HANDICAPPER HELPER: Belmont Stakes Betting Guide

D. Wayne Lukas has trained four winners of the Belmont Stakes, and he was asked recently how you do it.

“You need a dead-fit horse who can handle that distance,” the 88-year-old Hall of Famer said.

D. Wayne Lukas and Seize the Grey. MJC Photo

Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas knows how to win the Belmont Stakes but will he have the winner this year?

The distance to which he referred was 1½ miles, a quarter of a mile farther than the 2024 Triple Crown finale will be. The massive renovation project at Belmont Park forced the New York Racing Association to switch the race to smaller Saratoga Race Course, whose dimensions require that it be staged at 1¼ miles.

The change made more trainers eager to enter, so for the first time in 11 years it drew the winners of the Kentucky Derby (Mystik Dan) and the Preakness (Seize the Grey). Chad Brown will run Derby runner-up Sierra Leone, saying he probably would have skipped it if it had been at 1½ miles.

Fun factoid: Except for Triple Crown heroes American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018), the last Belmont winner to compete in all three classics was Afleet Alex (2005). Will the shorter distance negate that extended trend?

Todd Pletcher, a protégé of Lukas, also has four Belmont victories, and all had a five-week layoff after skipping the Preakness. The mantra this century has been “Fresh horses win the Belmont,” so should you downgrade Mystik Dan and Seize the Grey? Or will they be able to hold their form thanks to the shorter distance?

We’ll find out shortly before 7 p.m. Saturday. Hopefully, this horse-by-horse analysis will help you make the right decision.

2024 Belmont Stakes Contenders 
PP Horse Jockey Trainer Owner Odds
1 SEIZE THE GREY Jaime Torres D. Wayne Lukas MyRacehorse 8-1
2 RESILIENCE Junior Alvarado Bill Mott Emily Bushnell & Ric Waldman 10-1
3 MYSTIK DAN Brian Hernandez, Jr. Kenneth McPeek Lance Gasaway, 4 G Racing LLC & Daniel Hamby III 5-1
4 THE WINE STEWARD Manny Franco Mike Maker Paradise Farms Corp. and Staudacher, David 15-1
5 ANTIQUARIAN John Velazquez Todd Pletcher Centennial Farms 12-1
6 DORNOCH Luis Saez Danny Gargan West Paces Racing LLC, R. A. Hill Stable, Belmar Racing and Breeding LLC, Two Eight Racing LLC & Pine Racing Stable 15-1
7 PROTECTIVE Tyler Gaffalione Todd Pletcher Repole Stable 20-1
8 HONOR MARIE Florent Geroux Whit Beckman Ribble Farms LLC 12-1
9 SIERRA LEONE Flavien Prat Chad Brown Magnier, Mrs. John, Tabor, Michael B., Smith, Derrick, Westerberg, Rocket Ship Racing, LLC and Brant, Peter M. 9-5
10 MINDFRAME Irad Ortiz, Jr. Todd Pletcher Repole Stable and St. Elias Stables LLC 7-2

Horse-by-horse analysis, by post position (with trainer, jockey, odds)

1. SEIZE THE GRAY (D. Wayne Lukas, Jaime Torres), 8-1

Looked great on a clear lead in muddy Preakness, but I don’t think he’ll get loose again. Odds are generous, but can he run big again in his third race in five weeks? Seems unlikely.

Betting verdict: I don’t think Saturday will be his day. Pass.

2. RESILIENCE (Bill Mott, Junior Alvarado), 10-1

Had an impossible post (18) for a stalker in the Derby but still made an impressive wide move to be second on the stretch turn before fading to sixth. His flying finish in Sunday’s workout suggests he’s very sharp and may be ready to peak at big odds. “He’s doing real well,” said trainer Bill Mott.

Betting verdict: Live longshot is a win contender.

3. MYSTIK DAN (Kenny McPeek, Brian Hernandez, Jr.), 5-1

Gritty colt was fully extended to hang on in the Derby, which he probably wouldn’t have won if Sierra Leone and Forever Young hadn’t bothered each other down the stretch. Couldn’t catch Seize the Grey at Pimlico; feels like he’s due to regress.

Betting verdict: Use underneath.

4. THE WINE STEWARD (Mike Maker, Manny Franco), 15-1

Never worse than second and always gets bet, but 0-for-3 going two turns against weaker fields. Speed figures don’t measure up.

Betting verdict: Throw him out.

5. ANTIQUARIAN (Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez), 12-1

Ran big in the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan, and his pedigree says he’ll handle 1¼ miles without much trouble. Hall of Fame connections have dominated Saratoga this century and have won dozens of big races together.

Betting verdict: Live longshot who fits in exotics. Worth a small win-place bet.

6. DORNOCH (Danny Gargan, Luis Saez), 15-1

Lost his early speed and his form since wiring a weak, scratch-ravaged Fountain of Youth. Since nosing out Sierra Leone last December, he’s headed south while that colt improved a lot.

Betting verdict: Throw him out.

7. PROTECTIVE (Todd Pletcher, Tyler Gaffalione), 20-1

He’s 0-for-4 lifetime and never threatened late in his three two-turn races. Maidens don’t win the Belmont Stakes.

Betting verdict: Throw him out.

8. HONOR MARIE (Whit Beckman, Florent Geroux), 12-1

Like Sierra Leone, he’s a deep closer, just not nearly as talented. Had no chance in the Derby after a brutal start that led to an awful trip. He’s 0-for-3 this year and seems up against it.

Betting verdict: Best scenario is closing for third or fourth. Don’t bet him to win.

9. SIERRA LEONE (Chad Brown, Flavien Prat), 9-5

Logical favorite always comes with a big run from far back, regardless of the pace. He’s the horse to beat, two noses from being 5-for-5, and shortening the race to 1¼ miles suits him.

Betting verdict: Serious win contender.

10. MINDFRAME (Todd Pletcher, Irad Ortiz, Jr.), 7-2

He’s the Belmont’s wild card, undefeated and unchallenged while crushing his two races by a combined 20½ lengths. Asking a lot to win a 1¼-mile Grade 1 first time around two turns. Post 10 is no bargain, and 7-2 odds scream underlay. Great potential but looks like this move is too much too soon.

Betting verdict: Use underneath.

Mr. Tout’s picks: 1 Resilience 2 Sierra Leone 3 Mindframe 4  Antiquarian


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