The story for the 2016 Belmont Stakes should’ve seen Exaggerator and Nyquist ending their vaunted trilogy at a race which has earned the nickname “The Test of the Champion.” It would’ve been unbelievable drama for an event that sorely needs it. Instead, we are getting a straightforward renewal with one heavy favorite and some hopeful contenders.
Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of reason to care about this race, especially given that you can make money off it through betting. We’ll get to that in a second.
WHAT HAPPENED TO NYQUIST?
Heading in to the Kentucky Derby, Nyquist was the favorite and trounced the field, while Exaggerator placed as the runner-up. In the rematch at the Preakness Stakes, Nyquist was caught off guard by the muddy conditions which Exaggerator excelled in as he dusted the competition. Days after the second leg of the Triple Crown series concluded, the sport received some tough news.
Nyquist developed a low-grade fever days after the Preakness, and was immediately ruled out of the Belmont Stakes, robbing us of a trilogy that would’ve served as the headline story in thoroughbred racing.
Obviously, it’s the right decision for the horse. Fevers can be commonplace in racing, and are generally nothing to worry about, but running a horse in a grueling competition when he’s not at proper health can have disastrous effects. Nyquist will skip the Belmont Stakes and point long-term towards the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in November.
That leaves Exaggerator as the horse to beat in Belmont Stakes betting, and even with his main rival out of the competition, he still has a major challenge laid out in front of him.
WHAT MAKES THE BELMONT STAKES DIFFERENT?
Let’s give new readers a Triple Crown crash course: the series is for three-year old horses only (usually males) and is made up of three races that take place over a total of five weeks in three different states. The Kentucky Derby is a 1 1/8th mile race, the Preakness Stakes goes down in Baltimore two weeks later at 1 3/16th miles and the Belmont Stakes takes place three weeks after that in upstate New York.
Winning all three races is a coveted honor that hadn’t been replicated since 1978 until American Pharoah accomplished the feat in 2015. Nyquist was in line to do the very same until the track conditions at the Preakness Stakes worked against him. Running slop is a talent only a few horses can pull off.
What makes the Belmont Stakes different is that it’s run over a gauntlet distance of 1 1/2 miles. It may not seem like that much of a difference, but it’s an eternity. This is the longest race that these horses will run in their career. The 1 1/8th and 1 1/16th mile distances are the standard “long” distances for horses, with exceptions.
WHAT’S AT STAKE AT THE BELMONT?
The Belmont Stakes puts up $1.5 million in purse money, with $800,000 going to the winner. This is equal to the Preakness Stakes, and a little less than the $2 million that the Kentucky Derby offers.
Without a Triple Crown title up for grabs, some of the mainstream appeal for the Belmont Stakes can lose its luster. But within the sport, this is a very big deal. The three Triple Crown races are the “American Classics” and winning them offers prestige that quickly escalates breeding rights for horses.
WINNING TRIPLE CROWN RACES MEANS BIG MONEY FOR BREEDERS
Owners can keep or sell these rights to different breeders and charge a stud fee to other owners who wish to breed a champion. Now, it’s important to remember that champions can come out of anywhere. It’s not a guarantee that a horse with a solid pedigree will produce on the track, but it certainly gives you an advantage.
American Pharoah is charging a $200,000 stud fee which is exceptionally high. He has already earned $20 million, more than doubling the $8,288,800 he earned during his racing career. Not the worst way to spend your retirement, right?
A more standard stud fee falls between $10K and $50K depending on how the horse has fared in competition. Curlin, who sired Belmont Stakes favorite Exaggerator, used to charge about $60K when he began his retirement. Now he charges $100K. If Exaggerator wins the Belmont Stakes, his stud fee will likely escalate to $150K. The trickle effect of Triple Crown performances is far reaching.
A Shark Tank-style evaluation of these fees creates insane value for the horses. American Pharoah has an estimated worth of $100 million. That’s not a typo. A horse that charges half of what he does ($100K) could be worth nearly $50 million, according to projections.
So while the Belmont Stakes is big money in and of itself, the prestige that a victory brings means more for the horse’s retirement and a consistent income for all of his connections.
GRADING THE 2016 BELMONT STAKES FIELD
Exaggerator enters the Belmont Stakes after a 2nd place finish at the Kentucky Derby and a 1st place finish at the Preakness Stakes. At 9/5, he is the favorite on the board and that number should stay about the same. A win here would make him one of the most desired studs on the market once he decides to retire.
