How Betting Triple Crown Nominees Can Yield Profitable Plays

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

February 26th, 2018

Sometimes it’s the subtlest of facts that can point handicappers toward winning plays, and this was certainly on display last Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

One of the most challenging races on the card was the $75,000 Texas Glitter Stakes, a five-furlong turf sprint for three-year-olds. Eight horses were entered, and separating them was a challenge—several had never run on turf, a couple were returning from long layoffs, and none had a meaningful advantage in terms of speed figures.

But at this time of year, emphasis is on the Triple Crown trail, and while handicapping the race I noticed that only one horse—the lightly-raced Salmanazar—was nominated to the Triple Crown. Trained by Gulfstream Park’s leading trainer , Salmanazar had run twice on dirt last spring, winning his debut at Keeneland over the future graded stakes winner Copper Bullet before finishing a distant seventh in the Tremont Stakes at Belmont Park.

Salmanazar went to the sidelines following the Tremont, but had posted a lengthy series of workouts in preparation for the Texas Glitter. And while he’d yet to run on turf and wasn’t really bred to relish the surface, his final pre-race workout was a solid half-mile in :49.25 over the grass at Palm Beach Downs, suggesting that he handled the surface well enough to warrant a run in the Texas Glitter.

There were other reasons to respect Salmanazar’s chances as well; as a front-runner, Salmanazar appeared to be well-suited to sprinting five furlongs over the Gulfstream turf course (a setup that tends to strongly favor speed horses), and Salmanazar would also have the Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez in the saddle.

But it was the simple fact that Salmanazar was nominated to the Triple Crown that made him an especially appealing play. That subtle designation stamped him as a well-regarded colt with the potential for a bright future and stood out in contrast to his seven rivals that had not been nominated to the Triple Crown.

Perhaps because he had never run on turf and was returning from a long layoff, Salmanazar was lightly regarded in the wagering and sent off at odds of 5.30-1… which meant bettors that put faith in his Triple Crown-nominated status received a generous $12.60 payoff for every $2 win bet.