Saturday marked the fourth edition of the Belmont Stakes since the New York Racing Association turned its biggest day of racing into a springtime Breeders’ Cup with a package of 10 stakes. Once again, to no one’s surprise, it was nirvana for handicappers.
While the Belmont Stakes itself might have been anticlimactic without the Kentucky Derby or Preakness winners, a 13-race card gave fans a chance to see the victorious 2017 debut of the fabulous filly Songbird as well as numerous opportunities to reap tremendous wagering value.
With so many stakes on the card, horizontal or sequence wagers proved to be highly lucrative. In some cases they generated the kind of payoff that left people scratching their head in disbelief and wondering why they didn’t dive into that mutuel pool.
A case in point was the Pick 5 on the first five races of the day. That sequence featured four winning favorites, capped by Songbird, who paid all of $2.70 to win the Ogden Phipps Stakes. The key piece to that puzzle was War Story, who won the Brooklyn Invitational as the third choice in the wagering and paid a modest $10 to win.
As simple as that sequence seemed, if you use those four favorites with a $10 winner, you walked away with an amazing $799 payoff for $2 and had a big enough bankroll to play the rest of the card with gusto.
With no one paying more than $11.60 to win in the first nine races, doubles also provide good value for more modest gamblers.
Both of those double payoffs topped the return of a parlay on both horses.
The biggest win price of the day belonged to Ascend ($57) in the Manhattan and if you decided to hit the "all" button or go deep in that race with a horizontal wager, you had a highly memorable Belmont Stakes day 2016.
By using Mor Spirit with Ascend and then the victorious second choice Tapwrit ($12.60) in the Belmont Stakes in a Pick 3 play, you headed to the cashier’s window, with your social security number in hand, to collect $1,975 for a $2 ticket.
Tapwrit started a Pick 3 that paid $2,848 and Ascend kicked off a Pick Four that was worth a ritzy $92,815, yet those payoffs were heavily influenced by winners paying $34.20 and $17.80 in the final two races of the day.
The valuable lesson to come out of Belmont Stakes – and most other “big day” cards with a wealth of stakes – is that large and competitive fields can often produce a few races in which you can key or the favorite or second choice and then wheel one race or perhaps bet half of the horses in the field and experience the euphoria of cashing the kind of ticket that will provide you with more cash than your wallet can handle.
It’s been happening for four years now at the Belmont Stakes and expecting an encore a year from now seems a wise move – almost as wise as the one taking something big such as the Belmont Stakes and making it an even bigger and more lucrative day for handicappers.