Justify's True Chances of Winning the Triple Crown

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D.S. Williamson

May 21st, 2018

You'd think after such a tough race Justify's odds to win the Belmont Stakes, the Third Jewel in Horse Racing's Triple Crown, might be around even money. Heck, maybe, even 5/2. Not the case. The Wynn in Las Vegas released Justify's odds of winning the Triple Crown. The odds imply that the Bob Baffert charge is all but a sure thing. Is that really the case? Is Justify a sure thing to win the Triple Crown?

Of course, not! No horse is a sure thing to ever cross the finish line. Even if the horse is running against itself, there's no guarantee it will cross the finish line. Check out Justify's true chances of winning the Triple Crown.

Justify's True Chances of Winning the Triple Crown

The Wynn Las Vegas has set Justify's odds at -130 to win the Triple Crown, and no at +110. Before getting into Bob Baffert's monster of a horse's chances to win the Crown, we must deduce a couple of things. Check out the Preakness Stakes before I get into those deductions.

To Say Justify Will Win the Triple Crown, We're Saying Justify Will Win the Belmont Stakes

That's an obvious, right? But, how obvious? Yes, to say that Justify will win the Triple Crown, we are saying that Justify will win the Belmont Stakes. However, the Belmont Stakes is one of the most unique horse races in America. It's at 1 1/2 miles over dirt. That's a turf distance. Not only that, but the Belmont is restricted to 3-year-olds.

To Say that Justify Will Win the Triple Crown, We're Saying Nothing Will  Happen Before, or While the Belmont Takes Place

To say that Justify will win the Triple Crown, we're not only saying he will win the Belmont Stakes, we're also saying that nothing will happen before or during the Belmont Stakes. Justify won't step on a pin in his barn ala Spectacular Bid. He won't suffer a loose shoe ala Big Brown. He won't break slowly ala Warm Emblem, also trained by Bob Baffert, in 2002.

In other words, for us to say that Justify will win the Triple Crown, we're saying that we have a lot of faith that everything will go perfectly for Justify leading up to the Belmont and during the running.

Justify's True Odds of Winning the Triple Crown

Adding faith to your handicapping can do all sorts of things to your mind. Faith has no place in handicapping, not really, because by having faith you're pretty much saying divine intervention will help you win your bets. Sounds ridiculous, right?

But, when it comes to the Triple Crown, handicapping must lead to faith. That's right. You must handicap the Belmont Stakes in such a way that leads you to faith that tells you the Derby and Preakness winner will take home the trophy at Big Sandy and win the Triple Crown.

It was easy to do in 2015 because American Pharoah had obliterated his competition in the Preakness Stakes, and only faced one competitor in Frosted. That wasn't true in 2002. Although Medaglia d'Oro didn't win the Belmont, he was a true contender and would have fought War Emblem hard even if War Emblem hadn't broken slowly.

Even if handicapping leads to faith, like Big Brown in 2008 and Smarty Jones in 2004, something could happen to derail the horse. That's because winning the Belmont Stakes is just like winning any other horse race.

Which leads me to my final conclusion, what are Justify's true chances of winning the Triple Crown? It's not -130. If only 5 other horses showed up to run against Justify, his true odds are somewhere around 8/5. I came to that number taking into account the uniqueness of Justify's position, the Belmont will be his sixth race since Feb. 18, as well as the uniqueness of the Belmont itself.

I also came to that number after thinking about the what ifs that derailed plenty of talented horses going for the Triple Crown only to fail in the Belmont: Spectacular Bid, Big Brown, Smarty Jones, California Chrome, War Emblem, Funny Cide, Charismatic, Silver Charm, Sunday Silence, Real Quiet, Pleasant Colony, Northern Dancer, and the rest.

I wouldn't bet on Justify to win the Triple Crown at anything less than 8/5 odds.