Keeler Johnson's 2019 Belmont Stakes fair odds line

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June 6th, 2019

Upon release of the 2019 Belmont Stakes (G1) entries Tuesday evening, I immediately started work on my annual fair odds line for identifying wagering value.

The concept behind my fair odds line is simple. For each horse in the field, I ask myself, “What are the chances of this horse reaching the winner’s circle?” After assigning a probability of winning to each horse (25%, 12.50%, etc.), I translate these percentage into traditional odds and compare my numbers with the morning-line odds. If I have a horse listed at 5-2 but he’s 4-1 on the morning line, he’s an overlay and a horse I want to bet. If the odds match, the horse represents fair value, and if the morning-line odds are lower, then the horse is an underlay and one I probably don’t want to bet on top.
Keeler Johnson's 2019 Belmont Stakes Fair Odds LinePutting together my fair odds line for the 2019 Belmont Stakes was a tricky task, because the field is competitive and a case can be made for every starter. Normally I would list a few horses at 50-1 or 100-1 in a race like this, but my odds this year top out at 30-1 to reflect the wide-open nature of the race.

I’ve kept the low end of my odds line a little higher than usual, because I don’t feel great confidence in any particular horse. My lowest price is 7-2, reserved for the Preakness Stakes (G1) winner #9 War of Will, whose tactical speed and obvious talent combine to make him, in my opinion, the most likely winner of the Belmont. But he’s unlikely to start at anywhere near 7-2 in the wagering (he’s 2-1 on the morning line), making him an underlay in the betting from my point of view.

A more appealing play is #8 Intrepid Heart, a son of Tapit trained by Todd Pletcher. I’m optimistic Intrepid Heart will show significant improvement while stretching out to 1 1/2 miles—he’s bred to absolutely relish this distance—so I’d be happy to play him at 4-1 or higher. Since Intrepid Heart is 10-1 on the morning line, he looms as a significant overlay and a potentially great bet.

#6 Spinoff is another overlay, though not to the same extent as Intrepid Heart. I’m giving him a 9% chance of winning compared to the 6% chance denoted by his morning-line odds, which isn’t as big of a difference as the bare odds might suggest. Similarly, 15-1 versus 30-1 on #1 Joevia is a small difference (6% versus 3%), but it’s enough to qualify the Belmont’s only true frontrunner as an overlay in my book.

I’m hoping #6 Bourbon War will rebound while removing the blinkers he wore during a disappointing effort in the Preakness Stakes, hence his listing at fair value. That said, I’d be more enthusiastic about using him underneath than on top, since his late-running style could place him at a disadvantage in the Belmont Stakes.

Which horses do you believe offer value in the Belmont Stakes?