One of the reasons that Exaggerator will hold value is because this race is notoriously difficult to win. The distance is unpredictable since there’s no other race in American like it. The densely packed Triple Crown series schedule also make it damn near impossible to keep a horse at a high level of performance for all three.
Historically, Exaggerator has a very steep mountain to climb. In the 100 years since the term “Triple Crown” was coined, only 12 horses have actually won all three in a row. Eighteen others have just won the last two. So from a trends perspective, the only reason Exaggerator won’t win is because he’s exhausted from competing at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes already.
His trainer, Keith Desormeaux, has been great at giving him a light schedule and keeping him at top form. Your best bet is pretty much Exaggerator to win.
Are there any other horses worth considering? Of course there are!
The 13-horse field has a few contenders of note, namely Cherry Wine at 8/1. I love his odds as an upset specialist because of the return on investment, but he’s also coming off a great run at the Preakness Stakes himself where he placed second. In fact, Cherry Wine has come 4th, 3rd and 2nd in his last three races in that order. If we’re talking about trends, he’s the horse to keep an eye on. I have very little doubt that he can handle the distance.
The second-favorite in the race is actually Stradivari, who finished fourth at the Preakness Stakes. People are high on him because of his amazing speed, but he’s only competed in one stakes race. Experience has a lot to do with running a longer race. He might not have the discipline to hold back to reserve enough gas for the final stretch. I’d shy away from Stradivari’s 5/1 odds.
Destin is the third choice of the bookmakers at 6/1 and is another great option. He is a fantastic runner, but untested at a longer distance. He placed sixth at the Kentucky Derby, which was totally respectable, but I’m not sure if he really has the fight to burn the 1 1/2 mile race in championship form.
There’s a relatively big drop-off after that. Suddenbreakingnewsis garnering a heavy amount of popular money because of his 5th place showing at the Kentucky Derby but I’m not as high on him. He just hasn’t shown me much.
Governor Malibu is a new shooter to the Triple Crown and comes in at 12/1 but enters the 2016 Belmont Stakes with just two second place finishes at the lesser-known Peter Pan and Federico Tesio earlier this spring. He also drew the rail (the inside post) which makes it much tougher to win any race.
Lani has become a fan favorite because of his weird and unpredictable behavior and is rightfully placed at 20/1. He is not a great horse, but if he were human he’d be a fun guy to party with. Think of him as the equivalent of Metta World Peace of this year’s three-year-old class.
A longshot can win this race out of nowhere, and if any horse is worth taking a gamble on it’s actually Dallas Stewart’s Forever D’Oro. At 30/1 you can take a chipshot and have a fun bet without expecting too much. Nobody knows anything about Foreverd’Oro because he’s only competed at a maiden (an exhibition race) a few weeks ago. But he does have a great pedigree and sometimes that’s enough to be a worthy candidate for your money.
So in case you lost track, here are my three top bets for the 2016 Belmont Stakes:
1) Exaggerator to win at 9/5
2) Exaggerator and Cherry Win to place top-2 (Exacta Box)
3) Forever d’Oro to win at 30/1
Good luck this weekend, and enjoy the race. It is always something to behold. At least now you know what’s really at stake.
|Belmont Stakes Draw – Saturday, June 11th at Belmont Park|
|1||Governor Malibu||Joel Rosario||Christophe Clement||12-1|
|2||Destin||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher||6-1|
|3||Cherry Wine||Corey Lanerie||Dale Romans||8-1|
|4||Suddenbreakingnews||Mike Smith||Donnie Von Hemel||10-1|
|5||Stradivari||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||5-1|
|6||Gettysburg||Paco Lopez||Todd Pletcher||30-1|
|7||Seeking the Soul||FlorentGeroux||Dallas Stewart||30-1|
|8||Forever d’Oro||Jose Ortiz||Dallas Stewart||30-1|
|9||Trojan Nation||Aaron Gryder||Patrick Gallagher||30-1|
|10||Lani||Yutaka Take||Mikio Matsunaga||20-1|
|11||Exaggerator||Kent Desormeaux||Keith Desormeaux||9-5|
|12||Brody’s Cause||Luis Saez||Dale Romans||20-1|
|13||Creator||Irad Ortiz Jr.||Steve Asmussen||10-1|