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10 Reasons to Avoid California Chrome in Belmont

   by Hollywood Sports - 06/04/2014

Former racehorse owner Frank Sawyer of Hollywood Sports has handicapped the 2014 Belmont Stakes. Frank is not taking California Chrome in his Win/Place'Show bets -- and he is not including California Chrome in all his Exacta and Trifecta exotic bets. Frank has ten compelling reasons to think twice before laying big money on the heavy favorite California Chrome.


1. At 3-5 opening odds, California Chrome is an underlay. The question I ask myself in horse racing handicapping is not who I think will win the race but rather where is the best betting value relative to the Win, Place and Show options. Sure, I could pat myself on the back for correctly predicting that a 3-5 favorite will win a race -- but if this horse will not win as frequently in this situation as the money line requires, that makes me a loser in the long run. The money required to invest in California Chrome is not commensurate with what I consider his real odds.


2. Affirmed was the last "odds-on-favorite" (listed at less than 1-1) to win the Belmont Stakes. The record of odds-on-favorites" since Affirmed? 0-7.


3. California Chrome drew the second pole position. No horse has won the Belmont Stakes racing out of #2 since 1994 which is the longest drought of any of the pole positions. Its not so much that the two-hole is disadvantageous as much as the long 1 1/2 mile race neutralizes any disadvantages to the other positions.


4. This is an overvalued horse. California Chrome enjoyed two perfect trips at the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes -- and the Regression Gods historically perk up at the Belmont for those horses. This horse only won the derby by 1 1/4 lengths. Then at the Preakness, California Chrome outlasted Ride on Curlin who is now 0-8 in staked races. Exactly how good is the competition this year? Remember, a handful of what were considered the elite three-year olds suffered injuries that kept them out of the Derby. Furthermore, lets compare this horse to some other horses who failed to win the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes. Big Brown failed in his bid bid despite winning the first two legs of the Triple Crown by five lengths. Funny Cide and Smarty Jones both followed up their derby wins with dominant performances in the Preakness where they won by over ten lengths.


5. History proves how brutal the Belmont is. Eleven horses have tried and failed to win the Belmont Stakes to complete the Triple Crown since 1979. Its hard. Racing three times in six weeks is a brutal schedule. Asking this horse to run at 1 1/2 miles to complete this trifecta is even more brutal. Furthermore, because 1 1/2 miles are so unique for three-year olds, it challenges horses to race differently which both exposes weaknesses in some while accentuated strengths in others. Speed horses tire out and fade fast. Its not just Triple Crown pressure. Over the last twelve years, only one horse has won the Belmont Stakes after racing in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.


6. Ten competitors at the Belmont spells trouble for Triple Crown aspirations. A little history: Triple Crown winners faced an average of 5.4 horses at the Belmont. Horses that lost their Triple Crown bid at the Belmont faced an average of 9.2 competitors. California Chrome has ten competitors as of now for Saturday.


7. There has never been a Triple Crown winning horse that overcame more than seven horses in the Belmont Stakes.


8. The Belmont Stakes rewards big underdogs. Five of the last six Belmont winners have been at least 12-1 underdogs.


9. Is this really a "once-in-a-generation" horse? Entering the Kentucky Derby, the questions about this horse concerned its lineage and bloodline. His sire Lucky Pulpit had never won a race longer than 5 1/2 furlongs. This is also a horse that wants to take early leads but was not bred for distance.


10. There are intriguing horses competing at the Belmont. Six of California Chrome's competitors raced in the Kentucky Derby -- and they have the advantage of then taking six weeks off to prepare for this race. Furthermore, Tonalist would have raced in the derby but withdrew due to injuries -- so that is a seventh horse lurking. Additionally, as opposed to the first two legs of the derby, the Belmont rewards endurance over speed which opens up space for horses that were not great fits at shorter distances against elite horses.


Bottom line: this horse does not warrant 3-5 odds-on-favorite status. 2014 looks to be a down year for the talent that raced in the Triple Crown races yet California Chromes results are not historically dominant. The Belmont Stakes has exposed these horses for decades. Now this is not to say that this horse won't win: in fact, if I was offered even 2:1 odds on him, then I would jump. Its all about betting value. My Win/Place/Show money is going elsewhere. And I will have some Trifectas that will not even include California Chrome -- which would result in huge payouts! My Belmont Stakes Report is now available if you are interested.


Best of luck for us -- Frank.

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