By Dean Arnold
Normally, handicapping the Belmont Stakes (G1) is all about trying to find out which three-year-olds can survive the mile-and-a-half marathon distance. But this year is anything but normal, so the race this Saturday is now the first leg of the Triple Crown and has been shortened to a mile-and-an-eighth, making it a completely different event. At Belmont Park, this is a one-turn race that begins with a five-furlong straightaway. Races like this fall into a category that spans the sprint and route divisions. In these contests, it is usually the route horses that prevail turning back in distance, not the sprinters trying to extend their speed.
Top quality horses that race around two turns at distances between a mile-and-one-sixteenth and a mile-and-one-quarter are usually unable to show their best at six furlongs. But at distances from seven furlongs and farther, the extra conditioning and stamina they possess gives them an edge.
The tougher the two-turn route race competition that a route horse has faced, the faster the pace pressure they’ve confronted over an extended distance.
Route runners with tactical speed may not be as quick in the early stages as a true sprinter, but they possess enough early foot to stay in contact with the sprinters and wait for them to weaken.
Late closing stretch runners from route races have the disadvantage of needing to close a great deal of ground versus sprinters just to reach contention. A route runner devoid of any early foot can be considered a non-contender unless it has had success in one-turn events before.
Usually, the only chance for a sprinter to win going a mile-and-an-eighth is to get free early and/or set a slow pace. But unless a sole sprinter figures to control the early pace, these types are unlikely to hold off a classy route runner. Prestigious one-turn races will usually attract enough interest to include flashy sprinters with enticing speed figures, so it’s unlikely that one sprinter will dominate.
In this year’s Belmont Stakes (G1), Tiz the Law will be the deserving heavy favorite. The race also sets up well for Tapit to Win, who turned in a winning performance at Belmont Park earlier this spring. Modernist is another stayer whose sustained running style should be well suited for ‘Big Sandy.’ Since Tiz the Law will not offer any value in the win pool, look to the other two if you want more value from horses that are likely to fare well on this unique oval.
Requirements To Play Routers in Extended One-Turn Races:
– Stakes races at distances farther than one mile with one turn.
– Favor the route horse that has faced the toughest competition or endured the fastest paces in two-turn route races.
– Avoid route runners devoid of any early speed, unless they have shown they can win a one-turn race in the past.
– Avoid races where a sole front-running sprinter projects to get away with an easy lead.
Be sure to check out Dean Arnold's handicapping book, A Bettor Way, on sale now through Amazon.
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