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Homeracing

How to bet the Belmont Stakes if you think Justify can’t Lose

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TwinSpires Staff

June 6th, 2018

By DICK POWELL

Having an odds-on favorite like JUSTIFY can make betting this year’s Belmont Stakes problematic. But, not impossible.

If you think Justify will win, forget win, place and show bets. Not enough reward for the risk. It looks like straight exactas and trifecta part wheels will be the way to go.

When American Pharoah won the 2015 Belmont, he was sent off at just under 4-5 odds. Second choice Frosted ran second at 4-1 and the exacta came back $13.60. If you thought the odds-on favorite couldn’t lose, you got $13.60 for the equivalent of a win bet on the runner-up.

Keen Ice ran third at 17-1 and completed a $109.50 trifecta, which would be a decent exacta if you take the winner for granted and only have to correctly pick the next two horses. I am not a superfecta player and have no feel for the $570 payoff including 14-1 Mubtaahij in fourth.

So you can make money with the odds-on favorite on top. First, he has to win and your strategy takes it for granted. Second, like anything else, you have to be right on the other horses.

The opposite scenario is when the odds-on favorite runs out of the money. It doesn’t happen very often but if it does, there’s a lot of money if you get it right.

In the 2008 Belmont Stakes, Big Brown was going for the Triple Crown and left the starting gate as the 3-10 favorite despite having a hoof that was so bad, he probably should not have been allowed to run. For whatever reason, Big Brown finished last that day and the result set off box car mutuel payouts.

My strategy was to wheel Ready’s Echo in all three legs of the trifecta. In a 10-runner field, it cost $216 to do it for a buck and the perfect outcome happened when Da’ Tara won and paid $79, second choice Denis of Cork held on for second and Ready’s Echo dead-heated for third at 28-1 with Anak Nakal at 34-1.

Even with the dead-heat for third, the trifecta I hit paid $1,977 for a buck. Ready’s Echo had to finish in the top three no matter what Big Brown did and when that one ran dead last, it enabled him to squeak in and paid big bucks.

This year, if you like Justify and don’t see him getting beat, play him strong in exactas with your top second and third choices and for less money with a few others. You don’t want to play a straight wheel since the 10-runner field limits the exacta payouts and you don’t want too many losing tickets of equal value.

I would then take Justify and play him on top of select trifecta part wheels using your second and third choices in the second hole, with three or four of the next most logical ones in the third hole. Since there’s a chance it won’t pay much, you may want to bet more than $1.

For instance, if you like the 1 to win and the 2 and 3 as your next best choices, I would play $10 Trifectas 1 with 2, 3 with 4, 5, 6 for a total of $60. Like any other bet you make, you have to be right.

One major mistake I made was in this year’s Kentucky Derby. I liked Good Magic to win and Justify for second. Felt that it was a two-horse race between those two with others having a chance to fill in the blanks.

Here is what I played in the Derby:

$100 Win #6 = $100

$20 Exacta Part-Wheel 7, 16, 11, 5, 14, 9 over 6 = $120

The win bet lost when Good Magic ran second but I hit the protecting exacta with Justify on top. The $20 7-6 exacta paid $696, resulting in a decent profit off $240 wagered, but considering I keyed the two of them in all my trifectas, the $120 for the exacta part-wheel should have been allocated differently. I would have been better served making a $70 exacta 7-6, and a $10 exacta part-wheel with 16, 11, 5, 14, 9 over 6 (same $120 total).

If I liked those two horses the way I did, my betting should have reflected it and should not have played them equally in the exacta part wheel.

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