Andrew Beyer mentions something that’s been on my mind as I start thinking about how to play this year’s Belmont Stakes:
Forget about handicapping; if you bet every starter in every Belmont Stakes for the last 15 years you’d have almost doubled your money.
Last year, I looked at the win payouts for each of the Triple Crown races and the five Grade 1 Kentucky Derby preps over a decade, and the Belmont was the race that offered the greatest opportunity:
Only one favorite has won the Belmont Stakes in the past 10 years, and that was Afleet Alex in 2005. Handicappers look for longshots in the Derby, but the Belmont has delivered a higher average price ($43.61) and a healthy ROI in recent years — if you had bet $2 to win on all 110 Belmont starters since 2002, you would have almost doubled your money.
There’s a lot to like about I’ll Have Another on Saturday, but the Belmont is the classic race to look for an upset with a rewarding payoff.
The argument against providing true payouts like $2.06 or $2.39 has always centered on the flimsy issue of forcing mutuel clerks to deal with pennies. The real issue is that all those confiscated pennies add up to several million dollars a year in each of the largest racing jurisdictions …
In an age where most of the handle is bet offtrack and increasingly through wagering accounts where no one is counting out small change, it is time to re-examine these policies. A horseplayer whose $2.39 payoff is being knocked down to $2.20 is having a 47 percent rounding tax applied to his rightful winnings – on top of a 15-to-20 percent takeout.
Ending breakage should be as much an issue as shrinking takeout.