More horse racing history could be made today in the final leg of the Triple Crown, with Justify looking to complete the three-race sweep in the Belmont Stakes. The odds on him doing so are shifting ever so slightly hours ahead of today’s 6:37 p.m. Eastern post time, though he remains a healthy favorite at even money.
Justify will break from the No. 1 post position in his quest for the third jewel. At William Hill US sportsbooks around Las Vegas and across Nevada, the Yes/No proposition bet of whether there would be a Triple Crown winner has been active since before the Kentucky Derby, at an ever-declining price.
Prior to the Run for the Roses, No was a stout favorite at -800, with Yes at +600. Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading at William Hill US, said this morning that both sides were at the standard -110.
“It’s good two-way action,” Bogdanovich told Covers, noting the most the number has shifted was to -125 on No, and that his shops are in good position. “We’re fine on that prop.”
BetDSI.eu odds consultant Jacob Crossman said Justify’s opportunity has motivated public players while continuing to lure wiseguys.
“We have seen money slowly trickle in on him throughout the week, with smaller bettors wanting to get in on some potential history,” Crossman said. “We are expecting Justify's odds to continue to fall, as our sharps seem to favor his chances, too.”
American Pharoah was the last horse to win the Triple Crown, in 2015, becoming just the 12th horse to run the table. A Triple Crown hasn’t been on the line the past two years in the Belmont, curtailing handle on the race, but that’s not the case this year.
“BetDSI has seen considerably more action on the Belmont Stakes this year than it has the past two years,” Crossman said. “The TV ratings will tell you that this race does much better when a horse has a shot at the Triple Crown, and that is reflected in the betting handle, too.”
Jeff Stoneback, director of trading for MGM Resorts sportsbooks in Las Vegas, echoed that sentiment.
“On our side of the counter and for the industry as a whole, it’s always good to have somebody going for the Triple Crown,” Stoneback said. “It brings in more of the casual bettor, the casual fan, exposes them a little bit to horse racing. We can see a big jump, maybe up to a 25 percent jump in handle once a horse is going for the Triple Crown.”
Added Bogdanovich: “The handle should be very good. A lot of guys are just like me, not a big horse race guy, but I tune into these three races, and you’ve got a horse going for the Triple Crown.”
While a significant chunk of the strong handle is expected to be on Justify to make history, the field has some strong contenders drawing money, as well. Crossman specifically pointed to some fresh blood of Derby finishers that skipped the Preakness.
“Other than Justify, there are two horses in particular that a few of our sharps really like,” he said. “Action has steadily come in on Hofburg since it was announced he would run at the Belmont. He has good speed, and skipping the Preakness gave him extra rest. Vino Rosso is a popular pick, too. Bettors are hoping that he can recapture the magic of his run at the Wood Memorial.”
Hofburg, seventh in the Derby, is the 9/2 second choice in the Belmont, while Vino Rosso, ninth in the Derby, is the 8/1 co-fourth choice in today’s 10-horse field. In addition, Justify will have to deal with 5/1 third choice Bravazo, who did not run the Derby, then nearly chased down Justify while taking second at the Preakness three weeks ago.
“Obviously, Justify has got some fresh horses going at him,” Bogdanovich said, while also pointing out the 1.5-mile distance. “It’s such a long race. Who knows if this horse has enough to win his third race in five weeks? If he does, he certainly deserves it.”
Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.