Historical Trends and Tips You Need to Know When Betting the 2023 Belmont Stakes

Belmont Stakes Belmont Park Mo Donegal Todd Pletcher Irad Ortiz Jr.
Mo Donegal, winner of the 2022 Belmont Stakes, walks in the paddock before giving Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher his fourth win in the final leg of the U.S. Triple Crown at Belmont Park last June. (Eclipse Sportswire)

After five weeks of exciting twists and turns, the Triple Crown series concludes on Saturday, June 10 with the $1.5 million, Grade 1 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets at Belmont Park.

Held over the testing distance of 1 1/2 miles, the Belmont Stakes is one of the most challenging Grade 1 races to handicap each year. It’s not uncommon for longshots to visit the winner’s circle, and the betting payoffs can be massive. When 24.75-1 longshot Ruler On Ice led a group of unheralded runners across the finish line in 2011, the $2 superfecta returned $74,052.

Fortunately, analyzing the recent history of the Belmont reveals trends that can make handicapping the race a little easier. Let’s dig in and define the profile of a typical Belmont Stakes winner using eight general rules:

Any running style can succeed, but don’t fall too far behind

A wide variety of running styles have proved successful in the last 15 editions of the Belmont Stakes. Justify, American Pharoah, and Da’ Tara led after half a mile. Tiz the Law, Tapwrit, Tonalist, Palace Malice, and Ruler On Ice employed pace-tracking tactics. Mo Donegal, Essential Quality, Union Rags, Drosselmeyer, and Summer Bird rallied from approximately midfield, while Sir Winston and Creator closed from near the back of the pack.

That said, you don’t want to fall too far off the early pace in the Belmont. Twelve of the last 15 winners raced within 4 1/2 lengths of the lead after half a mile.



Position after first 1/2 mile

½-mile &

¾-mile times


Mo Donegal

5th by 2.5 lengths (8 starters)

:48.49, 1:13.23 (fast)


Essential Quality

5th by 7 lengths (8 starters)

:46.49, 1:12.07 (fast)


Tiz the Law

3rd by 2 lengths (10 starters)

:46.16, 1:09.94 (fast)


Sir Winston

8th by 6 lengths (10 starters)

:48.79, 1:13.54 (fast)



1st by 1.5 lengths (10 starters)

:48.11, 1:13.21 (fast)



3rd by 2 lengths (11 starters)

:48.66, 1:14.01 (fast)



10th by 8 lengths (13 starters)

:48.48, 1:13.28 (fast)


American Pharoah

1st by 1 length (8 starters)

:48.83, 1:13.41 (fast)



3rd by 1 length (11 starters)

:48.52, 1:12.84 (fast)


Palace Malice

4th by 2 lengths (14 starters)

:46.66, 1:10.95 (fast)


Union Rags

5th by 4 lengths (11 starters)

:49.23, 1:14.72 (fast)


Ruler On Ice

2nd by 1.5 lengths (12 starters)

:49.08, 1:14.51 (sloppy)



5th by 4 lengths (12 starters)

:49.19, 1:14.94 (fast)


Summer Bird

6th by 4.5 lengths (10 starters)

:47.13, 1:12.43 (fast)


Da’ Tara

1st by 1 length (9 starters)

:48.30, 1:12.90 (fast)

Note: As part of a Triple Crown season restructured due to COVID-19, the 2020 Belmont Stakes was contested at 1 1/8 miles.

Favor horses who competed in the Kentucky Derby or Peter Pan Stakes

Angel of Empire Kentucky Derby Triple Crown Arkansas Derby
Arkansas Derby winner Angel of Empire (Eclipse Sportswire)

Alumni from the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve have enjoyed the most success in the Belmont Stakes, winning 13 of the last 20 editions. Notably, 10 of those 13 went directly from the Kentucky Derby to the Belmont without any other race in between.

Belmont contenders exiting the Kentucky Derby: Angel of Empire, Hit Show, Raise Cain, and Tapit Trice.

Belmont Park’s Grade 3 Peter Pan Stakes (or an equivalent race with the exact same conditions) has also proven productive as a steppingstone toward the Triple Crown’s final jewel, producing three Belmont winners (Drosselmeyer, Tonalist, and Sir Winston) since 2010.

Belmont contenders exiting the Peter Pan: Arcangelo

Avoid Preakness Stakes starters

It might come as a surprise, but the Preakness Stakes — the second leg of the Triple Crown — hasn’t been a very productive Belmont steppingstone in recent years. Over the last 20 years, only three Preakness starters (Afleet Alex, American Pharoah, and Justify) have come back to win the Belmont; notably, all three won the Preakness, and American Pharoah and Justify swept the Triple Crown.

Belmont contenders exiting the Preakness: National Treasure and Red Route One.

Support double-digit longshots

While a handful of betting favorites (Mo Donegal, Essential Quality, Tiz the Law, Justify, and American Pharoah) have visited the Belmont Stakes winner’s circle in recent years, it’s also common for non-favored runners to emerge on top. Case in point, 14 of the last 20 Belmont favorites (70%) have fallen to defeat, with Sir Winston (10.20-1), Creator (16.40-1), Palace Malice (13.80-1), Ruler On Ice (24.75-1), Drosselmeyer (13-1), Summer Bird (11.90-1), Da’ Tara (38.50-1), and Birdstone (36-1) springing upsets at double-digit odds.

