Identifying Horses to Spice Up Exotic Bets at Belmont


There’s no greater rush in handicapping then watching a big exotic ticket come through at the racetrack, and today I’m aiming to get you information that will get you started on the road to your next big boxcar exotic winner.

My home track is at Belmont Park, and that’s where our focus will be today. I’ve isolated three big trifecta payouts that I think are significant and can be used as the basis for handicapping Belmont between now and Closing Day on July 13.

The trifectas in question came on June 12 (Race 2, $484.50), June 15 (Race 5, $485.50) and June 21 (Race 10, $469).

These three exotics were significant to us at the Jim Hurley Network because they came in the post-Belmont Stakes racing period (beginning Sunday, June 8 and our research is up through all races on June 26), after the excitement of California Chrome and the Triple Crown pursuit had died down, and they fell in the price range we were looking for.

There were certainly other trifectas that paid higher—on June 25, for example, the ninth race had a $1,166 triple. But the range of $450-$500 met our criteria of a price high enough to be lucrative, yet still likely to occur a few more times between now and the end of the Belmont summer.

That narrowed the scope to four possible candidates, one of which was eliminated because its real key was a longshot winner on top. That’s a topic we discussed in a separate post. Our purpose here is exotics where the second- and third-place finisher also were vital in driving up the price.

Now let’s dig into the remaining three races and look at the track records of the horses that triggered these big paydays. Of course, we look at the number of times each horse finishes In The Money (ITM – in the top three placings), as do all of you. We also broaden our focus to look at how frequently a horse “sniffs” the money—how often does he end up in the middle range of fourth, fifth or sixth?

It’s this middle range that I want to encourage you to pay close attention to as we go through the past results. We’re looking for horses that have shown enough potential to be worthy of a bet, yet not so much potential that there’s no value to be found. And those that make a habit of finishing right around the edges of the money seem like a good place to start.


Photo by Eclipse Sportswire

June 12, Race 2

Outer Orbit ($15.60)

Zafiro Azul ($8.90)

Race and Shine ($4)

  • Outer Orbit only had three prior races, one of which was ITM and two other times in sixth.
  • Zafiro Azul had never finished in ITM in six starts, but had two fifths and two sixths. He also came back to win after finishing second on June 12.
  • Race and Shine ran four races, came ITM once and two other times finished sixth. 

June 15, Race 5

Syros ($11.40)

Arc Above ($2.70)

Ducks Dock ($4.70)

  • Syros had 18 starts under his belt, and eight of those were ITM. In three more races he finished fourth, another fifth, and two of them he ran sixth. Furthermore, four of his previous five races coming into June 15 were ITM and the one exception was a fourth. He belonged in any exotic ticket.
  • Arc Above ran 16 prior races and ten of those were ITM. He tacked on three more fourths and two more fifths, leaving only one race where he didn’t at least “sniff” the money.
  • Ducks Dock had 12 starts, and only three were ITM. But he finished fourth once, fifth twice and four times ran sixth. He wasn’t cashing tickets, but he was lurking. 

June 21, Race 10

Sinistra ($14.20)

Sir Leslie ($7.80)

The Brothers Rap ($5.80)

  • Sinastra had 19 starts coming into this one, and 10 of them had been ITM. He added on two fourths, a fifth and four more in sixth.
  • Sir Leslie ran 20 previous races and only five were ITM. But five more were in fourth place, along with two fifth-place finishes and a sixth.
  • The Brothers Rap had 12 starts with a solid showing of six in the money. To say nothing of another fourth, three times in fifth, and another in sixth. Frankly, the real question is why he got such a nice price for finishing third.

I would propose that the above results indicate that there is something to be said for zeroing in on horses that have a series of fourth- through sixth-place finishes for inclusion in our exotics.

It’s important to note I said “zero in on” and not “rush out and bet.” I understand that we’ve only covered basics and there is a lot that’s left out. We’re very aware that, for example, not all sixth-place finishes are created equal. Some come in 10-horse fields, others come in a seven-horse field. Some have the horse in a pack where he misses the money by a hair, others where he lagged well off the pace.

The question to ask isn’t whether using fourth through sixth as a tool —a sort of “secondary ITM” if you will — is an infallible guide to boxcar exotics. It isn’t. The question to ask is whether it can serve as a starting point—by revealing the horses that you want to dig deeper on, from the past performances to the speed ratings to the video. In this case, I would suggest that it should be.

It’s hard to find an edge in the world of handicapping. I’ve been doing this publicly since 1985, and it’s hard work. The fact that mainstream horse race information sites like Equibase don’t make a category like fourth- through sixth-place finishes easily accessible (you have to count them up manually, unlike 1/2/3, which can be seen at a glance) can work to our advantage. Most players won’t bother to dig deeper and those that do will be rewarded. 

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