So let’s say you’re convinced that the unbeaten Justify will keep his perfect record intact with a victory in the June 9th Belmont Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park, in the process becoming the thirteenth horse to sweep the Triple Crown.
Thanks to his determined victories in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I), Justify will be a heavy favorite to emulate his Bob Baffert-trained predecessor American Pharoah with a win in Belmont’s 1 ½-mile “Test of Champions.” So does this mean that bettors who believe Justify will win are out of luck when it comes to seeking a big payoff with their wagers? Not at all!
Quite to the contrary, there are plenty of options available for bettors who want to play Justify and still have a shot at a big score. Let’s run through some of the options and consider the payoffs that were generated when American Pharoah won the Triple Crown as the clear betting favorite three years ago….
Single-Race Exotic Bets (Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta): These wagers are only concerned with the outcome of the Belmont Stakes and aren’t tied to the results of previous or subsequent races. You might not get rich playing Justify on top of a bet like the exacta, but if you can correctly identify the runner-up, the payoff might be more than you expect. When American Pharoah won the Belmont Stakes over second choice Frosted, the $2 exacta returned $13.60—nearly 6-1. Playing the $2 trifecta with the eventual third-place finisher Keen Ice—a 17-1 shot, but hardly an impossible longshot to come up with—generated an even more enticing payoff of $109.50, while adding the impressive UAE Derby (UAE-II) winner Mubtaahij to the bottom of the superfecta yielded a $2 payoff of $570.00.
Multi-Race Exotic Bets (Double, Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 6): These wagers involve picking the winners of two or more consecutive races, so if you’re convinced that Justify can’t be beaten, you’ll have the option to bet your opinion by including Justify and no one else in the Belmont Stakes, a strategy known as “singling” a horse. If you can catch a longshot winner in one of the other races in the sequence, you could be in line for big payoffs in spite of Justify’s low odds. In 2015, the race before the Belmont Stakes was the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Stakes (gr. I) won by the 14-1 shot Slumber. Playing Slumber in a $2 double with American Pharoah returned $71.50. Other multi-race wagers ending with the Belmont Stakes included the $2 Pick 3, which yielded $503.00; the $2 Pick 4, which returned $4,595.00; and the $2 Pick 6, which rewarded its winners with a hefty $129,318.00!
I personally believe that the single-race exotics bets could offer potential since I think the Wood Memorial (gr. II) winner Vino Rosso is poised for a huge effort in the Belmont following a ninth-place finish with a wide trip in the Kentucky Derby. Trained by Todd Pletcher, who is a nose and a head away from having won four of the last five Belmonts, Vino Rosso is bred to excel at the Belmont distance and could be a horse to key in the exacta, trifecta, and superfecta with Justify.
So if you’re concerned that betting Justify in the Belmont Stakes won’t offer any opportunities to make a meaningful score, don’t be worried—if you can identify the right horses to play with Justify in the exotic wagers, there are plenty of options that could lead to enticing payoffs. Good luck!