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Belmont Stakes Favorites

Posted by Webster Washington on 6/8/2016 7:33:42 AM

With the Triple Crown fresh in our minds from last year, we expected to be looking to the Belmont Stakes with another sweep on the line. But whether it was the muddy track, the fast pace or simple exhaustion, Nyquist's quest for the Triple Crown was broken by a determined rival in the Preakness. And now we look to the frontrunner in the Belmont Stakes odds, Exaggerator.

The hard-closing Exaggerator, who had lost to Nyquist four times before, finally got his timing and trip together for the run he needed to beat everyone down the wet stretch at Pimlico. In doing so, he donned the Preakness flowers and the prize of his three-year-old life. Now with Nyquist out of the picture because of health issues, the Belmont Stakes odds take a completely different look.

Factors to Consider

Exaggerator will be the morning line favorite in the Belmont, probably around even odds to win. Before summarizing the favorites, there are some factors to consider that separate this final leg of the Triple Crown.

First of all is the distance. The Belmont Stakes, at 1 1/2 miles, is the longest race most of these horses will ever run, so endurance becomes a bigger factor than ever. When combined with the calendar spacing of the Triple Crown (five weeks from the Kentucky Derby to the Belmont), it is obvious to see why a Triple Crown sweep is so difficult. Another factor: over the past 20 years, seven horses have run extremely well in first two legs of the Triple Crown, and have come into the Belmont as prohibitive favorites but failed to win. The last three on that list are California Chrome (2014), Big Brown (2008) and Smarty Jones (2004), all horses who went on to have good careers. Also, deep closers and wire-to-wire winners have difficulty in this race largely due to the distance and endurance factors.

The Favorites

With that in mind, lets look at the favorites:

EXAGGERATOR has run three great races in his last outings, rolling in the Santa Anita Derby, closing on Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby, and beating him in the Preakness. He's won two other graded stakes, and if it weren't for Nyquist, that could be three or four. He'll be the deserved favorite. But he and Lani will be the only two horses in the Belmont field who ran the first two legs of the Crown, so his schedule is cramped. He'll have to prove that his closing style will hold up to give him the win in this marathon. That would be quite an accomplishment.

SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS ran well enough in the Derby to get up for fifth, and skipped the Preakness to rest up. The winner of the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes back in February, he gave Creator a run in the G1 Arkansas Derby in April. He's back to his normal schedule after rushing into the Kentucky Derby. He may run closer to the pace than he normally does, which could put him in position.

STRADIVARI has been getting a lot of respect since he set foot on the Pimlico track for the Preakness. That's because of his zooming performances in lower levels at Gulfstream Park and Keeneland, and because he's a Todd Pletcher horse. He completed the superfecta in the Preakness, which caused many to think he can defeat class horses. He may at some point, but he'll have to prove it to me.

CHERRY WINE is another closer who ran just behind Exaggerator in the Preakness. But he couldn't stay with Exaggerator there, and couldn't keep up with Brody's Cause in the the G1 Bluegrass Stakes in April. In fact, he hasn't won a stakes race, which leaves some doubts about class.

DESTIN is the horse I think has the best chance of beating Exaggerator. After upsetting Brody's Cause in record time to win the Tampa Bay Derby in March, he ran a respectable sixth in the Kentucky Derby. He also won the G3 Sam F. Davis Stakes in Tampa in February. Another Pletcher horse, he's fresh and has the midpack-stalking style suited for this race.

Belmont Stakes odds Betting

I expect Exaggerator to take some money at the Belmont windows, so I don't think he'll go off at any more appealing than about 6-5. So in the Belmont Stakes odds betting, I'll try to beat him with Destin at 3-1 or better. I might toss Stradivari into an exotic. And there are others in the field who should also get attention. I'll cover them next time.

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