2024 Belmont Stakes (Saratoga) - Analysis, picks and predictions

Pick Pony |June 5, 2024, 1:07 a.m.

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About the Belmont Stakes

The Belmont Stakes - the final leg of the Triple Crown

The Belmont Stakes is a top-level American race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds held at Belmont Park, Elmont, New York. It awards a massive $2 million purse.

The race covers 1+1⁄2 miles, with male horses carrying 126 pounds and fillies 121 pounds. Known as The Test of the Champion, it's the final race in the Triple Crown. The fastest time, held by Secretariat in 1973, is 2:24, a world record for dirt tracks.

Belmont Park, nicknamed "The Championship Track,” has seen nearly every major American racing champion compete on its track. Its wide turns and long homestretch make it one of the fairest tracks in the US.

Despite its length, the Belmont Stakes often favors horses that can maintain a strong pace rather than those that come from behind.

Due to construction at Belmont Park, the 156th Belmont Stakes will be held at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday, June 8, 2024.

About the Saratoga horse race track

The Saratoga Race Course, located in Saratoga Springs, New York, is a significant part of American horse racing history. Founded in 1863, this racetrack has remained a significant venue for thoroughbred racing in the US. Its history is marked by essential races and famous champions.

John Morrissey, a former professional boxer and congressman, is credited with creating the Saratoga Race Course. He saw the potential for a racetrack in Saratoga Springs, a town already known as a resort destination. His idea became a reality in August 1863, when the first race took place just a month after construction started. The main track, called the "Main Course," was originally a mile and a half long, but it has been modified over the years to meet the sport's evolving requirements.

Saratoga track bias

Dirt track bias at Saratoga

For sprint distances, Saratoga tends to favor the middle rails, but not enough to make any difference. For routes, there’s a decent bias in lanes 4-7 and occasionally the rail.  Specifically for routes at 1 1/4 mile, posts 1-3 account for more than half the wins. However, outside posts are not frequently drawn and relative to their scarcity, they rule the day.

In terms of running styles, pressers and stalkers rule the day. Closers lose big time (but fare slightly better on outside posts).

Turf track bias at Saratoga

For turf sprints, inside posts and the rail have a distinct advantage, with outside lanes (greater than 5) having a slim chance of winning. For turf routes, lanes 1 thorugh 3 have a slight bias, while the rail is a terrible place to start.

Special wagers during The Belmont Stakes Racking Festival

The 2024 Belmont Stakes is a four-day event at Saratoga Race Course from Thursday, June 6, to Sunday, June 9. The festival features 24 stakes races with a total prize of $10.25 million, the largest since the festival began in 2014.

The festival's betting options include the "All Dirt" Pick 6, starting on Friday, June 7, and ending with the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 8. This bet has a $1 base and a low 15% takeout.

The "All Turf" two-day Pick 5 has a $0.50 base and 15% takeout, while the two-day Pick 4 has a $2 base and 24% takeout.

Two-day "All Dirt" Pick 6

The Pick 6 spans two days, starting on Friday and ending with a required force out in the Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on Saturday.

The sequence kicks off on Friday in Race 12 with the grade 1, $500,000 DK Horse Acorn. It continues on Saturday with the following races: the grade 2, $350,000 True North presented by F. W. Webb in Race 4; the grade 2, $350,000 Suburban in Race 6; the grade 1, $500,000 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun in Race 8; the grade 1, $1 million Hill 'n' Dale Metropolitan Handicap in Race 10, and finally, ends with the Belmont Stakes in Race 12.

Two-day "All Turf" Pick 5

The two-day "All Turf" Pick 5 begins with two grade 1 races on Friday. Race 10 is the $500,000 Just a Game and Race 11 is the $750,000 New York presented by Rivers Casino. The event ends on Saturday with the grade 3, $350,000 Poker in Race 5; the grade 1, $500,000 Jaipur presented by Resolute Racing in Race 9; and the grade 1, $1 million Resorts World Casino Manhattan in Race 11.

