Horse Racing Picks for Saturday, July 4: Best Bets for Belmont Park, Including the Runhappy Met Mile
Al Bello, Getty Images. Pictured: Manny Franco
Even though they won’t be allowed at the tracks, the Fourth of July still remains a big day for horseplayers and Belmont Park is where I’ll focus most of my attention as there are four stakes races at The Big Sandy on Saturday.
Before we dive into the races, here’s a quick refresher for those who want to learn more about betting the ponies:
New to Horse Racing?
For those of you that might be new to horse racing, the wagering pools are pari-mutuel, which means that, unlike in sports betting, you aren’t trying to beat the house but rather the public at large. The key to long-term success in betting the ponies is being disciplined in identifying value in the pools.
Speed Ratings and Beyer Speed Figures
Speed ratings are relative performance indicators that allow us to compare performances across tracks where not all factors are even. Some tracks might be naturally faster like Gulfstream or Santa Anita, where the surfaces are harder, compared to a track like Belmont or Aqueduct, where the surfaces are generally a bit deeper.
They also account for the condition of the track as most horses will travel slower over softer ground. This means that simply comparing times is ineffective as they need some kind of leveling factor.
That’s what is built into speed ratings and they give a nice, although imperfect indicator of relative performance and ability.
A relative strength index for the field of a specific race. This gives you an idea of the level of the competition the horse was facing, as it can vary wildly from track to track even with the same win conditions.
How often do favorites win in horse racing?
Generally speaking, the favorite in horse racing wins at about a 35% rate but that number varies depending on the number of horses in the field. Armed with that knowledge you might want to just pick the favorites, frequently known as the chalk, but a closer look at the implied odds shows that you’d need average odds of 2-1 or better to break even on “win” bets.
So, in order to profit horseplayers must pick and choose the horses that they feel have a better chance to win than their implied odds, which is known as positive expected value (+EV). Expected value is not unique to horse racing and something that all bettors should get familiar with if they want to succeed.
Belmont Park Betting Picks
1:49 p.m. ET
We kick it off in Race 2, an optional claiming event on the inner-turf going 1 1/16 miles. The coupled entry of No. 1 Ballagh Rocks and No. 1A Tribhuvan (8-5) are the morning-line favorites.
Ballagh Rocks will sit closer to the pace and Tribhuvan is going to come from the clouds. Based on the lack of pace in the race I’m looking elsewhere.
My top pick is No. 6 Serve the King (5-1). Trained by Chad Brown, Serve the King is 2-for-2, in his career with both wins coming at Tampa Bay Downs.
While he is going to need to continue to improve and take a step forward, when you have the team of Chad Brown and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr at 5-1, you take a shot.
Brown and Ortiz win at 25% at Belmont and Irad is winning at 31% during the current meet.
Bets for Race 2:
- Win: 6
- Pick 4: 6/1,3/1,3,5/1,7
2:24 p.m. ET
The first graded stakes of the day is the G3 Victory Ride, a 6 1/2 furlong sprint on the main track for three-year-old fillies.
This seems to be a one-horse race with No. 1 Franks Rockette (3-5) at such short odds. She has three wins and four seconds from seven career starts, including seconds in the G1 Frizette, G1 Spinaway and G2 Adirondack.
If you’re looking for a reason to play against her, it’s that she’s never won going longer than 6 furlongs.
The price horse that interests me most is No. 3 Reagan’s Edge (8-1). She’s coming in off a tough win in an allowance race at Churchill and she got an 87 Beyer for that effort, which would make her competitive in here. Additonally, it appears she will like the added distance in here.
At the price and knowing that Franks Rockette doesn’t like going longer than 6 furlongs, Reagan’s Edge is an interesting play.
Bets for Race 3:
- Win: 3
2:57 p.m. ET
Next up is a maiden special weight for three-year-olds and up on the inner turf going 1 1/8 miles.
I ended up with No. 5 Bail Out (5-1) as my top pick. Even though he hasn’t won in 14 career starts, he has six seconds and two thirds and has four seconds from six tries at this distance.
His last start was the first off a seven-month layoff and he ran a competitive second. Javier Castellano gets the call and if he can improve in his second race off the layoff, he can win this race at a nice price.
The other two horses that interested me were No. 1 Mr Jaggers (1-1) and No. 3 Red Storm Risen (7-2). Mr Jaggers had to steady at the start of his last race, made a big middle move and then flattened out late. He will have to get a better trip in here, but that’s going to be easy with being down on the rail.
As for Red Storm, he made his first start in 10 months and his first start on the turf in early June. He definitely needed that race and look for him to take another step forward to put himself in contention here.
Bets for Race 4:
- Win: 5
- Exacta box: 1,3,5
3:30 p.m. ET
The fifth is an optional claiming race going seven furlongs for three-year-olds and up.
No. 7 Fortin Hill (5-2) is my top pick in this field. He has two wins and one second from three career starts. His last outing was his first race in 10 months and he ran a good second after being bumped at the start and having to come from further back than he did in his two victories.
