The Brock Talk

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Belmont Posts Not Likely To Influence Race Outcome

Post positions for the $1 million Belmont Stakes (gr. 1) have been set and the third leg of the Triple Crown will have a field of twelve. At the marathon distance of 1-1/2 miles, the importance of starting gate positions is almost negligible, but there are two notes of interest when looking at this year's race.

The most likely pace setter in the race, First Dude, breaks from post position 11 Saturday and jockey Calvin Borel breaks from post position number one on longshot Dave in Dixie.

With more than an eighth of a mile (843 feet) from the starting gate to the clubhouse turn, jockey Ramon Dominguez should have little trouble urging and steering First Dude into a safe position near the front of the pack before they reach the first turn. But being in the 11 post will offer slightly more of a challenge that had he drawn further inside.

Borel, famous for his rail hugging riding style that has produced three of the last four Kentucky Derbies, begins the race in his most comfortable position from the far inside post. While the inside post can be a curse in the 20-horse field and running out of the chute in the Derby, the slow early pace of the Belmont allows for horses to settle and relax from nearly any position.

The inside post has been by far the most productive in the history of the Belmont, producing 23 winners, 40% more than any other starting spot going back to 1905 when post position records were first kept for the race. The post that has produced the second most winners is the five gate with 14, followed the three post with 13 and the seven post with 12 winners.

If you are offered an odd-even proposition bet in the Belmont, be sure to take the odds. Odd numbered posts have accounted for 68 wins during that time while 36 winners have started from an even numbered post. No horse has ever won the Belmont Stakes outside of the 11 post and only four have won from the 10 and 11 holes combined (2 each).

Ice Box (photo), as expected, is listed at the morning line favorite at 3-1 odds while breaking from post six.

At one time, the Belmont Stakes had an extraodinary record of winning favorites. During the first 96 Belmonts with pari-mutuel wagers, 49 of the 96 races were won by the favorite. Even more extraodinary, another 34 were second or third for an incredible in-the-money rate of 86%. Only 13 favorites between 1877 and 1978 finished worse than third and all finished the race.

Since 1978, only 6 favorites have won the 31 Belmonts for a 19% win rate. But nine of them finished worse than third compared to 13 in the previous 96 wagering Belmonts and for the first time, favorites Prairie Bayou (1993), Cavonnier ('96) and Big Brown (2008) did not finish the race. The in-the-money rate during that span has been a respectable 71% with 22 of the favorites finishing first, second or third but favorites have not fared well for their supporters with win tickets.

So if Ice Box is to somehow benefit from the Belmont history gods, he'll have to go back further than 1978 before he begins to ask around. And there is plenty of room in the Belmont history books as the Belmont Stakes is the fourth oldest stakes race in North America. The Phoenix Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland was first run in 1831 and The Queens Plate in Canada first began in 1860. The Travers was first run at Saratoga in 1864. However, the Belmont, which will be run for the 142nd time in 2010, is third only to the Phoenix(157th running in 2009)and Queens Plate (150th running in 2009) in total runnings because the Travers has had gaps in its history and will be run for the 141st time this year.

1 comment:

John said...

Thanks for the interesting stats, Brock.

I'd like to see some pace to make it interesting and First Dude, as we've already discussed elsewhere, should be the one to provide it. He should also be able to carry his speed the whole way, although I would hope he'd slow it down just a bit over 12 furlongs.

A competitive race over this distance may help to further promote stamina in the breed. Maybe we'll see some of these same horses later in the BC Marathon.