Belmont Stakes Odds History: The Biggest Shocks
The 155th edition of the Belmont Stakes is set to take place at Belmont Park on Saturday, June 10. This $1.5 million race is the conclusion of this year’s triple crown series that started with Mage winning the Kentucky Derby in May and National Treasure winning the Preakness Stakes two weeks later. The favourite in our racebook for the Belmont is Tapit Shoes—a Brad Cox trained Thoroughbred.
Tapit Shoes’ most recent outing was the Bath House Row Stakes, where he finished one head behind another Belmont contender: Red Route One. The Preakness Stakes winner, National Treasure, is also on the board. But you won’t find this year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Mage, as he’s taking a break before competing at the Travers Stakes in late August.
The 1 ½ mile distance of the Belmont Stakes makes it more prone to upsets than the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. In 2014, Tonalist (9-1) beat out fan favourite California Chrome, proving that you should watch out for the horses who skip the first two races to reserve their energy for the Belmont. We’ll go over five of the biggest upsets in Belmont history according to Belmont Stakes odds.
The 2002 Belmont Stakes caught everyone by surprise when Sarava crossed the finish line first. The lineup had War Emblem, a Bob Baffert trainee who was ridden by Victor Espinoza, as the favourite. War Emblem had already won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stake—wire to wire on both accounts—and was going for the final jewel of the Triple Crown.
As for Sarava, his only win beyond breaking his maiden, was at the Sir Barton Stakes at Pimlico. He was trained by Kenneth McPeek, who described Sarava as a bit of a late bloomer who’s just developing. Sarava was one of the longest shots on the board, heading into the race at 70-1.
When the gates opened, War Emblem stumbled and could not race the way he wanted, eventually running out of gas and fading. In the stretch, Sarava passed the leader and took the victory by 1.5 lengths.
The second-biggest upset in Belmont Stakes odds history goes to Harold Young-trained Sherluck who beat the odds in 1961. Heading into the race, the overwhelming fan favourite was Carry Back, who was vying for the Triple Crown after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness (and Flamingo and Florida Derby before).
As for Sherluck, he was a dark bay contender who entered the race as a 65-1 long shot. The two horses had already competed against each other twice, and Carry Back won both times.
When the gates opened, Carry Back started in the back, while Sherluck headed near the front to stalk the race leader, Globemaster. People expected both of those horses to begin to fade as the distance wore on. When Carry Back began his rally as he had done many times before, he simply gave up. Globemaster did tire as expected, but Sherluck maintained his torrid pace and finished first.
Temperence Hill: 1980
1980 was an exciting year for horse racing. Genuine Risk became one of three fillies to win the Kentucky Derby and she followed it up with a second-place finish at the Preakness Stakes. Naturally, she was the horse to beat at the Belmont Stakes, which turned out to be a muddy affair.
Temperence Hill had one graded stakes victory to his name: the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby, which was followed by second-place finish at the Grade 2 Withers Stakes, and a fifth-place finish at the Pennsylvania Derby. But everything went just right for the Joseph Cantey-trained colt.
When the pack reached the mile mark, Temperence Hill still had lots of gas in tank and made his way to the outside. Genuine Risk was ahead and it looked like she’d be the winner, but Temperence Hill was building speed fast and the two were neck and neck for a couple of strides before Temperence Hill pushed forward and stole the show.
In 2008, there was an opportunity for a Triple Crown winner as Big Brown, trained by Richard Dutrow and ridden by Kent Desormeaux, won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. Big Brown was a 2-5 favourite on the morning line of the Belmont.
Da’Tara, a Nick Zito-trained colt who had Alan Garcia as a jockey, didn’t have great credentials. He broke his maiden on his third attempt and finished third at an Allowance. His first graded race was the Florida Derby, where he finished ninth. With the exception of a maiden special weight, he was winless entering the Belmont Stakes and had 38-1 odds.
After breaking from the gates, Da’Tara made his way to the front and maintained the lead for the entire duration of the race, fighting off pressure from Denis of Cork and Tale of Ekati. Big Brown put in effort for the first mile, but totally ran out of gas and became the first Triple Crown candidate to finish the Belmont Stakes last.
In 2002 and 2003, Triple Crown hopefuls saw their dreams dashed at the Belmont, and 2004 saw a repeat of the trend. The Triple Crown candidate de jour was Smarty Jones who won all eight career races since breaking his maiden on first try. He showed incredible speed at the Preakness Stakes, where he broke the record for biggest win margin when he finished 11.5 lengths ahead of Rock Hard Ten.
Birdstone flew under the radar as he was coming off of an eighth-place finish at the Kentucky Derby. Before that, he had finished fifth at the Grade 2 Lane’s End Stakes. He entered the Belmont as the third-longest shot on the board.
Smarty Jones started strong when the gates broke and his jockey kept him to the outside, while Birdstone positioned himself mid-pack. By the backstretch, Smarty Jones led, but was being pressured by others. As they came to the homestretch, it looked like Smarty Jones would earn his Triple Crown; he was ahead by four lengths. But Birdstone spoiled his attempt as he gained on the outside and surged past right at the end.