His post position should allow him to get a better start and he should improve second off the layoff to put away this field.
The other horse that I like is No. 1 American Power (6-1). The pace looks like it can be fast with No. 2 Ready to Escape (12-1), No. 4 Skyler’s Scramjet (12-1) and No. 6 Amundson (3-1) and if they push each other, American Power can pick up the pieces late and he should improve second off the layoff.
Bets for Race 5:
- Win: 7
4:03 p.m. ET
Race 6 is another maiden special weight race on the turf course. It’s a seven-furlong event for fillies and mares three-years-old and up.
No. 13 Too Sexy (4-1) had a brutal trip last time out, being caught very wide the entire race. Prior to that she just missed by a half of a length. If jockey Joel Rosario can work out a better trip, she will be very dangerous in here. She’s my top pick.
No. 10 Publication (3-1) and No. 11 Zaccapa (8-1) are also interesting to me.
Publication finished well to get up for third in her only start. If she can improve off that effort, she will be tough.
Zaccapa will be making her first US start for trainer Brad Cox after three tries in France. Cox is great with first-time US starters and he’s got good numbers when his horse is getting lasix for the time. At the price, she’s one to include.
Bets for Race 6:
- Exacta box: 10,11,13
4:38 p.m. ET
The seventh is a state-bred allowance race going 1 1/16th miles on the inner-turf for three-year-olds and up.
I landed on No. 2 Point Him Out (7-2) in here. He ran a good second last time out after being caught wide on both turns. His post position should help him to get better positioning throughout, which hopefully allows him to use his late kick to get up in the shadow of the wire. For Point Him Out to win he will need pace to run at and I’m expecting No. 8 Danfusi (4-1) to provide that for him.
If no one challenges Danfusi, he could be tough, but it looks like he will get challenged by No. 6 Steelersfanforlife (12-1).
Bets for Race 7:
- Win: 2
- Pick 5: 2/1,7/2,5/1,2,5/1,7
5:13 p.m. ET
Race 8 starts the all-stakes late pick four. It’s the G3 Poker for four-year-olds and up, run at a mile on the turf.
No. 7 Got Stormy (7-2) has eight wins, four seconds and three thirds from 20 career turf starts. If he’s going to win here, he will need to get back to his form from last year, as he has two fourths and a second this year.
He’s clearly the class of the race and this will be where he get his first win of his 2020 campaign.
My longshot play is No. 1 Dream Friend (8-1). He is going to be the pace-setter and if doesn’t get pressured he can take them gate to wire.
Dream Friend has set the pace and held the lead in five of his last six starts, but only won one of those starts. This is also a significant jump up in class for him, but with no other pace horses to push him, he could steal it on the front end.
Bets for Race 8:
- Win: 7
- Pick 4: 1,7/2,5/1,2,5/1,7
5:47 p.m. ET
The G1 Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap, otherwise known as the Met Mile, is next up.
No. 2 Vekoma (5-2) won easily in the G1 Carter in his last start. Coming off the turn, he put away the rest of the field and it was just a matter of how many he wanted to win by. He’s now 2-for-2 in his four-year-old season. He is also perfect in two tries at Belmont. While this is probably the toughest field he’s faced, he is still my top pick.
With the amount of pace in this race, the other hose that I like is No. 5 Code of Honor (3-1), who won his last start right here at Belmont over a sloppy track. He also really likes Belmont as he has three wins and one second from four starts.
The biggest question will be the distance, as he typically likes it longer. Code of Honor is one to include in your tickets.
Bets for Race 9:
- Exacta Box: 2,5
6:20 p.m. ET
The G1 Manhattan is for four-year-olds and up, it will be run at 1 1/4 miles on the inner turf.
This is another graded stakes race on the turf that looks like it will be dominated by Chad Brown. He trains No. 1 Instilled Regard (2-1), No 2. Rockemperor (5-1) and No. 5 Devamani (9-2). These are my top three choices and it looks like they could run 1,2,3.
They will need pace to run into which they should get from No. 3 Cross Boarder (10-1).
Bets for Race 10:
- Exacta Box: 1,2,5
The finale is the G2 Suburban Handicap for four-year-olds and up. It will be run at 1 1/4 miles over the main track.
No. 1 Tacitus (9-5) is the horse to beat. He has three wins, three seconds and two thirds from 11 career starts, but hasn’t won in three tries at Belmont and hasn’t won in four tries at the distance.
One of his better performances came last summer in the Travers when he had blinkers on. He gets them back on today so look for the equipment change to help him. He’s clearly the class of the race and today is the day where he gets it done. He’s my top pick.
The longshot play is No. 7 Just Whistle (8-1). He’s coming in off a win, but is stepping up to graded stakes company here. He has consistently improved his Beyer speed figures in each of his three starts this year.
He will need that trend to continue here if he’s going to win. Irad Oritz Jr. gets the call which provides confidence that he can continue to move forward.
Bets for Race 11:
- Win: 1
- Exacta Box: 1,7