Triple Crown Betting Odds

Horse racing in the United States has been through many highs and lows since the first racecourse opened on Long Island in 1665.

The sport experienced a huge boom in popularity in the 19th Century but then began to witness a steady decline in the early 20th Century.

However, after 1919 and the first Triple Crown win, American audiences began to be captivated once again by horse racing, helped by some of the all-time greats of the track, and their campaigns to win the Triple Crown.

Here we examine each of the Triple Crown races in detail and look at strategies to beat the bookies when betting in them.

Triple Crown Races

Part of the unique challenge of the Triple Crown is that each race is run over a different distance and all three races take place in the space of a little over a month.

For inexperienced three-year-old horses, to run in three such competitive and grueling races so quickly is often too much for them, which means only the toughest and most exceptional horses go on to make into Triple Crown winners.

Kentucky Derby

First, run in 1875, The Kentucky Derby horse race is one of the most famous and prestigious horse races in the world.

The race is nicknamed “The Run for the Roses” after the wreaths of flowers that are draped over the winner.

It forms the first leg of the Triple Crown and is run in early May each year, over a distance of one mile two furlongs (ten furlongs) on dirt at Churchill Downs Racecourse in Kentucky.

With a purse of $3 million, it is also one of the most valuable races in the US calendar.

The Kentucky Derby is consistently the best-attended race in the US, with a huge attendance that usually exceeds 150,000. The attendance record was set in 2015 when over 170,000 people packed into Churchill Downs to see American Pharoah stride to victory in the first leg of his Triple Crown.

Other notable Kentucky Derby winners include Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Spectacular Bid, Smarty Jones, and Nyquist.

Preakness Stakes

The Preakness horse race was first run in 1873 and is the second leg of the US Triple Crown.

It is run just two weeks after the Kentucky Derby on the third Saturday in May every year, over a distance of nine-and-a-half furlongs on dirt at Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore, Maryland.

The field is limited to 14 runners and there’s a valuable purse of over $1.5 million on offer.

In 2019, over 130,000 fans descended on Pimlico Racecourse to catch sight of the Preakness winner, War of Will, to gain revenge for his unlucky defeat in the Kentucky Derby. It is consistently the second-best attended race-meeting after the Kentucky Derby.

In 2021, the Preakness Stakes attracted a field of 10 runners and only three had competed in the Kentucky Derby. They included controversial Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, who could only manage third in the Preakness, emphasising the challenge posed by horses bidding for the Triple Crown.

Other notable Preakness Stakes winners include Silver Charm, Spectacular Bid, Rachel Alexandra, Affirmed, and Secretariat.

Belmont Stakes

The oldest of the Triple Crown races, the Belmont Stakes horse race was first run in 1867.

It is run on the first or second Saturday in June every year, giving Triple Crown hopefuls at least a three-week break after the Preakness Stakes and takes place at Belmont Park, in New York.

At one mile four furlongs it is the longest of the Triple Crown races and it can be a true staying test for young horses in the Belmont straight, particularly if there is rain and the dirt surface becomes sloppy.

The field is limited to 16 runners and there is a purse of $1.5 million on offer.

The Belmont Stakes is another event that attracts the eyes of the American nation, nearly 22 million people tuned in to see 2004 running where Smarty Jones’ Triple Crown bid and the undefeated record was undone by Birdstone. There was also a record 120,000 crowd in attendance that day.

Belmont Park is sometimes known as the “Champions Circuit” due to it being a fair track and the fact that almost every champion thoroughbred has run there.

There can be no greater champion than Secretariat who still holds the Belmont Stakes record some fifty years after completing the final leg of his Triple Crown in 2:24:00.

Other notable winners include Afleet Alex, Point Given, Easy Goer, and Affirmed.

Betting Strategy For The Triple Crown Races

Pace Is Crucial In US Racing

Races in the US are often run in a different style to races in the UK and the rest of Europe. Horses break from the stalls as quickly as possible to try to achieve a prominent racing position.

This means races in the US are usually truly run and horses travel at an even pace from the beginning of the race to the finish, rather than being asked to quicken dramatically near the finish. In short, establishing an idea of “pace” is crucial with US racing.

It can be hard for horses to come from off the pace in Triple Crown races, as the stats show with in the last 10 years, only 2013 Kentucky Derby winner, Orb, having won after a hold up ride.

Three of the last ten Preakness Stakes have been won by horses that led from the start, so a simple strategy might mean finding a horse that is likely to be quickest away from the stalls in order to gain an advantage. Had you done that, you would have turned a £9.70 profit to a £1 stake in the last 10-years in the Preakness Stakes.

Of course, this doesn’t always work out and if there are too many front runners in the race this can create pressure on the lead, forcing the leaders to run too quickly which in turn sets things up for a horse to close from off the pace.

Use Speed Figures

Speed figures are a number calculated by taking into consideration things including a horse’s finishing time, distance run, finishing speed, track condition, and wind.

From this, a figure can be determined that gives a good guide to a horse’s ability. Speed figures are particularly useful when looking at US racing because races tend to be truly run at a good pace, many of the tracks are similar – all flat around a left-handed bend – and dirt is a more standard surface than turf.

All this means that when looking at Triple Crown contenders, assessing who comes out on top of the speed figure ratings should be the first consideration.

Follow The Trends

Before the Kentucky Derby, it is crucial to get a good handle on American two-year-old form and look at races like the American Pharoah Stakes, Champagne Stakes, Del Mar Futurity, and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

These races are run between September and November and usually give a good guide to the best two-year-olds that will be heading to the Triple Crown races the following season.

