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Dan Ippolito

As Casino City's associate editor, Dan produces and edits all of our weekly newsletters, and he writes about the gaming industry for our websites and the GPWA Times Magazine. Dan graduated from Marist College in 2017 with a degree in Communications and a concentration in Sports.

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Top 10 facts and figures on the 2020 Belmont Stakes

15 Jun 2020

By Dan Ippolito
Usually the Kentucky Derby is the first race in the Triple Crown races, but due to COVID-19, the Run for the Roses, usually held the first Saturday in May, has been postponed to September. The Belmont Stakes, usually the final leg of the Triple Crown will be the first this year when it takes place this Saturday, 20 June at Belmont Park in New York.

Here we take a look at some facts and figures involving the 152nd running of the $1 million Belmont Stakes. We also take some advice from Michael Dempsey, a 30-year horse racing handicapper and writer, who created Winners Circle Handicapping Syndicate and the TurfnSport Radio Network.

10. The history
Initially contested at a distance of 1 5/8-miles at Jerome Park, the first Belmont Stakes was won by Hall of Fame filly Ruthless in 1867. The first time horses ran at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York was in 1905. Just six years later, the race was cancelled in 1911 and 1912 due to anti-gambling legislation in the state.

This year’s race was originally scheduled for 6 June, but due to the pandemic and state regulations, it was pushed back by two weeks. The Kentucky Derby, as mentioned above, will be on 5 September and the Triple Crown will be finished off with the Preakness Stakes on 3 October.

9. No fans
As part of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes usually brings in a full house to watch the race. However, since we are in unprecedented times with the coronavirus, spectators will not be allowed to attend this year’s race.

All Belmont Stakes Racing Festival tickets are subject to full refunds.

8. Nine furlongs
Traditionally, the race nicknamed “The Test of the Champion” is a 1 1/2 miles, or 12 furlongs, race. However, in order to account for the schedule adjustments this year, the Belmont Stakes will be shortened to nine furlongs, or 1 1/8 miles.

Obviously, this shortened distance helps out horses who may not do as well in longer races and hurt those who may not get out to a hot start and tend to break later.

7. 16 horses
The 2020 race, as of now, seems to have nine horses on the schedule and are all listed as probable.

There is still time to fill out the rest of the maximum field of 16 horses. With six days left before race day, it would be surprising to not get another horse or two into the mix to bring the field to double digits.

6. Positioning
Even though the length of the 2020 race has been shortened a bit, it is still a lengthy race by some means. Certain posts will not have as much of an advantage as shorter races since the jockeys have more time to put their horses in the best position to win. That being said, getting an ideal post is still always preferred.

“At 1 1/8 miles at Belmont Park there really is not much of an advantage to any particular post. The posts from 4-7 might be ideal, and an inside post would be preferred for a horse with speed,” said Dempsey.

The posts have yet to be determined, and will be drawn on Wednesday.

5. Post 1
While the length of the race may not give too much advantage to some of the post positions, history has shown that post 1 has treated horses better than others at the Belmont Stakes.

There have been 23 winners at the Belmont Stakes from post 1, which is the highest from any post at the race.

One of the more famous wins from post 1 was back in 1973, when Secretariat was in that position and won by 31 lengths to complete his Triple Crown.

4. The favorite
So far, out of the nine horses scheduled to participate, Tiz The Law is the heavy favorite, hovering around even money across the books. Tiz The Law is aiming to become the first New York-bred horse to win the Belmont Stakes since 1882. The favorite hasn’t done as well as some may think in the Belmont Stakes.

“The betting favorite has won just twice in the past 14 years, and they happened to be the Triple Crown winners Justify and American Pharoah,” said Dempsey. Trained by Barclay Tagg, Tiz The Law will be ridden by Manny Franco.

As the field fills with more horses, we could see his odds change more toward a better price for bettors.

After you look at Tiz The Law, the rest of the field is packed in tight. So as far as some of the longshots go, it could be anyone’s race.

3. Triple Crown chances
The length between Triple Crown races this year is much longer than normal due to the schedule changes. This could make it much more difficult for a horse to become the 13th ever to win the Triple Crown.

“It will be tough to win all three, as instead of a five-week period in total there is 11 weeks to the Kentucky Derby and another four to the Preakness, so plenty of time for horse that might not have been ready to go in June to be major threats in the next two races of the series,” Dempsey commented.

He also believes, currently, that if there is a horse to do it in the current field it would be the favorite Tiz The Law. “We have had several top horses including Nadal and Charlatan hit the sidelines, making the path for a Triple Crown more possible,” he continued.

2. The future
Since the major sports in the U.S. are still awaiting their chance to take the field and court again, horse racing has seen a few new fans come about. “It has definitely picked up new fans with the extra television coverage on FS1, FS2 and NBC Sports Network,” said Dempsey.

This wasn’t the only sport that saw some new action as bettors made their way to Korean baseball and German soccer since those were some of the first sports to return to action.

However, despite gaining a larger fan-base from the pandemic, Dempsey believes that when the U.S. sees major sports return, “sharp bettors will gravitate back to sports for their major action.”
Until that time though, horse racing can take advantage of having these bettors’ attention until we see some hockey and basketball coming back next month.

1. The wagers
A Triple Crown race is always going to see bets coming in no matter what. With COVID-19 putting a halt to other sports, bettors are looking for something to toss a wager on and luckily the Belmont Stakes will be here shortly.

Last year’s Kentucky Derby saw $165 million in wagers followed by $53 million at the 2019 Belmont Stakes.

With the sports betting landscape being so light, Dempsey said, “I would guess maybe $95 million would be bet on the Belmont this year if we get close to the field maximum which is 16.”

It also helps that it is the first leg of the Triple Crown and one of the first major sporting events in months.
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