to 6 lengths off the lead (but NOT last!!!). These horses have running styles that over time pay fair value.

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