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2018 Belmont Stakes: Vegas Odds And Sleepers Preview

Chestnut(54 wins) @ Bay(56 wins)

  • Where: Belmont Park. Elmont, NY
  • When: June 9, 2018 6:37 pm EST
  • Moneyline: Justify (Baffert/Smith) -125 Bravazo (Lukas/Saez) +750 Hofburg (Mott/Irad Ortiz Jr.) +450 Tenfold (Asmussen/Santana Jr.) +1000 Vino Rosso (Pletcher/Velazquez) +900 Blended Citizen (O'Neill/Frey) +2000

Are the horse racing gods trying to save Justify’s Triple Crown bid?

Things have felt ominous for the celebrated Baffert horse over the past week. Justify has drawn the #1 or “rail” position for the Belmont Stakes, almost guaranteed to keep the Thoroughbred colt from taking over the lead early. No horse since 2003 has won the Belmont starting from the rail.

Fatigue is also an issue. Despite winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, Justify has taken criticism for appearing to tire late in the latter race. Perhaps it was only the wet fog and heavy track surface that saved the 3-year-old from being overtaken by Bravazo, Good Magic or another sprinter in the stretch. The Belmont is contested over an arduous 1 and 1/2 mile distance, putting extra stress on what is seen as a tired favorite.

But if there’s one thing we know about Justify, it’s that he’s a mudder. Maybe an all-time great mudder.

And it might just be muddy in New York on Saturday. The forecast calls for rain showers from early in the morning until post-time. Has a Thoroughbred ever won the Triple Crown on 3 rainy days in a row? We could be about to see it happen this weekend.

As usual, here’s our take on the favorite and a few underdog colts. But don’t forget Mother Nature at any point. In Biblical terms, it’s the 11th horse in the race. A potential curse on sprinters that could spoil a Triple Crown.

Justify (-125 at Bovada Sportsbook)

Horse racing isn’t politics, where the best-polling candidates get to stand in the middle during debates. It’s not even auto racing where qualification plays a role in getting a good or bad starting spot. It’s often luck of the draw instead, and Justify has gotten the short bag of oats this time.

Baffert’s reaction to drawing post #1 is noteworthy in a horse racing landscape that encourages sunny optimism all the time. “I never like to draw the rail,” the legendary trainer told The Baltimore Sun. “We have it, we can’t change it, so we have to deal with it.”

The horse didn’t run his best at the Preakness, growing fatigued in the late-going and fighting off strong races by place-horse Bravazo, show Tenfold and 4th-place Good Magic. Yet the animal persevered and set up a shot to make history next to the Big Apple.

Are Justify’s minus-money line odds worth a wager given the draw, even if it rains all day in New York? That depends on whether there’s a spoiler somewhere in posts 2 through 10.

Bravazo (+750)

Bravazo ran one of the best races of his career in Baltimore. A few experts felt that if the Preakness was a slightly longer race, the colt would have overtaken Justify and spoiled the Triple Crown bid before it ever reached New York.

The 3 year old has finished win, place or show 6 times in just 10 career races. He’s got a ton of stamina and the ability to sprint very quickly down the stretch. Can he run the race of his life in New York?

Again, the key could be the weather – if there’s rain all day at Belmont and a muddy track for the horses, then it could be tougher for any Thoroughbred to beat out Justify with a late charge. If there’s a dry surface or just a slight drizzle then it’s game on for Bravazo making a sprint on the outside.

Weather Underground forecasts that Elmont, New York will see “showers” from the early morning onward on Saturday. Almost no wind is expected.

That could be bad news for trainers and jockeys hoping for a speedy track. Calm skies mean that heavy clouds will stay overhead instead of moving east.

Hofburg (+450)

Handicappers are buzzing about Hofburg, a Bill Mott colt who hasn’t been competing very much.

The Thoroughbred had a stressful shipment to the Kentucky Derby and only finished 7th in Louisville, then skipped the Preakness Stakes. His Beyer speed has been pretty good in limited action.

There’s a few factors that could work in Hofburg’s favor, such as the animal’s fresh legs. Almost no other horse in the Belmont Stakes has had such a light racing schedule.

But at 7.5/1 odds, bettors must be aware of the risks involved in betting based on a small sample-size of work and a whole lot of speculation. Especially in unpredictable weather.

Tenfold (+1000)

Wager on Tenfold to win the 2018 Belmont Stakes and get a $250 sign-up bonus from Bovada Sportsbook.

This Steve Asmussen colt has the advantage of prepping for the Belmont above all. Tenfold did not have a great 2-year-old campaign, in fact he hardly competed at all. He won a pair of minor sweepstakes on fast tracks in late winter as a 3 year old, then finished a so-so 5th place at the Arkansas Derby.

But it was Tenfold’s bid at the Preakness that turned heads. The Thoroughbred showed on the foggy, wet course,, losing by only a 3/4ths of a length to Justify. Good Magic finished behind him. Asmussen claims that the animal is right on schedule to win on Saturday. That’s more like the kind of self-promotion we’re used to hearing from trainers. But Tenfold has a better post position to work with in NY than a worried Team Justify.

Best Wager at the Belmont Stakes

The 2 best bets on the board are Justify and Tenfold.

Justify’s post position has handicappers so concerned that some are posting touts without the Baffert horse even included in possible best bets. That’s crazy. Yes, there are questions about the colt’s stamina on a big course after a long and difficult season. But how has Justify fared during that long, difficult season? 5 wins in a row since February. 1st at the Santa Anita Derby. 1st at the Kentucky Derby. 1st at the Preakness. You might as well say Stephen Curry isn’t worth anyone’s time when prop-betting the NBA Finals.

If the minus-odds have you looking elsewhere, consider a play on Tenfold. Asmussen’s pride has been bred and trained for this moment, and could be on a trajectory to spoil the party for Baffert and Justify.

Maybe it won’t happen. But at almost 6-to-1 payoff odds, there will be at least 8 other wagers that don’t have as much value on a cloudy day at Belmont.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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