Horse Racing Picks for Saturday, June 6: Best Bets, Exotics and Longshots for the Stakes Races at Belmont Park
Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured Mike Smith
Saturday’s horse racing card is jam-packed with great racing but Belmont Park will be the star of the show as The Big Sandy hosts four stakes races and there is a spot in a Breeders’ Cup race as well as Kentucky Oaks and Derby points on the line today.
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.
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Belmont Park Picks
Race 6: The Fort Marcy Stakes
3:39 p.m. ET
The Grade II Fort Marcy kicks off the stakes racing at Belmont on Saturday. The race will be run over the inner-turf course for 1 1/8 miles and is for four year olds and up.
Chad Brown’s barn has been quiet this spring due to the pandemic, but now that racing is back in full force, watch out. This is a nine-horse field and Brown has four of the runners. The two that interest me most are No. 5 Instilled Regard (7-2) and No. 4 Flop Shot (6-1).
Instilled Regard is a lightly raced five-year-old, who only has six tries on the turf with one win, one second and three thirds. What I like most about him in this spot is his versatility; he’s shown the ability to sit just off the pace, in a stalking trip, or rally from further back. With the lack of speed in this race, he’s going to need to be closer to the pace in order to win here.
Flop Shot is owned by Peter Brant. Brown and Brant have had a number of wildly successful horses together and, like a number of other Brant-owned horses, Flop Shot is shipping over from Europe and making his US debut in this spot.
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Chad Brown wins at a 21% clip when his horse is shipping in to the US and a 28% rate when a horse is making its first start with him as the trainer. Both of Flop Shot’s wins in France came at roughly 1 1/8 miles and he flattened out late in his last two starts, so he should appreciate the shorter distance.
The horse that really caught my attention here, though, is No. 2 Gucci Factor (6-1). The seven-year-old son of Gio Ponti has seven wins and one third from 10 career turf starts and, more importantly, has five wins and one third from eight career starts over the Belmont turf course. He’s definitely a horse for the course.
That said, this is definitely his toughest challenge to date and will be up against it without much pace, but he did have the highest Beyer speed figure last time out.
The Bets: No. 4 Flop Shot to win; Exacta Box: 2,4,5; Pick 3: 2,4,5/1/3,12
Race 7: The Westchester Stakes
4:32 p.m. ET
Next up we have the Grade III Westchester which will be run over the main track at 1 1/16 miles and it’s for four year olds and up.
The morning-line favorite is No. 9 Honor Code (6-5). This will be the first start of his four-year-old season, after finishing a disappointing seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last Fall.
His running style fits nicely in here as there should be pace for him to close into, but there is cause for concern as his trainer, Shug McGaughey, struggles off long layoffs. McGaughey’s horses win at a 10% rate coming off a 180+ day break. Honor Code is definitely a deserving favorite, but I’m going to take a stand against and find a price to take a shot with.
That price is No. 1 Endorsed (6-1), the other closer in the field. He’s won three of his six starts over the fast main track and is a perfect 2-for-2 at the distance. This will be his second start off the layoff and trainer Bill Mott has a 22% win-rate in the second race off the layoff.
Jockey Joel Rosario is back aboard and he has guided Endorsed to two of his four career victories. Rosario always seems to know when to ask the deep closers to move, especially in a situation like this where there should be enough pace.
The question is whether or not he can get the jump on Honor Code.
The Bets: No. 1 Endorsed to win
Race 8: The Intercontinental Stakes
Race 8 is the G3 Intercontinental for fillies and mares four years old and up. It will be run over the turf course at seven furlongs.
This is another turf race and it features four more Chad Brown runners. There’s one Chad runner that stands out over the rest and that’s No. 12 Significant Form (5-2).
She has five wins and one second from 12 career turf starts and has three wins and one second from five career turf starts at Belmont.
She finished seventh in the G1 Matriarch at Del Mar in her last start. She got away slowly in that race, and frankly was outmatched, going against some of the best fillies and mares in the land.
Significant Form fits much better in here as she won one G2 and two G3’s last year. One of those G3’s was this exact race and she was coming off a similar layoff. She’s the one to beat.
My longshot play is No. 3 Eyeinthesky (20-1). She has three wins, one second and two thirds from 13 career turf starts, but hasn’t hit the board in two tries at Belmont.
Her most recent start was in a non-graded stakes event at Fair Grounds where she finished third by 1 1/4 lengths. She had plenty of trouble coming for home in that start, so if she can work out a better trip in here she could be dangerous.
In addition, she’s been training extremely well leading up to this spot with three of her last five workouts being bullets. She also gets Javier Castellano aboard who is off to a great start at the meet only missing the board in one of his nine mounts.
The Bets: No. 12 Significant Form to win; No. 3 Eyeinthesky to Place/Show; Double: 12/10
Race 9: The Runhappy Carter Handicap
5:36 p.m. ET
The last stakes race of the day is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, meaning the winner gets an automatic and free entry into the Breeders’ Cup.
The G1 Runhappy Carter Handicap features a deep field of 11 horses, three years old and up, running seven furlongs over the main track. This has the makings to be a great thoroughbred race.
My top pick is No. 10 Mind Control (4-1). I highly doubt that we will get his morning-line odds of 4-1 near post-time, as he’s the only horse with a G1 victory to his name in this field and is one of two (No. 11 Vekoma) who has won multiple graded stakes.
Mind Control has six wins, two seconds and one third from 11 starts on the fast main track, with four wins and one third in six starts at the distance. He’s coming in on a three-race win streak and he’s getting jockey John Velazquez back aboard, who has been up for five of his seven career victories.
Mind Control has shown tremendous versatility, winning in gate-to-wire fashion, sitting a stalking trip and most recently closing from off the pace. He’s the one to beat.
No. 2 Performer (3-1) has only one loss, which came in his first career start as a two-year-old, and is coming off four consecutive wins, including his most recent victory at the Grade III Discovery.
Performer won his three-year-old debut off a similar layoff, but he’s another Shug McGaughey trainee and as I mentioned above, McGaughey struggles off long layoffs.
Performer is a perfect 2-for-2 at Belmont and he’s shown versatility in his running style which should help him today.
No. 11 Vekoma (7-2) is sent out by trainer George Weaver. Vekoma had a lot of success early in his career, breaking his maiden right here at Belmont at first asking as a two-year-old and he followed that up by winning the G3 Nashua.
As a three-year-old he was put on the Derby trail, finishing third in the G2 Fountain of Youth and winning the G2 Blue Grass before running a dismal 13th in the Derby.
He was then sent to the sidelines for 10 months and made his four-year-old debut at Gulfstream in a non-graded stakes event where he won going away by 3 3/4 lengths. While it was great to see him get back to the winner’s circle, especially after the long layoff, he will need to continue to move forward from that start if he’s going to win today.
Weaver is only 9% in graded stakes races and 10% coming off a 61-180 day layoff, but he is 19% with horses coming off a win and 20% in dirt races.
My favorite longshot for this race is No. 7 American Anthem (15-1). He has six wins, three seconds and three thirds from 18 career starts. Three of those wins have come against graded stakes company, but the most recent was almost two years ago in the G2 San Carlos.
Since then, he hasn’t finished better than third against this type of company, although in his most recent graded stakes start earlier this year, he finished fourth by 3/4 of a length.
Trainer Danny Gargan is 25% in sprints, 25% off a 61-180 day layoff and 29% route to sprint, but only 10% in graded stakes.
With the aggressive Kenny Carmouche in the irons, you know he will be in the thick of it early, the question is can he hold.
The Bets: No. 10 Mind Control to win; Exacta: 10/2,7,11