The 2021 Triple Crown series concludes June 5 at Belmont Park, with the running of the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets. The 1 ½-mile contest is known as the “Test of the Champion” and will pit some of the country’s top 3-year-olds against each other, including Grade 1 Preakness Stakes winner Rombauer.
Belmont Park is one of the country’s largest tracks, both in terms of stature and of size. Its 1 ½-mile circumference makes it the largest dirt track in the country, and its high-quality racing and massive media exposure make it one of the most attractive racetracks to bet.
Here’s what you need to know about betting at Belmont Park.
As noted above, Belmont’s main track is gigantic. While the average dirt track is one mile around, Belmont’s is 1 ½ miles, or 50% larger than normal. As a result, the vast majority of races, including route races, are conducted around one turn. The Belmont Stakes, which is one lap around the track with a quarter-mile run into the first turn, is an exception.
Despite the track’s massive size, the stretch run at Belmont Park is 1,097 feet, only slightly above average.
Belmont features two turf courses. The outer turf course is 1 5/16 miles around, and features chutes for races at one mile and 1 1/16 miles. The inner turf course has a circumference of 1 3/16 miles, and includes a chute for races at 1 1/16 miles. Both turf courses conduct an even mix of sprint and route races.
When They Race
Belmont races from Thursday to Sunday until July 11. On Thursdays, the first race will go off at 3:05 p.m. ET, while the first post time from Friday to Sunday is 1 p.m. On the Friday before Belmont Stakes day, first post is scheduled for 12:50 p.m., while on Belmont day itself, it will be 11:35 a.m.
Belmont offers the standard win, place, show, exacta, trifecta, and superfecta wagers on races with sufficient betting interests. Races 2 and 4 feature a bet called the “quinella,” in which you select two horses. If they finish 1-2 in any order, you win.
The average card features rolling doubles and Pick 3s, both with $1 minimum wagers, as well as two 50-cent Pick 4s and Pick 5s. The early Pick 5 begins in race 1, while the early Pick 4 starts in race 2. The late Pick 5 is on the last five races each day, with the late Pick 4 comprising the last four races each day.
The $1 Pick 6 is on the last six races each day. Originally a jackpot bet, it was changed to a traditional Pick 6 format at the start of this year’s Belmont spring meet.
Belmont also has a unique wager called the “Grand Slam.” The bet comprises four races, ending on the next-to-last race of the day. In the first three legs of the bet, your selection(s) have to finish in the top three in order to advance. In the final leg, your selection must win. The minimum bet is $1.
On Belmont Festival Friday and Belmont Stakes day, there will be three Pick 5s. On Friday, the Pick 5s begin in races 1, 4, and 7. On Belmont Stakes day, the Pick 5s start in races 1, 7, and 9.
Belmont Stakes day features four Pick 4s. In addition to the usual two, there will be one starting in race 4 and another beginning in the eighth race.
Jockeys and Trainers to Watch
The top jockey at Belmont, if not the country, is Irad Ortiz Jr. A three-time winner of the Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey, Ortiz was the leading jockey at the Belmont spring meet last year, and had the lead in the current standings as of May 26. He had 26 wins from 108 mounts, good for a 24% win rate.
Because of Irad’s success, his horses tend to get bet a lot, no matter if they’re serious contenders or not. Virtually all of his winners have come on short-priced horses. The average Ortiz-ridden winner goes off at 2.05-1, far and away the lowest of any jockey. Although it can be dangerous playing against Ortiz’s horses, if you think one of them is vulnerable in a race, it can lead to a great betting opportunity.
Manny Franco, with 25 wins, Irad’s brother Jose Ortiz, with 24 victories, and Joel Rosario, with 19 wins, have also had successful meets so far. Rosario has the highest win percentage of the group, scoring at a 29% rate. He hits at 38% with his dirt mounts, and 23% with his grass horses.
Among the top jockeys, John Velazquez has enjoyed the most success on dirt, relative to his turf performance. He’s 3-for-10 in dirt races, for a 30% win rate, but is just 4-for-24 in grass outings. Junior Alvarado has the most success routes relative to sprints, winning at 23% in routes versus 8% in sprints.
In the trainer standings, Chad Brown and Christophe Clement have the lead as of May 26, with 17 wins each. Both men are more dominant on turf than on dirt. Brown is 3-for-13 in dirt races, and 14-for-57 in turf races. The overwhelming number of Clement’s starters have been in turf races, and he has not yet had a winner in a dirt race.
The best trainers in dirt races thus far are Rob Atras and Orlando Noda. Atras is in third place in the overall standings, with 11 wins. While he’s hitting at 23% in dirt races, he also enjoys success in turf races, winning at 24%. Noda is in fifth place with seven wins. He’s 7-for-21 in dirt races, but 0-for-7 in turf races.
Wesley Ward, who is in fourth place with eight wins, rounds out the top five. He’s done most of his damage in 2-year-old races. In those races, his horses are often heavily bet, and prevail at low odds. The average Ward winner goes off at 1.70-1.
The turf courses of Belmont have a reputation for being speed-favoring. Oftentimes, especially in route races, horses will go to the front, set slow fractions, and leave their rivals with too much to do in the end. If there’s a horse in a turf route races who has early speed, they’re a must-use in any multi-race bet.
Through the first month of the meet, there has not been a detectable bias on the dirt on most race days. One statistic worth keeping in mind is how well inside posts have done in dirt route races. As of May 26, horses breaking from the inside two post positions were 30-for-58. While it’s still a relatively small sample size, any horse who has one of those spots must be upgraded right now.
Where to Watch
Racing from Belmont will be broadcast on NBCSN on Friday, June 4 from 5 to 6:00 p.m. ET. Coverage of Belmont Stakes day will kick off on NBCSN on Saturday, June 5 from 3 to 5 p.m., switching over to NBC from 5 to 7 p.m.