05/21/2009 6:40PM

Back to Belmont


It's been the annual rhythm of my life for 30 years now: Get through the winter, get through the Derby and Preakness, then finally get to dive into Belmont Park -- not just the Belmont Stakes, but the 13 weeks of racing that comprise the spring-summer meet. It used to be a quick catchup after the Preakness, with only a missed opening week, but Belmont opened on April (!) 29th this year and is already in the midst of its fourth week of racing. So while the rest of you are sunbathing and barbecueing or whatever it is that civilians do on so-called holiday weekends, I'll finally be getting through the charts and replays of the first quarter of the meeting, with the goal of having my Belmont bearings by Monday's Met Mile.

Here's the graded-stakes rundown so far; I hope to post a chart of other notable races at the meet so far in the next few days.

---Unbridled's Heart, the $1 million Unbridled's Song colt who won his debut 53 weeks ago by 10 lengths at 13-1, lost today for the fourth straight time since then, and for the fourth straight time as an odds-on favorite.

After the winning debut, Unbridled's Heart was third at 4-5 in the Postponed Stakes last June 13; second in a Saratoga N1x at 4-5 July 26th; and second again in a Gulfstream N1x at 9-10 March 4. Today's defeat, in a Belmont N1x, came at odds of 1-5, when he ran third in a five-horse field, beaten 6 1/4 lengths.

There must be a horse somewhere who has lost straight races at less than even-money, but I wonder if there's ever been a horse who lost four of his first five starts that way.


--A few final observations on the Preakness Day betting (pool-by-pool breakdown at the end of the previous post):

*The 19 percent jump in overall Preakness card betting was entirely attributable to the $14 million increased betting on the Preakness itself, primarily a $9 million increase in win-place-show betting on the race. Stripping out the Preakness from the rest of the day, WPS betting was down 6 percent year over year; intrarace betting (exactas, tris, supers) was down 3 percent; multirace betting (doubles, pick-3's and pick-4's) was up 10 percent.

That multirace jump doesn't even include the dramatic surge on the late pick-4 ending with the Preakness: That pool jumped 42 percent, from $1.39 million to $1.99 million. The day's other pick-4, on races 5-8, jumped 37 percent from $339k to $466k.

*The only bet type that suffered a year-over-year decline in Preakness betting was the superfecta, which handled only $5.6 million versus $6.4 million last year. Did bettors find it a more appealing bet with a 1-5 shot on top?

The decline wasn't due to the introduction of a Super High Five on the Preakness. Despite repeated reminders on the public-address system about the bet, it handled only $271,354, less than 1/20th of the diminshed superfecta pool. In the last race of the day, the super handled $111k last year; the bet was cancelled in favor of a Super High Five this year, and it attracted only $66k.


--Belmont yesterday announced the graded-stakes menu and timetable for Belmont Stakes Day:

Both the pick-4 on races 8-11 and the pick-6 on races 6-11 will be guaranteed $1 million pools.