Two-day Pick 4

The two-day Pick 4 begins on Thursday with the Grade 2 Belmont Gold Cup, worth $250,000, in Race 10. It ends on Friday with the Grade 2 Intercontinental, worth $200,000 and sponsored by MTV Solutions, in Race 9. This is followed by the Grade 1 New York in Race 11 and the Grade 1 DK Horse Acorn in Race 12.

Other Wagers

The four-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival will include a daily "All-Turf Triple Play" Pick 3 bet with a $3 base, 19% takeout, and compulsory payout.

Six special "Double" bets will be available, each with a $5 base and 18.5% takeout. The first is the "Gold Cup -- New York" Double on Thursday, followed by five Double bets ending with the Belmont Stakes.

Each day of the festival will feature the standard $1 Pick 6, including a $44,200 carryover on Thursday's opening day. The tournament will start in Race 5 at 3:01 p.m. ET.

The Pick 6 on Saturday, June 8, will include six grade 1 events (Races 7-12), ending with the Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets.

Belmont Stakes Day will have five Pick 5 bets, with all but the first and last offering a mandatory payout. There will be an extra middle Pick 5 bet with a compulsory payout on June 6 (Races 3-7). The June 7 card will have two additional middle Pick 5s (Races 3-7 and Races 5-9) with mandatory payouts. The four-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival will end on Sunday with a middle Pick 5 (Races 5-9) on the 12-race card.

A notable change in the Belmont Race

It should be noted that the Belmont is normally run at 1 1/2 miles. This year, the distance was shortened to 1 1/4 miles due to the track configuration at Saratoga. The race was moved to Saratoga while Belmont Park is under construction.

2024 Belmont Stakes Horse Race (Saratoga) - entries, picks and predictions

Seize The Grey

Seize The Grey surprised many handicappers when he took the lead out of the gate at the Preakness Stakes (G1) and held that lead to win by more than two lengths. His speed rating that day was extraordinary, the best he’s ever run. We’d think it a fluke, except it aligns with his consistently rising speed numbers. Still, with that under consideration, we don’t think he’ll duplicate those numbers anytime soon. But wait…

He drew the rail post in the Belmont race and will have Jaime Torres (44% in-the-money this year) in the stirrups. There’s a slight bias against this post, but here’s an interesting catch - Seize The Grey won the Preakness on a sloppy track, and rain is predicted for the Belmont, too. He also broke his maiden on a sloppy track right here at Saratoga. 

His works have been so-so. Clearly, Wayne Lukas is concerned with conditioning, given the long workout he ran just last week.

Could we see a replay of the Preakness? Possibly, or at least something akin to that performance. We aren’t giving Seize The Grey the win but will put him in-the-money, likely a Show finish.

Resilience

Resilience is one of the slower horses in this race, although his speed in the last three has shown improvement. He’s demonstrated his potential, given his remarkable showing in April 2024’s Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct, where he turned in a speed number that ranks second out of everyone in this group.

He can be quirky, too. For instance, he doesn’t like to be crowded, which means a special touch from Junior Alvarado will be needed. He’s ridden in the irons with Resilience before and failed to meet the challenge, placing sixth behind Mystik Dan and Sierra Leone.

Given his inconsistency, he’s a tough one to handicap. We think he will barely miss making it to the tote board.

Mystik Dan

Mystik Dan’s Kentucky Derby win was a pleasant surprise for many. Then he floundered in the Preakness Stakes (G1), where he was beaten handily by 2 1/4 lengths. Brian Hernandez will stay in the saddle for trainer Kenny McPeek, and he gets the familiar post three that he ran from in his Kentucky Derby win. Trainer Kenny McPeek said:

“He's showed that he's a quality colt. It's a fun ride, and I hope it keeps going. The work (June 1) was super, and we checked him real closely before we decided to go. We're ready to give him another chance."

With a better than 50% chance of rain come race time, don’t forget that Mystik Dan’s best two races were both run in the wet stuff. His best speed rating came in the Preakness, which was run on a muddy track, and his second-best run came in the Southwest (G3), also run in the mud. Take the sloppy stuff out of the equation, and Mystik Dan becomes something different altogether, putting out speed numbers far lower than he’ll run against in this class race.

