Horse Racing – All about betting on the 2024 Belmont Stakes

Belmont Park is undergoing some renovations, so therefore their signature event, the Belmont Stakes, is shifting to Saratoga. In the past, this race has been held at Aqueduct (1963-67), but never at Saratoga, and it will host this race this year and probably next year as well. For those new to horse racing, here’s a comprehensive guide on how to bet on horse races.

Historically, the Belmont Stakes has been referred to as the “Test of the Champion.” it offers unique challenges and Belmont Stakes betting opportunities. Customarily contested at a mile and a half, it has been a test its entrants have not encountered. Some horses don’t have the ability to go that distance or are not bred for it, and because of that, you often see horses in the Belmont that did not compete in the other Triple Crown races (the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness).

But because we’re at Saratoga for this one, it becomes more “democratic” from that standpoint. This year, the Belmont Stakes is being contested at just a mile and a quarter, which is the same distance as the Derby. 

With all the talk we’ve heard in recent years about horses very rarely running in all three of the Triple Crown events, it’s indeed interesting that we have a contender here – Mystik Dan – who will be in all three. And another who raced on Derby Day at Churchill Downs – Seize the Grey, who went on to win the Preakness – will also be present and accounted for. And there are more than a few handicappers who will cross those horses out because they are running for the third time in a five-week period. 

So we have the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners vying against each other for the first time, on a day when there doesn’t appear to be as much in the way of weather concerns as we had at Pimlico a few weeks ago. Still, there is a chance of rain on Saturday.

Belmont Stakes Betting Odds

Let’s take a look at the odds for this Belmont Stakes field, listed by post position. The post time is 6:41 PM ET on Saturday.

(1) Seize The Grey +800

(2) Resilience +1000

(3) Mystik Dan +500

(4) The Wine Stward +1500

(5) Antiquarian +1200

(6) Dornoch +1500

(7) Protective +2000

(8) Honor Marie +1200

(9) Sierra Leone +180

(10) Mindframe +350

As we have mentioned, we are looking at a mile and a quarter distance. The reason it has to be that way has to do with the Saratoga track itself. To fit a mile-and-a-half race into this track, you’d have to situate the gate on the turn. So it is what it is.

And even having said that there have not been many 1-1/4 mile dirt races at Saratoga – in fact, in the last dozen years, only 28 of them. One of those is the Travers Stakes, perhaps the most prestigious race for three-year-olds outside of the Triple Crown, which takes place on August 24. 

We might usually run down some of the past history of the Belmont Stakes, for purposes of offering information on trends and patterns. But because of the different venue and distance, there isn’t a lot of relevance to that.

What we will say is that out of the last 44 horses that have run in the Preakness and then turned around to run in the Belmont three weeks later, 38 of them have experienced a lower finish in the Belmont.

Let’s take a quick glance at the contenders in this field according to post position (we list the jockey as well):

(1) SEIZE THE GRAY (8-1)

  • Jockey: Jaime Torres

This Kentucky-bred is sired by the legendary Arrogate, who not only won the Travers Stakes at Saratoga but also the Breeders Cup Classic but also fathered Arcangelo, last year’s Travers and Belmont Stakes winner. 

This horse got a great ride under ideal circumstances in the Preakness. His breeding indicated some adaptability to the muck, and he got himself a muddy track at Pimlico, simply not allowing Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan to close on him.

That became a great story because Seize The Grey is trained by 88-year-old D Wayne Lukas. That meant everyone in the racing community – particularly those who held win tickets – felt really good about it. 

That was Lukas’ seventh Preakness win. He has won the Belmont four times – in 1994, 1995, 1996, and 2000.

Now Seize The Grey readies for his SIXTH race of the year, which leads some to wonder whether he’s been overworked. He is not participating in all three Triple Crown races, although he raced on Derby Day at Churchill Downs, which means he’s in his fourth race in a five-week period. 

As a result of his Preakness win, only Sierra Leone and Mystik Dan have more career earnings of the entrants in the Belmont Stakes. 

He has a tough assignment here because horses who are arguably better, including Sierra Leone, are fresher. There was perhaps a peak in the Preakness under those favorable conditions, and Seize the Grey registered his best speed rating ever – by far – so is he ready to fire to that extent again when he may be called upon for more?

Jaime Torres rides the horse for the third straight outing, In these last two, Seize The Grey won the Pat Day Mile, then the Preakness. But he has never gone a mile and a quarter.

(2) RESILIENCE  (10-1)

  • Jockey: Junior Alvarado 

Some sharp people are expecting this horse to do some business in the Belmont. Part of that rationalization is that his trainer, Hall of Famer Bill Mott, must think he has a chance, or else he wouldn’t have entered him. At the same time, Mott expressed some doubts about resilience’s ability to get the mile-and-a-quarter distance. 

Resilience took four tries to break maiden, then was placed right into the Risen Star Stakes at the Fairgrounds. He went off at almost 17-1, faded in the stretch, finished fourth, and was beaten by Sierra Leone, among others.

