A Bettor's Guide to the Belmont Stakes

Do you have your game on? We've got you covered - from understanding the odds to the track's special conditions.

View Comments ()



    Triple Crown hopeful I'll Have Another gallops at Belmont Park as he prepares for the June 9 Belmont Stakes. (Published Friday, Jun 1, 2012)

    News of I'll Have Another being pulled from the Belmont Stakes has bookies and bettors reevaluating ahead of Saturday's big race.

    Those who placed an early bet in the hopes that I'll Have Another would win at Belmont and with it be the first horse in 34 years to win the Triple Crown need not worry: bets will be returned.

    But if your wager was contingent on I'll Having Another only winning the Triple Crown, check with your individual sports book. Such bets often stand. Bets made specifically on the Belmont Stakes will be no action and therefore refundable.

    America had caught Triple Crown fever with the nation poised to stop and watch Saturday's Belmont Stakes in the hopes of seeing I'll Have Another cross the finish line first. Many potential viewers had plans of putting down a wager. 

    “People will be coming out of the woodwork to place a bet on this race,” said Las Vegas Advisor’s Anthony Curtis of the first opportunity to see a Triple Crown victory since 1978.

    Sadly, with I'll Have Another not competing, the atmosphere at the Belmont Stakes may lack some of that history-in-the-making charge, but those celebrating the event - both trackside and at parties across the country - can still be involved.

    I'll Have Another was the favorite and was at short odds due to the understandibly heavy interest in the race. Those odds could have been even lower as the starting time drew near. With the favorite now gone, focus shifts to Union Rags and Dullahan - both horses skipped the Preakness (the second leg of the Triple Crown) and as such have had time to rest, often a crucial factor in winning the 1½-mile grueling Belmont course (see Speical Conditions below).

    So, for all those inexperienced bettors out there, here's a quick guide to betting on the Belmont that'll have you sounding like a serious handicapper by the time the horses approach the starting gate.



    Odds-on many newcomers to horse racing may not know what the odds actually mean. Whenever there are two numbers (for e.g. 5:4 for I’ll Have Another at time of writing) displayed on a tote board at a racetrack or on a list of wager options, the first number (5) denotes the minimum amount of profit the wager will pay. The second number (4) is the amount you need to wager to win the first amount.

    Once the final finishing places of a race are official, the track will post the prices of the winning wagers. In the above example the horse will pay $5. The track will then add the $5 profit and the $4 wager together to derive the payout: $5 + $4 = $9.

    If a horse is quoted with only a single digit, it is implied that the missing second number is a 1. So a 7 on the tote board really means 7:1. All payouts are based on a $2 wager unless otherwise stated. So a 7:1 bet would pay $16 – 7:1 is the same as 14:2, that is $14 + $2 = $16.

    So now that the odds makes sense, it’s time to decide the type of wager you want to make. Some of the most popular bets are the following:

    Win Your horse must finish first to collect.

    Place Your horse must finish first or second to collect.

    Show Your horse must finish first, second or third to collect.

    Exacta You play two horses and they must come in first and second in the exact order specified in order to collect.

    Exacta Box You play two horses as above but here they must come in first and second in either order to collect.

    Trifecta You play three horses and to win they must come in first, second, and third in exact order to collect.

    Trifecta Box You play three horses and they must finish first, second, and third in any order to collect.

    Superfecta You play four horses and they must come in first, second, third, and fourth in exact order.

    Superfecta Box You play four horses and to win they must finish first, second, third, and fourth in any order.

    “I would take the fact that I'll Have Another is such short odds [and] use it as an opportunity to think of some bets that don't include I'll Have Another,” said sports fanatic and N.P.R. national desk correspondent Mike Pesca during Weekend Edition Sunday. “Bet some exactas, which are two-horse combinations, to come in that exact order, that don't include I'll Have Another. Maybe take Union Rags, a very good horse, who didn't do well in the first two Triple Crown races, maybe bet on him in partnership with another horse at longer odds.”


    But novice bettors need to take into account more than just the odds for the Belmont Stakes. To further increase the chances of making a winning bet this Saturday you should also consider the following according to Belmont Stakes:

    Distance: The Belmont Stakes is run over a distance of a mile and a half. Few three-year-olds will have had prior experience in such a long race. Some horses are ‘bred to distance’ and are usually a better candidate than one without a lineage of success at long races that put a premium on endurance.

    Schedule: One of the most significant reasons that winning the Triple Crown is such a rare event is the grueling schedule of the three races. While the ideal layoff between races varies from horse to horse, most high level equine competitors race fewer than 10 times per year. In most cases, thoroughbreds seldom race without a break of three weeks to a month. For a Triple Crown aspirant, however, it’s necessary to win three very competitive races in a five-week span. In recent years there has been a trend away from horses running in all three legs unless they’re in contention for the Triple Crown. For this reason, it’s worth giving special consideration to ‘rested’ horses. While it's not yet confirmed, I'll Have Another's injury could be a result of such competing. Those rested horses now come under heavier scrutiny for those handicapping the Belmont Stakes.

    Weather/Track Condition If there is a chance for bad weather and/or an off track it’s essential to consider that when handicapping the race. One good measure of a horse’s ability in this type of race can be found with a quick look at his past performances. If a young horse has any experience on a muddy or sloppy track that’s a good indication that his connections have confidence in his abilities in these circumstances.

    The Belmont Stakes will air live at 5 pm EDT June 9 on NBC.