For this reason, we think Mystik Dan’s performance will largely depend on the weather. If it’s dry, we think he will barely finish out of the money. But if the track surface is wet, we believe he will finish high, potentially even snatching an upset win from Sierra Leone. Keep an eye on both the weather and the overlay. There could be a betting opportunity here.

The Wine Steward

Thus far, we can summarize our feelings about The Wine Steward in a single word - meh. This three-year-old colt has average speed, average pace, and an average trainer. He’s Shown in G3 class races and took first at Keeneland in a G1 last year that featured a poorer cast than this year’s Belmont. All this averageness forces us to place him in an average position. He’ll finish right in the middle.

Antiquarian

Antiquarian, one of the three horses arriving from Todd Pletcher’s barn, is coming off a victory in the Peter Pan, a notable stepping stone for Belmont contenders. That win, and his lack of race experience shook some people up. A few handicappers think he has a shot at winning the Belmont. We don’t see that, but with Todd Pletcher running the show, anything is possible.

Antiquarian’s works have been lax as of late. Still, in his relatively young career, we see his speed numbers rising as are all of his pace ratings. Of course, with a three-year-old colt, unless there is a catastrophe, there really is nowhere to go but up.

There’s just not enough evidence yet to convince us Antiquarian can hang with the big boys. Toss.

Dornoch

We had such high hopes for Dornoch. He started with a couple of second-place finishes, then broke his maiden at Keeneland late last year. That was followed by wins in consecutive G2 races. It was a fairytale start for this three-year-old colt. Then he moved into the G1 ranks and collapsed, taking 4th in the Blue Grass at Keeneland and a disappointing 10th in the Kentucky Derby. He will face similar competition in the Belmont, so we expect a similar outcome. However, we cannot forget that in the Derby, Dornoch drew the dreaded "death rail" and according to his trainer, was suffering from some hoof problems. Regardless, we have no choice but to toss [boo!].

Protective

Todd Pletcher’s Protective is slow, and maybe the slowest horse in this race. He barely makes it in the money in G3-level races. So why would Pletcher place him in a race that is clearly over his head? Because, why not? He took third in the Peter Pan, the traditional prep for the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes. There would be no reason to avoid Belmont, but there are plenty of reasons for us to avoid Protective. Toss.

Honor Marie

If you watched Honor Marie in the Kentucky Derby, chances are you were not impressed. However, you might not have seen the beatdown he took at the start. Trainer Whit Beckman thinks his Belmont entry is underestimated.

"He stacks up with everyone in this division. Despite an absolutely brutal trip in the Kentucky Derby, he came out of the race in fantastic shape. He's been training extremely well, and we're excited to give him the opportunity to run in the Belmont. I wish it was a mile-and-a-half but I think he'll be just as good at a mile-and-a-quarter."

Future hall-of-famer Florent Geroux (yeah, we said it) will be in the saddle, hoping to guide Honor Marie’s sustained running style from the back to the front. Will he do it? Not likely. Honor Marie’s speed is among the lowest in this group, and we expect even less gracious form if the track is wet. He only has one race of this caliber under his belt, and he finished a dismal 8th. Toss.

Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is a beast. He’s never finished lower than second in five career starts, including the Kentucky Derby, where he came from 12 lengths behind to finish second by a nose. He skipped the Preakness, opting for a good rest before the Belmont race. That’s not abnormal. Twelve of the last 24 winners of the Belmont came out of the Derby and skipped the Preakness. And this colt is only three years old, which means he’s only going to get better and better, as evidenced by the consistent upward trending speed rating. Sierra Leone has the second-highest average speed rating behind Mindframe (more on Mindeframe below) and the second-highest speed in his last three races. 

Trainer Chad Brown replaced his regular mount, Tyler Gaffalione, with Flavien Prat in the irons. This was after Prat got a stay for his three-day suspension. Recall that Prat was suspended on June 7 through the 9th after being cited for his ride on Subsanador in the Hollywood Gold Cup (G2) when he “crossed over without sufficient clearance leaving the starting gate, causing interference” to the eventual runner-up Reincarnate.