To put it another way, eight of the last 20 Belmont Stakes winners started at 11-1 or higher, so history suggests betting longshots in the Belmont is often a lucrative strategy.

Favor proven graded stakes winners

Graded stakes winners have an advantage in the Belmont Stakes, winning 13 of the last 20 editions and eight of the last 10. Up-and-comers without graded stakes wins to their credit have won seven of the last 20 editions, but six of those seven had placed at the graded stakes level, so they weren’t complete unknowns.

Belmont contenders who have won graded stakes: Angel of Empire, Arcangelo, Forte, Hit Show, National Treasure, Raise Cain, and Tapit Trice.

Bet horses trained by Todd Pletcher

Todd Pletcher (Eclipse Sportswire)

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher has won a quartet of Belmont Stakes since 2007, sending out Mo Donegal (2022), Tapwrit (2017), Palace Malice (2013), and Rags to Riches (2007) to take home top honors.

This record alone is impressive, but wait, Pletcher’s statistics get even better. Since 2006, he’s also saddled seven Belmont runners-up and a trio of third-place finishers. In short, 27.5% of Belmont Stakes trifecta finishers since 2006 have been trained by Pletcher, a remarkable stat indicating Pletcher is the dominant trainer in the Triple Crown’s final jewel.

Belmont contenders trained by Todd Pletcher: Forte, Prove Worthy, and Tapit Trice.

Look for sires who won Grade 1 races at 1 1/8 miles or longer

Pedigrees matter in the Belmont Stakes, and sons of sprinters rarely prevail in the 1 1/2-mile classic. Indeed, 14 of the last 16 Belmont winners were sired by stallions who won Grade 1 races at 1 1/8 miles or longer. Class and stamina are important for success in the Belmont, and the progeny of stallions who excelled at high levels running long are more likely to visit the winner’s circle.

Belmont contenders sired by stallions who won a Grade 1 over 1 1/8 miles or farther: Angel of Empire, Arcangelo, Hit Show, Il Miracolo, National Treasure, Prove Worthy, Red Route One, Tapit Shoes, and Tapit Trice.

Bet on sons of Tapit

Expounding on the above stat about stallions, it’s worth paying special attention to Belmont contenders sired by three-time leading North American sire Tapit, winner of the Grade 1 Wood Memorial racing 1 1/8 miles. His many Grade 1-winning sons and daughters include Belmont victors Tonalist, Creator, Tapwrit, and Essential Quality, so it’s safe to say Tapit is the dominant sire in the third leg of the Triple Crown.

Belmont contenders sired by Tapit: Tapit Shoes and Tapit Trice.


It’s difficult to find a Belmont contender who fits all of the historical trends we’ve outlined, but one comes quite close: Tapit Trice.

Tapit Trice Toyota Blue Grass Stakes 2023 Belmont Stakes Belmont Park Triple Crown
Toyota Blue Grass Stakes winner Tapit Trice (SV Photography)

A son of Tapit trained by Todd Pletcher, Tapit Trice has consistently shown a high level of ability. On the Road to the Kentucky Derby, he unleashed a giant homestretch rally to win the Grade 3 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, then made a midrace move and a sustained drive down the lane to nab the Grade 1 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes.

Tapit Trice started in the Kentucky Derby, but got run off his feet by a fast early pace and could only close belatedly to finish seventh. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the Pletcher-trained Belmont winners Mo Donegal and Tapwrit encountered similar journeys on their way to finishing fifth and sixth in their respective Kentucky Derby tries.

Just like Mo Donegal and Tapwrit (and also Palace Malice), Tapit Trice has been freshened since the Kentucky Derby, skipping the Preakness to head straight to the Belmont Stakes. The smaller field and presumably slower pace of the Belmont should suit Tapit Trice much better than the Kentucky Derby, allowing the slow-starting colt to stay closer to the pace — quite possibly within our preferable 4 1/2-length cutoff point for the opening half-mile. He was only 2 1/2 lengths behind after the opening half-mile of the Blue Grass.

Throw in the fact Tapit Trice is bred to relish 1 1/2 miles, and he should be tough to beat as the Triple Crown wraps up.

We’ll also highlight Hit Show as a longshot worth supporting. A runaway winner of the Grade 3 Withers Stakes during the winter, Hit Show prepped for the Kentucky Derby with a nose defeat in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by Resorts World Casino, then outran expectations to finish fifth as a 24-1 longshot in the Derby.

Hit Show was only beaten by 6 1/4 lengths in the Derby after sticking closer to a hot pace than many of the other top finishers. Sire Candy Ride won the Grade 1 Pacific Classic Stakes racing 1 1/4 miles, and dam Actress is a daughter of Tapit, so Hit Show is bred to handle 1 1/2 miles. He also seems very likely to start at double-digit odds, so Hit Show ticks the majority of the historical boxes we’ve outlined.

Good luck with your handicapping, and enjoy the Belmont Stakes!

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