American Pharoah may win the Triple Crown, but you cannot realistically bet on it.
In horse racing, and sports betting as a whole, there is little that is more important than return on investment (ROI). Betting on the Warriors to win the NBA Title makes sense at 3/2 and is very stupid at 1/5. You might love a perfectly cooked steak at a favorite restaurant for $15, but it is not nearly as appealing if the cost is $50.
At Belmont Park on June 6, bettors will wager on American Pharoah for reasons beyond making $2. In an attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, American Pharoah will go off in the range of 2/5. People will bet on him for a variety of reasons, some of which are completely unrelated to value. Some will bet on him to have a cheap souvenir, a $2, $10, or $100 win bet on the first champion in almost 40 years; others will bet on him because they want him to win; and still others will bet on him because he is the only horse in the field they’ve heard of.
The contenders fans should know about are Todd Pletcher-trained Materiality, Carpe Diem, and Madefromlucky. Pletcher, the most successful conditioner in the country, has won the Belmont twice, both with horses that skipped the Preakness. All three of his runners are fresh and did not participate in the second leg of the Triple Crown.
Materiality had his Kentucky Derby hopes shattered early in the race when he was slow exiting the starting gate. Yet, he finished a strong sixth on a speedy track. He shipped to Belmont shortly after losing in Louisville.
Carpe Diem was tenth in Kentucky and is bred for long distances (such as the mile and a half Belmont Stakes). He was considered for the Preakness, but Pletcher opted to give him extra rest.
Madefromlucky, the son of Preakness winner Lookin at Lucky, has not run in a Triple Crown race. He won the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont on May 9, though, and he has the tactical speed to stay close early on. With four weeks of rest under his legs, he will be well positioned to make a move around the turn.
Another option to derail American Pharoah is Frosted. In the Kentucky Derby – a race that was stolen by the favorites who were able to set slow fractions and then run away from any possible closers deep in the stretch – Frosted was the only horse that showed some zip from the back of the pack. He rallied from 15th to finish fourth. Now the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained winner of the Wood Memorial is well rested, should get a quicker tempo, and has more distance to rally to victory.
While American Pharoah will be the deserving favorite, he realistically has a 35 or 40-percent chance of winning. ROI tells us that makes him a very bad bet. On the flip side, that will create juicy odds for whatever other contender you prefer.
(Photo credit: By Mike L Photo’s (Flickr: Union Rags – 2012 Belmont Stakes) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)