June 8 (UPI) -- We're still ahead on our Triple Crown bets and now it's time to get out a big winner on Saturday's Belmont Stakes as we try to wager around Justify's bid to become the 13th Triple Crown winner.
As you recall, we netted $50.50 on the Kentucky Derby. Then, our Preakness bets didn't pay off. Justify won, as we expected, but the second and third finishers -- well, we didn't have those. Still, even plunging at the highest wagering amounts we suggested, the dent in the bankroll was "only" $24. So we're still up $26.50.
Let's see if we can improve on that.
It's anyone's guess whether Justify will be able to go the 1 1/2 miles of the Belmont Stakes. But the same is true of the other nine, so we might as well assume the undefeated colt has as good a chance as any, if only on his demonstrated class, to keep going a quarter mile longer than the Derby distance.
Justify's No. 1 gate isn't ideal. But here, the distance is a plus since there's plenty of time to sort out any traffic issues at the start -- as long as they're not too bad. And who'd you rather have sorting those things out than jockey Mike Smith? Answer: Watch the replay of the 2017 Dubai World Cup, in which Arrogate was hopelessly last at the start and a romping winner at the finish.
Is Justify another Arrogate at this early stage in his career? Maybe not. Maybe. Trainer Bob Baffert is making the same kind of humble noises he made in the shedrow a couple days before Arrogate whipped California Chrome in the Breeders' Cup Classic. If we between the Baffert lines, he thinks Justify will win.
But ... there are too many variables to put all our eggs in that basket. So we're falling back on our old standby -- the four-horse trifecta box. You'll recall, this gives us four of the 10 starters and if any three of them finish first, second or third, we head for the pay window.
Justify is in. Who are the other three? Let's look at the candidates, by post position:
Free Drop Billy. His 16th place finish in the Derby was forgivable. But, with all respect to trainer Dale Romans, he's never shown he's fast enough.
Bravazo. Given another 100 yards, he might have caught Justify three weeks ago in the Preakness and spoiled the Triple Crown bid right there. But that was an odd race in many respects, played to his hand and still came up short. We could regret it but we can't take them all and we'll not take him.
Hofburg. Making just his fifth start, he has made steady improvement and was one of the few gaining ground at the end of the Derby. He's fresh after skipping the Preakness and bred for this trip on both top and bottom of his pedigree. He's become the "wise guy" horse, which will depress his price, but we like him, too. He's in.
Gronkowski. This Kentucky-bred colt was the winner of the European Road to the Kentucky Derby while racing exclusively in England but missed the race because of a poorly timed fever. Chad Brown now trains him and Jose Ortiz takes over riding chores. Those are good connections and we like him, too, as a long shot.
Tenfold. A closing third in the Preakness but just doesn't look the part here. He'll have to beat us.
Vino Rosso. One of two trained by omnipresent Todd Pletcher and the decision on our fourth horse comes down to him, the Wood Memorial winner, or stablemate Noble Indy, the Louisiana Derby winner. We'll take this one and see Noble Indy notes for why.
Noble Indy. Pletcher takes the blinkers off after two runs so he's still trying to find the right combination. He gets his third different jockey in as many starts. Nothing wrong with his Belmont companion, Javier Castellano. But John Velazquez, who rode him in his three straight, sticks with Vino Rosso.
Blended Citizen. Won the Jeff Ruby Steaks (sic) on the Turfway Park all-weather and the Peter Pan over the Belmont dirt. Not impossible but he, too, will have to beat us.
So, that gives us a four-horse trifecta box of Justify (1), Hofburg (4), Gronkowski (6) and Vino Rosso (8). Take it for $1 and it will cost you $24. If it wins with Justify on top, it might pay less than you bet (the old "win but lose money" trick). If Justify doesn't fill the top slot, the proceeds go up exponentially. Even if we've swung and missed here, we're leaving you with a net profit for the entire Triple Crown of $2.50.
Or you could bet $2 to win on Justify, frame the winning ticket and flip someone double or nothing for the six bits.
Whatever you do, don't bet more than you can afford to lose.