There was a win in the Wood Memorial, but that field is not necessarily respected as an actual test. So, a lot of people put stock in the Kentucky Derby performance. There, Resilience was strong coming around the final turn but faded late and came eighth. Maybe he couldn’t handle the whole route.

(3) MYSTIK DAN  (5-1)

  • Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.

Mystik Dan is the only horse competing in all three Triple Crown races, and for that, I suppose he should be commended. He was second in the Preakness and is not bad in the mud; not at all. But he just encountered an opponent who adapted to it better.

There are certainly those who doubt Mystik Dan on an overall basis. The consensus among those who do this kind of thing on a full-time basis is that he got the absolute perfect trip in the Kentucky Derby, successfully saving ground all the way while Sierra Leone and Forever Young had to go wide.

So they had to travel a slightly farther distance, yet they got nosed out while Mystik Dan was barely able to hold them off. No less an authority than Andrew Beyer, former racing columnist for the Washington Post who is the originator of the widely-used Beyer Speed Figures, suggests that Mystik Dan was the third-best horse in that race. Oh, and we might add that it would be very unusual for him to get that kind of trip again.

Mystik Dan is the leading money winner in this field, with earnings in excess of $4.1 million. 

(4) THE WINE STEWARD (15-1) 

  • Jockey: Manuel Franco 

The Wine Steward had three wins to start his career, then, going from a $200,000 ungraded stakes race to the Grade 1 Breeders Futurity, came a very close second. That was as a two-year-old. As a three-year-old, he has finished second in two Grade 3 events – the Lexington Stakes and the Peter Pan Stakes. His defeats have all come by less than a length. 

Most recently, in the Peter Pan, which takes place at Aqueduct, he went off the favorite and was beaten by the Todd Pletcher-trained Antiquarian, who he will also encounter in the Belmont Stakes, which will be the first time at a mile and a quarter for both of them. 

Luis Saez rode him in each of his last three outings. But Saez will be riding Dornoch on Saturday, so trainer Mike Maker has installed Manuel Franco aboard The Wine Steward. Franco rode him to victory in the Funny Cide Stakes on this Saratoga track last August. 

(5) ANTIQUARIAN (12-1) 

  • Jockey: John Velasquez

Antiquarian is one of three horses entered into the Belmont by trainer Todd Pletcher. And as we just mentioned, he won the Grade 3 Peter Pan Stakes. But you’re not going to find a lot of serious handicappers who put much weight behind that. 

The Peter Pan was contested at a mile and an eighth. This is his first time at a mile and a quarter, and his speed figures aren’t necessarily all that good. The Grade 2 Louisiana Derby did not offer a pleasant experience for him; getting tied up at the gate was a downer. And even then, he wasn’t beaten into oblivion in a field that included Catching Freedom and Honor Marie. Yes, he lost ground near the finish but was four lengths behind.

In all four starts, Antiquarian has been ridden by John Velasquez, who will be aboard again on Saturday. Johnny V has won the Belmont twice – with the filly Rags to Riches (for Pletcher) in 2007 and Union Rags in 2012. 

(6) DORNOCH (15-1)

  • Jockey: Luis Saez

Dornoch presents a dilemma to horseplayers in the respect that he’s been good enough to beat Sierra Leone (as he did in the Remsen Stakes) but has not shown a lot of form in moving up to Grade 1 company as a three-year-old. He didn’t offer a whole lot in a rematch against Sierra Leone in the Blue Glass Stakes, and the Kentucky Derby was an absolute disaster. Starting on the rail, which is never a very positive thing, he did not show enough speed to establish and maintain his position. Falling behind horses, he could do no better than tenth. 

Dornoch is the brother of Mage, the winner of the 2023 Kentucky Derby, which, as we know, is contested at a mile and a quarter. He’s won two Grade 2 races, which is more than can be said of most of the entrants in the Belmont. But of these ten horses, he had the lowest speed rating in his last outing. Expectations are low. 

(7) PROTECTIVE (20-1) 

  • Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

This is a rarity – a maiden in a Triple Crown race. We can say this much: he has hit the board in the two graded stakes races he has entered, with a third-place finish in both the Wood Memorial and Peter Pan Stakes. While that is normally not a meaningless accomplishment, it does not necessarily mean a whole lot in the Belmont, as not everyone is all that impressed with either of those prep races this year. 

Protective’s debut came at Saratoga, then was dropped from third to fourth by way of a disqualification in his second time out. We should note that this will be the first run at a mile and a quarter for the son of Medaglia d’Oro. He’s another Pletcher colt, and with Tyler Gaffalione (removed from Sierra Leone) riding, he will have had four different jockeys in five races. Protective may be a little out of place here, but perhaps his connections feel as if this Belmont field is not so daunting that he can’t finish in the money.

(8) HONOR MARIE (12-1)

  • Jockey: Florent Geroux

This horse presents a lot of intrigue for bettors because he’s closer and ready to take advantage of a fast pace. There is a bit of a problem with Honor Marie in that after a win in last November’s Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs, he has not posted a win as a three-year-old. But he did pass a lot of horses to finish second in the Louisiana Derby, one length behind Catching Freedom. 