Brown is greater than 50% in the money, including more than 55% in the money when shipping to another track. He told the Daily Racing Form:

Sierra Leone’s been doing great, bounced out of the Derby, which can obviously be a tough race on horses, beautifully. He’s trained really good here, just hoping we have a good trip. There are half as many horses to run down, hopefully it’ll be a little easier on him. I just hope he runs the same race he ran in the Derby.”

Brown has no doubt that Sierra Leone is the top horse in this race, noting that he will introduce a different bit to help him keep a straight line.

“On paper, he's the horse to beat. But you saw in the Derby, he may have been the best horse in some people's eyes, but the best horse doesn't always win. That potentially could happen in the Belmont. The way this game works, the best horse doesn't always win."

We agree that, on paper, Sierra Leone is the horse to beat. And we understand that the favorites in Belmont rarely win. But Sierra Leone is something special. A win him will put her among the greats, right where he belongs.

Mindframe

Who? Mindframe. Yes, MINDFRAME. He only has two races under his belt but already has the highest average speed, highest speed over the last three races, best speed on dirt, and yes, the highest speed - that he recorded in his very first race! He’s the only entrant who has never run in a graded stakes. Trainer Todd Pletcher said:

“He's a very talented colt. His two races have been very impressive. He trained very impressively before his debut. Of course, we're giving up a lot of seasoning, a lot of experience to some very good horses, so that's the main concern."

Running alongside Sierra Leonne and with the only jockey he’s ever known (Irad Ortiz) in the irons, we believe we will see a stunning performance from him. The problem, however, is that an overlay will likely not develop, making this a riskier bet that we’re willing to take. We think he’ll finish in the money, likely second place, but we will be watching the odds carefully before tossing any coin in his direction.

Other considerations

You may hear a lot about the Peter Pan Stakes being an important prep race for the Belmont and many times that is true. However, part of the reason it factors into the equation is that it is run on the same track as the Belmont. Due to construction at Belmont, this is not the case. This year's Peter Pan Stakes was run at Aqueduct.

Pick Pony's Remaining Saratoga picks

Since we love the Belmont Stakes so much, we have a surprise for you. We’ve handicapped every race on the June 8, 2024 Saratoga card. Here are our picks for every race on Belmont Day.

Belmont Stakes Race 1

#3 General Partner - top speed, top speed last 3, best speed on dirt, 2nd best speed at this distance, top prime power rating, strong works, top recent E1 pace, speed trending up, top horse ITM
#8 Classic Legacy - 100% ITM since 2023, best speed at this distance, speed trending up, all pace figures trending up, 2nd highest late pace
#5 Quick to Accuse - excellent jockey, best trainer record, speed trending up sharply, top trainer/jockey ROI, highest average finish position, highest late pace

Honorable mentions
#4 Suerte
#1 Black Rain

Belmont Stakes Race 2

#5 Lady De Berry, top trainer, speed trending up, all pace figures trending up, second highest prime power rating, highest horse ITM
#6 Spaliday - top jockey, top trainer, speed trending up, 2nd highest average speed, highest prime power rating, highest average late pace, highest late pace in last race, 2nd highest average finish position, second highest horse ITM
#8 Munny Grab - second best jockey, speed trending up, best speed on fast track, third highest prime power rating
#11 Agra - second highest late pace, third highest average finish position, third highest jockey/trainer ROI

Honorable mentions
#4 Storm Miami
#1 Camera

Belmont Stakes Race 3

#6 Awesome Native - strong works, speed trending up, all pace figures trending up, highest average speed, highest speed last 3, highest speed last race, third highest speed at this distance, third best speed on fast track, second highest prime power rating, highest average late pace
#4 Looms Boldy - top trainer, third highest speed last race, third highest prime power rating, highest early pace
#2 Mandatory - speed trending up, all pace figures trending up, third highest average speed, third highest speed last 3, highest speed on fast track, highest prime power rating, second highest early pace, highest horse ITM, second highest trainer/jockey ROI

