Using History to Handicap the 2019 Belmont Oaks

I hope you’re ready for another exciting Saturday of racing at Belmont Park!

One month after hosting the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets, Belmont Park will return to the spotlight on July 6 with a stakes-packed Stars & Stripes Racing Festival card, highlighted by the $1 million, Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational and the $750,000, Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational.

The Belmont Oaks in particular typically is an interesting race. The 1 ¼-mile turf test for 3-year-old fillies has been won by several high-class runners in recent years, and the race should only gain in prestige this year since it’s now the first leg of the “Turf Triple Tiara,” a series of three rich grass races for 3-year-old fillies scheduled to be run in New York this summer.

Even better, the Belmont Oaks and Belmont Derby will be broadcast live on NBC Sports starting at 4 p.m. ET.

This is a day of racing you won’t want to miss, and if you want to impress your friends with your handicapping prowess, an examination of the history of the Belmont Oaks can quickly reveal trends to help you identify the most likely winner.

Let’s dig in and come up with a few history tips and trends to guide your wagers:

No Particular Running Style is Favored

The Belmont Oaks in its present form was run for the first time in 2014; previously, the race had been contested at 1 1/8 miles in September and was known as the Garden City Stakes.

Over the last five years, no clear trends have emerged when it comes to pace scenarios or favorable running styles. Catch a Glimpse (2016) won in gate-to-wire fashion, Minorette (2014) and New Money Honey (2017) successfully employed pace-tracking tactics, while Lady Eli (2015) and Athena (2018) rallied from off the pace. Pace fractions have ranged from honest to slow, though never particularly fast.

Year

Winner

Position after 1/2-mile

1/2-mile & 3/4-mile (track condition)

2018

Athena

8th by 6.5 lengths (10 starters)

:48.26, 1:11.97 (firm)

2017

New Money Honey

4th by 3.5 lengths (11 starters)

:47.54, 1:11.38 (firm)

2016

Catch a Glimpse

1st by 1.5 lengths (13 starters)

:49.36, 1:13.87 (firm)

2015

Lady Eli

9th by 7 lengths (14 starters)

:47.23, 1:11.71 (firm)

2014

Minorette

3rd by 3 lengths (10 starters)

:50.14, 1:14.57 (good)

Quality Counts

Three Belmont Oaks winners (Lady Eli, Catch a Glimpse, and New Money Honey) had previously won Grade 1 races, while another (Athena) had placed at the highest level. Even the relatively unaccomplished Minorette had competed in a couple of group stakes races prior to the Belmont Oaks, so this isn’t a race where you want to bet lightly-raced maiden or allowance winners stepping up sharply in class. Of the 15 fillies to finish in the Belmont Oaks trifecta so far, all but one had previously contested a stakes race.

Local Runners Hold an Edge

Fillies that prepped at Belmont Park, particularly in the 1 1/8-mile Grade 3 Wonder Again Stakes, have enjoyed strong success in the first five renewals of the Belmont Oaks. Wonder Again veterans Minorette and Sea Queen swept the Belmont Oaks exacta in 2014, while Lady Eli and Itsonlyactingdad repeated the feat in 2015. The 2016 Wonder Again winner Time and Motion could only finish second in the Belmont Oaks, but then New Money Honey swept both races in 2017.

In short, six of the 10 fillies to finish in the Belmont Oaks exacta so far did so after prepping in the Wonder Again Stakes. That’s a pretty strong string of success given the international caliber of a typical Belmont Oaks field.

European Shippers Aren’t Unstoppable

No less than 16 horses have shipped from Europe to contest the first five editions of the Belmont Oaks, but only two have finished in the exacta—Sistercharlie, runner-up in 2017, and Athena, victorious in 2018. It’s common for bettors to assume that European turf horses are superior to their North American counterparts, and while this frequently runs true for older horses, it simply hasn’t been the case with young fillies in the Belmont Oaks.

Bet Chad Brown

Perennial leading turf trainer Chad Brown has unsurprisingly excelled in the Belmont Oaks, winning with Minorette (2014), Lady Eli (2015), and New Money Honey (2017). New Money Honey actually led home a 1-2-3 sweep for Brown, who also won the Belmont Oaks in 2012 and 2013 when it was still the Garden City Stakes.

Favor Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf Contestants

Three winners of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf — Lady Eli, Catch a Glimpse, and New Money Honey — have prevailed in the Belmont Oaks, suggesting that the form of the Juvenile Fillies Turf is a key indicator of future success in the Belmont Oaks.

Conclusions

Examining the list of possible starters for the Belmont Oaks, it’s hard to look beyond the Chad Brown-trained fillies Cambier Parc and Newspaperofrecord. These proven graded stakes winners ran 1-2 in a fast renewal of the Wonder Again Stakes, so they both fit the overall profile of a typical Belmont Oaks winner.

Newspaperofrecord in particular fits the trends since she prevailed in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and will seek to join Lady Eli, Catch a Glimpse, and New Money Honey with a sweep of the Juvenile Fillies Turf/Belmont Oaks double. Some bettors might be concerned by Newspaperofrecord’s defeat in the Wonder Again, but last-out success has not been a critical factor for winning the Belmont Oaks — Minorette and Athena both rebounded from defeats to prevail at Belmont Park.

In any case, history suggests it’s possible (and perhaps even probable) that Newspaperofrecord and Cambier Parc will lead a 1-2 sweep of the Belmont Oaks for trainer Chad Brown.

Good luck, and enjoy the race!