The third jewel of the Triple Crown is this afternoon, and the big question we have to ask ourselves as wagerers is an interesting one; do you believe in legend and jinx? Do you believe that past anomalies regarding events that occurred long before today’s racehorses were even born impact future results? Or do you believe in empirical evidence and probability?
The answer to that question will likely guide your wagering thoughts today. And I imagine you already know mine.
Today California Chrome sits poised to be the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years. For many, including me, it would be the first time we’ve actually witness this seemingly mythical achievement accomplished. Not that there haven’t been some serious challengers. Twelve horses have won the first two legs of the Triple Crown since 1978, including the anti-climactic scratch of I’ll Have Another (who apparently wouldn’t “have another” race…). 2004’s Smarty Jones seemed the easy favorite, only to disappoint at the 1 ½ mile track at Belmont. Same with Funny Cide, Big Brown, etc…
So will we see some history today?
Let’s see if we can notch out third horse racing winner ourselves (we hit three of the top four slots in the Preakness) and finish off the Triple Crown racing season with some extra cash.
146th Belmont Stakes:
California Chrome: (3/5) – What can I say, I’m smitten with this horse. I know all the negative history surrounding the historical position this horse now sits in, but there is so little evidence on the race track to back another contender today. You’d simply be betting legend and skepticsm. Not that it can’t work – MANY an upset victor has had their day, not just in horse racing but in sports in general, but when some of the top contenders today are horses that Cali Chrome blew off the track at the Derby and Preakness, it’s hard not to like some history today.
Three to five isn’t a great payday, but it isn’t unreasonable, especially if he wins and you can slot him in some multiple-horse wagers as well.
The Top Challengers:
Wicked Strong: (6/1) – Just as in the last two major races, I’m not a huge fan of the top challengers. In this case it is because of a limited track record as well as lack of relative value. Wicked Strong has a slight advantage in being a little fresher having not run in either of the two previous Triple Crown races, but his disappointing early season finished leave me a bit skeptical today.
Tonalist: (8/1) – He gained some attention by winning the Peter Pan Stakes last month at Belmont, and has posted some good times, but as his own owner admits “we don’t really know how good he is yet.” That’s because he hasn’t been pushed by a field as good as today’s yet. 8/1 isn’t terrible value, but I like him more in the show or superfecta mix as opposed to knocking off Cali.
Triple Crown Race Vets:
General a-rod: (20/1) – General a-rod is back but just like his name-sharing (but NOT named FOR) baseball counterpart, he has disappointed in the big game. He finished 11th in the Derby, but only missed by a head of getting on the podium in the Preakness. His odds have grown to the point where I am not ruling him out as a factor in some more exotic wagers today.
Ride on Curlin: (12/1) – This horse has finished out of the money only twice in eleven starts. One of which was the Kentucky Derby (7th), but he made up for it with a 2nd place finish at the Preakness last month.
Samaarat: (20/1) – If a longshot is gonna make waves, and it seems like the Triple Crown dream-dashers are always longshots and not contenders, why not Samaarat? This horse won his first five starts this season. He’s cooled off a bit lately, but has some winning pedigree.
I’d like to be dramatic and bold, but I’d like even more to get paid. I think California Chrome finally does it and ends the Triple Crown drought. This horse has been too dominant to just simply play counter-culture and wager against for me. I think the historical naysayers have actually done me a favor by keeping the price fairy reasonable for such a strong favorite.