Honorable mentions
#8 Full Screen
#5 Subrogate
#1 Billal

Belmont Stakes Race 4

#5 Gun Pilot - top trainer, strong works, speed consistently trending up, all pace figures trending up, highest speed last 3 races, highest speed last race, highest prime power rating, third highest average pace, second highest pace last 3 races, third highest late pace, highest late pace last 3 races, highest late pace last race, third highest trainer/jockey ROI
#7 Baby Yoda - speed trending up, all pace figures trending up, third highest speed last race, best speed on fast track, highest speed at this distance, second highest speed last race, third highest horse ITM,  highest trainer/jockey ITM
#2 Rotknee - highest average speed, second highest speed last race, third highest speed on fast track, third highest speed at this distance, second highest prime power rating, highest average early pace, highest early speed last 3 races, highest early speed last race

Honorable mentions
#4 Accretive
#1 Ninetyprecentmaddie
#6 Gun It

Belmont Stakes Race 5

#3 Carl Spackler - strong works, top trainer, second highest average speed, second highest speed last 3, second highest speed last race, second highest speed on turf, highest speed at this distance, second highest prime power rating, second-highest average late pace, highest late pace last 3, highest late pace last race, best horse ITM
#2 Casa Creed - speed trending up, top average speed, highest speed last 3, highest speed last race, third highest speed on turf, second highest speed at this distance, highest prime power rating, highest average late pace, second highest late pace last 3, second highest late pace last race, third best horse ITM
#1 Mysterious Night - strong works, third highest average speed, third highest speed at this distance, third highest late pace last 3,third best trainer/jockey ROI

Honorable mentions
#7 Talk of the Nation
#4 Ice Chocolat
#6 Kubrick

Belmont Stakes Race 6

#7 Crupi - top jockey, second highest trainer, speed trending up, second highest average speed, second highest speed last 3, highest speed last race, third highest speed on fast track, second highest prime power, highest average late pace, highest late pac last 3, highest late pace last race
#8 Bendoog - speed trending up, all pace figures trending up, third highest average speed, third highest speed last race, second highest early pace last race, second highest average late pace, second highest late pace last 3, highest average finish position, second highest horse ITM, second highest trainer/jockey ROI
#4 Charge It - top trainer, highest average speed, highest speed last 3, second highest speed last race, best speed on fast track, best speed at this distance, highest prime power, highest average early pace, highest early pace last 3, highest early pace last race, third highest pace last 3, second highest late pace last race, second highest average finish position

Honorable mentions
#5 Time For Trouble
#3 Masqueparade
#2 Kuchar

Belmont Stakes Race 7

#5 Idiomatic - second best trainer, speed trending up, all pace figures trending up, highest average speed, second highest speed last 3, third highest speed last race, third highest speed on fast track, best speed at this distance, highest prime power, highest average early pace, highest early pace last 3, highest early pace last race, highest average late pace, highest average finish position, third highest horse ITM
#4 Soul of an Angel - top jockey, top trainer, speed trending up, highest speed last race, best speed on fast track, third highest average late pace, highest late pace last 3, highest late pace last race
#6 Raging Sea - third best trainer, strong works, speed trending up, all pace figures trending up, highest late pace last 3, highest late pace last race, third highest average finish position
Honorable mentions

#1 Randomized
#3 Pretty Mischievous

Belmont Stakes Race 8

#7 Prince of Monaco - strong works, speed trending up, highest average speed, highest speed last 3, highest speed last race, best speed on fast track, highest speed at this distance, highest prime power rating, second highest average late pace, second highest late pace last 3, second highest late pace last race
#1 Book’em Danno - top jockey, strong works, speed trending up, all pace figures trending up, third highest average speed, third highest speed last 3, third highest prime power rating, highest average late pace, highest late pace last 3, third highest late pace last race, second highest average finish position, highest horse ITM
#3 Imagination - strong works, speed trending up, third highest speed on fast track, second highest prime power rating, highest early pace last 3, highest early pace last race

