Five weeks until America’s Racetrack– Saratoga begins it summer meet. Which means there is still plenty of racing at Belmont Park before the NYRA crew heads north.
Belmont 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.
Its high-quality racing and massive media exposure make it one of the most attractive racetracks to bet.
So if you want to make some pre-Saratoga bank, here’s what you need to know about betting at Belmont Park.
The Dimensions: As noted above, the main track is gigantic. While the average dirt track is one mile around, Belmont 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.
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 11th. On Thursdays, the first race goes off at 3:05, while the first Post Time Friday to Sunday is 1:00.
Wagering Menu: Belmont offers the standard Win, Place, Show, Exacta, Trifecta, and Superfecta wagers on races with sufficient betting interests (number of horses).
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.
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.
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 2-1, 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, Irad’s brother Jose Ortiz, and Joel Rosario are also having very successful meets so far this spring. 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.
In the trainer standings, Chad Brown and Christophe Clement are the current leaders. Both men are more dominant on turf than on dirt. The overwhelming number of Clement’s starters have been in turf races, and he has not yet had a Winner in a dirt race.
To date, the best trainers in dirt races thus far are Rob Atras and Orlando Noda.
The best value trainers so far have been Wayne Potts, Tom Morley, and Chris Englehart. All three have saddled at least three Winners, with average win odds of at least 8-1.
Track Trends: 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 30th, 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 should be upgraded in your depth chart.
The Spa opens July 15th, but Belmont is still very playable. Good luck.