However, many Triple Crown contenders only emerge to race as three-year-olds and are campaigned in the early season leading up to the Kentucky Derby in May.

Run in March and April, the Santa Anita Derby, Florida Derby, and Arkansas Derby are three key races, and winners of those contests often stake a strong claim in the Kentucky Derby itself.

In the Preakness Stakes look to horses that have run well in the Kentucky Derby or those that may have had an unlucky run at Churchill Downs and finished down the field.

At Belmont Park the freshness of horses can play a role in finding the winner, and horses that have run in the Kentucky Derby but skipped the Preakness tend to do well. In recent years there have been several winners of the Belmont Stakes that have not run in either of the earlier Triple Crown races.

Don’t Be Afraid To Take On Favourites

While six of the last ten Kentucky Derbies have been won by the favourite given the competitive nature of the contest, big-priced winners are possible.

In 2021, Medina Spirit springs something of a surprise when winning at odds of around 12/1. Before that Country House, which was sent off at 65/1, was awarded the race following the disqualification of Maximum Security in 2019.

There is also value to be had if looking outside the top of the market in the Preakness Stakes. Last season’s winner Rombauer, returned at odds of around 12/1, while in 2013 Oxbow’s victory rewarded punters with a 15/1 payout.

The Belmont Stakes has also seen big-priced winners in the last ten years, with Creator at 16/1 in 2016 and Palace Malice at 14/1 in 2013.

Notable Winner Of Triple Crown Races

In 1919 Sir Barton became the first Triple Crown winner, winning all three races in the space of just 32 days.

He set a precedent for many more who dreamed of Triple Crown glory and the golden period of US racing from 1930-1950 saw no less than seven Triple Crown winners, beginning with Gallant Fox in 1930 and ending with Citation in 1948.

Between those years the mighty War Admiral triumphed in 1937, and in the following season, he gained even more fame for his involvement in the greatest match-race of all time, when he took on and was beaten by Seabiscuit.

After Citation, American racegoers would have to wait 25 years to see another Triple Crown hero, and it must have been worth the wait, as in 1973 the irrepressible Secretariat, or Big Red as he was known, captured the imagination of the wider American public.

Big Red’s wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness were brilliant victories, but both times he had to be tough to shake off the attention of rival Sham in the straight. However, in the Belmont Stakes of 1973, the New York crown witnessed something amazing.

Secretariat opened up by 12 lengths on his rivals approaching the home turn, bringing the commentator to exclaim that he was “moving like a tremendous machine” and incredibly he maintained the gallop to score by a jaw-dropping 31 lengths.

Secretariat still holds the record for the fastest times in all three of the Triple Crown races.

Since 1973 there have been a further four Triple Crown winners. In 1977, Seattle Slew became the first Triple Crown winner to remain undefeated in his career. A year later Affirmed got the better of great rival Alydar in three titanic battles.

More recently trainer Bob Baffert has sent out two Triple Crown winners, with the tough American Pharoah in 2015 and then Justify, who won all three races to maintain an unbeaten six from six career record in 2018, before going off to stud.

Triple Crown Trends

Trends can be a good guide when betting on the Triple Crown races, this is because many of the contenders will run against each other in all or most of the three races.

Here are some trends to look out for when seeking value against the bookies.

Follow Bob Baffert

Trainer Bob Baffert has a phenomenal record in Triple Crown races.

He saddled the two most recent winners of the Triple Crown in 2015 and 2018, with American Pharoah and Justify, but has also had two further Kentucky Derby winners in the last ten years.

That means he has won eight of the last 30 Triple Crown races, an amazing strike rate of 27 percent.

However, his future participation hangs in the balance owing to a string of high-profile failed blood samples for his horses. He is contesting the results of these findings.

Three Key Kentucky Derby Trials

When looking for the winner of the Kentucky Derby, in the past ten years only three races have mattered as a guide to the form – the Santa Anita Derby, Florida Derby, and Arkansas Derby.

Between them, these races have provided nine of the last ten Kentucky Derby winners, with the Santa Anita Derby producing four, the Florida Derby three, and the Arkansas Derby two.

Kentucky Derby Form Is King In The Preakness

Seven of the last ten Preakness Stakes winners had run in the Kentucky Derby before lining up at Pimlico. Five of those seven had also finished in the frame two weeks earlier, a trend that suggests that despite the quick turnaround, horses coming out of the Derby run well in the Preakness.

Derby Horses Can Bounce Back In The Belmont

In the last 25 years, 20 percent of Belmont Stakes winners had finished in the money in the Kentucky Derby, but over 40 percent had been well beaten at Churchill Downs.

This suggests that it can be worth looking for horses that might have had unlucky runs in the Derby, as they can bounce back in the Belmont.

Look For Fresher Horses At Belmont

In the last 10 years, only Triple Crown winners American Pharoah and Justify have run in the Preakness Stakes and then headed to Belmont Park three weeks later.

Five of the last ten winners have headed to the Belmont Stakes after finishing down the field in the Kentucky Derby, while three winners in New York had not turned up in either of the two previous legs of the Triple Crown.

The Triple Crown is a grueling schedule for any racehorse and those trends suggest that when looking for an edge in the Belmont Stakes it may be worth looking at horses who were unlucky in the Kentucky Derby or those fresher horses who have had an easier preparation.