This week in horse racing: Mo is my play at Belmont


The mile-and-a-half Test of the Champion at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday is all that awaits the Triple Crown season for 2022. In reality, it will be more of a test to see if 80-1 Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike is more akin to the Beatles or Chumbawamba. Do we have a superstar or one-hit wonder in our midst? The answer comes against a field that includes Wood Memorial winner Mo Donegal, local Peter Pan runaway victor We The People and Kentucky Oaks runner-up Nest. 

Stylistically it will be up to jockey Sonny Leon to put Rich Strike closer to the pace than he was at Churchill Downs five weeks ago. Deep closers rarely win the Belmont despite its longer distance. Can Rich Strike kick home as effectively after using more of his energy to stay up close? That’s the kicker. Great horses win despite the race shape; average ones need the help. We’ll see where he stands. My intuition is that We The People’s double-digit-length romp in the Peter Pan on a wet track will be overbet, as will the sentiment for the filly Nest. You’re not going to see 5% of the 80-1 on Rich Strike this time, who will likely go shorter than 4-1. The play will be Mo Donegal, just as it was for me when he was a troubled and rallying fifth in Louisville. Trainer Todd Pletcher’s fourth Belmont Stakes blanket of white carnations awaits. 


For those betting Belmont Park this week, the Betmix database offers several handicapping pointers, dating to the 2013 season in terms of stakes races this time of year. 

Key Belmont Park June Stakes Stats 

Percentage of winning turf favorites: 36% 

Percentage of winning dirt favorites: 37% 

Percentage of winning stakes favorites: 36% 

Average stakes win odds: 4.2-1 

Belmont records of active jockeys of note: Flavien Prat (25%), Mike Smith (23%), Irad Ortiz Jr. (22%), Ricardo Santana Jr. (21%), Joel Rosario (20%)  

Belmont records of active trainers of note: Wesley Ward (31%), Brad Cox (24%), Chad Brown (22%), Steve Asmussen (18%) 

What to Watch for This Week 

The Belmont Stakes festival begins Thursday with a trio of stakes and includes four more on Friday before Saturday’s grand finale … Gulfstream Park will have a pair of turf stakes Saturday as it puts a cap on grass racing for the summer … Golden Gate Fields will conclude its winter-spring season Sunday and go on hiatus until late summer … Sophomores who missed the cusp of the Belmont Stakes have chances Saturday in the Grade 3 Affirmed at Santa Anita and Sunday in the Grade 3 Matt Winn at Churchill Downs … Royal Ascot begins its five-day run Tuesday through Saturday in England with simulcasting available at Xpressbet and 1/ST BET. 

Friday Weekend Firestarter 

Belmont Park’s quartet of Friday stakes races on the eve of the Belmont Stakes includes the Grade 1 New York Stakes in Race 10. Trainer Chad Brown has four of the seven starters in the New York Stakes, but French export Rougir stands out to me as his next star in the division. I’ll make a heavy lean in her direction while the public hopefully splits its decision across the stable’s formidable quartet. Flavien Prat has the mount aboard last year’s Group 1 Prix de l’Opera winner.  

1/ST BET App Top Handicapping Tracks of the Week 

The free 1/ST BET app allows you to apply millions of data points across dozens of handicapping factors in mere seconds and immediately place your wagers. Here’s where the artificial intelligence was most dialed-in last week by win percentage: 

— Prairie Meadows: 46% 

— Charles Town: 46%

— Presque Isle: 44%

— Canterbury: 42%

— Evangeline Downs: 40% 

Tracks with most reliable favorites last week (by win pct.) 

— Emerald Downs: 67%

— Prairie Meadows: 53% 

— Evangeline Downs: 50%

— Parx: 48%

— Santa Anita: 47% 

Tracks that were long-shot havens last week (most winners 10-1 or higher) 

— Monmouth: 8

— Churchill: 7

— Belmont: 4

— Lone Star: 4

— Santa Anita: 4

— Woodbine: 4 

America’s hot jockeys last week 

— Assael Espinoza (6-11, 55%), Golden Gate Fields 

— Kevin Navarro (5-10, 50%), Finger Lakes 

— Alex Cruz (9-21, 43%), Emerald Downs 

— Stewart Elliott (9-22, 41%), Lone Star 

— Irad Ortiz Jr. (12-32, 38%), Belmont, Santa Anita, Penn National 

America’s hot trainers last week 

— John Haran (5-9, 56%), Hawthorne, Indianapolis 

— Joel Berndt (7-15, 47%), Hawthorne, Canterbury 

— Gary Johnson (5-13, 38%), Thistledown, Belterra, Mountaineer 

— Shane Wilson (5-14, 36%), Louisiana Downs 

— Claudio Gonzalez (8-22, 36%), Laurel, Gulfstream, Monmouth, Parx 

Belmont Free Bets, Tournaments and More 

Enjoy up to a $10 money-back special on the Belmont Stakes when you bet the big race with 1/ST BET and Xpressbet. If your win bet finishes second or third, you’ll receive your cash back, up to $10. Also note that multi-race bettors will play for an additional $20,000 on Friday and Saturday at 1/ST BET and Xpressbet in exclusive Pick 4 and Pick 5 hit-and-split promotions for Belmont Park. 

For tournament players, Xpressbet has Thursday and Friday feeder tournaments ($80 entry) for Saturday’s lucrative $1,500 entry into the Belmont Stakes Challenge contest that features seats for the National Handicapping Championship, Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge and Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship as well as cash prizes. For details visit 

Statistics courtesy of

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