Five weeks prior to that, however, he was soundly beaten by, among others, Sierra Leone in the Risen Star Stakes. If you are being optimistic about Honor Marie, you’d be throwing out the Kentucky Derby result, where he got bottled up very early – which is entirely possible in a 20-horse field – and finished 13 lengths off the pace in eighth position.

There is a new jockey in this one, as trainer Whit Beckman has given Florent Geroux the mount. Beckman, a Louisville native and former assistant to Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown, won his first stakes race in 2023. Honor Marie is the son of Honor Code, and A,P. Indy, winner of the 1992 Belmont, is the grandsire. At this price, there is something to like, although there is the concern of being out-closed by Sierra Leone. 

(9) SIERRA LEONE (9-5) 

  • Jockey: Flavien Prat 

Sierra Leone came oh-so-close in the Kentucky Derby, beaten by a nose, although he did travel more ground than Mystik Dan because he ran wide and got bumped to boot. He is pretty close to being undefeated, as both losses came by a nose. And he has the late speed, passing horses down the stretch in every race but one. 

This son of Gun Runner is one of only three horses in the Belmont who have a Grade 1 win to their credit (Mystik Dan and Seize The Grey are the other two). 

There is a jockey change here, and it’s been somewhat controversial. Tyler Gaffalione, who was involved with some of that jostling down the stretch in the Derby, has been lifted by trainer Chad Brown to be replaced by Flavien Prat, who won the Kentucky Derby in 2019 and the Preakness in 2021. 

Gaffalione caught a $2,500 fine from the Kentucky stewards for making contact with Forever Young right before the finish line, as three horses were about a nose apart. Brown felt that he was somewhat less than prepared to come into the final turn and didn’t stick with the game plan the two had laid out. 

Brown will also be going to a “cage bit” on the horse, so that Prat can have more control in steering the horse.

(10) MINDFRAME  (7-2) 

  • Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

Here, we have the true mystery horse because no one quite knows how good he is. We know that no one has touched him so far. 

He made his debut on March 30, winning a maiden race by 13 lengths at Gulfstream. He followed that in an optional claimer on May 4 and won by 7-1/2 lengths.

Everyone admits that this son of the Constitution and grandson of Tapit has talent. And many people know that trainer Todd Pletcher has won the Belmont four times. They’ve seen him come from behind and they’ve seen get right to the front and keep putting distance between himself and others.

But the big question – and one that should be painfully obvious – is whether he is ready to go from relatively weak fields to a Triple Crown race and be a contender. The likely path is to try and get up to the front, but then the distance comes into play. 

Maybe this is a superhorse in the making? Okay, let’s calm down.

By the way, there were some developments with Mindframe’s jockey, Irad Ortiz Jr., this week. Ortiz got unseated in the gate in a race at Saratoga and was taken to the hospital for an examination. He has an injury to his ankle, but it shouldn’t be anything that would keep him out of the Belmont Stakes.

At this price, I’m not sure there is any value to be had. 

Enjoy the Belmont Stakes by betting on head-to-head matchups

We’ve explained before that one of the best ways to enjoy these big horse races is to bet these contestants head-to-head. And this is NOT something you’re going to be able to do at the racetrack itself. 

We went over to a random sportsbook, and they posted these two-way matchup propositions. 

This kind of wagering is ideal if you become accustomed to ranking horses from top to bottom in a field. 

My own opinion on each of these is reflected in my choice of CAPS. 

  • RESILIENCE -120
  • Seize the Grey +100
  • MYSTIK DAN -135
  • Seize the Grey +115
  • MYSTIK DAN -135
  • Resilience +115
  • The Field -210
  • SIERRA LEONE +165
  • THE WINE STEWARD -120
  • Dornoch +100
  • HONOR MARIE -125
  • Antiquarian +105
  • THE WINE STEWARD -140
  • Protective +120
  • SIERRA LEONE -220
  • Mindframe +173
  • Resilience -110
  • HONOR MARIE -110
  • Seize the Grey -115
  • HONOR MARIE -105
  • RESILIENCE -120
  • Antiquarian +100
  • SEIZE THE GREY -130
  • Antiquarian +110

Conclusion

I can’t really favor these horses who are starting for the third time in five weeks, so that leaves Mystik Dan and Seize The Grey out of consideration for the win, although I wouldn’t discount that Mystik Dan can be a viable candidate in an exotic.

Protective is not going to break the maiden here. It may be too early for Mindframe, though it would be exciting if he won, wouldn’t it?

Has Resilience shown enough for serious consideration? Hmmmm. Dornoch hasn’t done anything lately that would make us bet him. And Antiquarian doesn’t get us too excited.

The Wine Steward carries a high price, and maybe that’s warranted after failing to win a couple of Grade 3 races. But there’s something that intrigues me, so perhaps there’s some room on a ticket.

Sierra Leone is the class of this race and gets my vote. Honor Marie has the capability of making this a decent exacta, so I guess you can say I am expecting them both to close on the rest of this field.