Honorable mentions
#9 Nash
#8 Vlahos
#4 Valentine Candy
#5 Frost Free

Belmont Stakes Race 9

#6 Star of Mystery - [shipper - limited data] strong works, second highest average finish position, highest horse ITM, highest trainer/jockey ROI
#8 Cogburn - top trainer, top jockey, strong works, third highest average speed, third highest speed last 3, highest speed last race, second highest speed fast track, second highest prime power rating, third highest average early pace, second highest horse ITM, third highest trainer/jockey ROI
#2 Arzak - speed trending up, highest speed last 3, third highest speed last race, highest speed on turf, third highest prime power rating, second highest average early pace, third highest early pace last race
#12 Mischief Magic - strong works, highest average speed, second highest speed last 3, third highest speed at this distance, highest prime power rating, second highest average late pace, second highest late pace last 3, highest late pace last race

Honorable mentions
#3 Dancing Buck
#5 Big Invasion
#4 Coppola

Belmont Stakes Race 10

#6 White Abarrio - top jockey, speed trending up, second highest average speed, highest speed last 3, highest speed last race, second highest speed on fast track, third highest speed at this distance, highest prime power rating, second highest late pace last 3, third highest trainer/jockey ROI
#2 National Treasure - speed trending up, highest average speed, second highest speed last 3, second highest speed last race, best speed on fast track, best speed at this distance, second highest prime power rating, second highest average early pace, second highest average late pace, third highest late pace last 3, third highest late pace last race, highest horse ITM (tied)
#3 Post Time - strong works, speed trending up, third highest speed last 3, third highest speed last race, third highest early pace last 3, third highest early pace last race, highest average late pace, highest late pace last 3, second highest late pace last race, highest average finish position, highest horse ITM (tied)

Honorable mentions
#5 Hoist the Gold

Belmont Stakes Race 11

#5 Program Trading - Top jockey, speed trending up, all pace figures trending up, third best speed at this distance, third highest prime power rating, second highest early pace last 3, third highest average late pace, highest late pace last race, highest average finish position, highest horse ITM
#9 Measured Time - [Shipper - limited data], second highest average finish position
#7 Nations Pride - speed trending up, highest average speed, highest speed last 3, second highest speed last race, fasted speed on turf, best speed at this distance, highest prime power rating, second highest early past last race
Honorable mentions
#1 I’m Very Busy
#4 Strong Quality
#2 Ohana Honor

Belmont Stakes Race 12

See complete Belmont Stakes analysis above.

Honorable mentions
#2 Resilience
#1 Sieze the Grey
#4 The Wine Steward

Belmont Stakes Race 13

#6 Autumn - all pace figures trending up, second highest speed last race, best speed on turf, third highest early pace last 3, highest early pace last race
#12 Alittlebitnaughty - speed trending up, all pace figures trending up, highest average speed, highest speed last 3, third highest speed last race, second best speed on turf, best speed at this distance, highest prime power rating, second highest average late pace, third highest late pace last 3, second highest late pace last race, second highest average finish position, second highest horse ITM
#11 North End Lady - strong works, speed trending up, all pace figures trending up, highest speed last race, best speed on fast track, third highest average late pace, highest late pace last race, highest late pace last race, second highest trainer/jockey ROI

Honorable mentions
#3 Alette d’Oro
#7 Splashy
#10 Top of the Table
#14 Miss Lao

Belmont Stakes Race 14

#1 Tunisian Spring - second top jockey, speed trending up, all pace figures trending up, highest average speed rating, highest speed last 3, second highest speed last race, highest speed on fast track
#11 Mansa Musa - all pace figures trending up, second highest average speed rating, second highest speed last 3, third highest speed on turf, third best speed at this distance, second highest late pace last race
#2 Salt Spray - top jockey, speed trending up, all pace figures trending up, highest early pace last 3, highest early pace last race, second highest average finish position, highest horse ITM
#6 Yarrow - third highest speed last 3, second highest speed on turf, second best speed at this distance, second highest average late pace, third highest horse ITM

Honorable mentions
#10 Twenty Six Black
#13 What’s Up Bro
#3 Roi Soleil