I don't have all the answers. I don't even have most of the questions.
Here's a good one from a 25-year horseplayer from Florida:
"I hear them talking about 'betable races' all the time. What exactly is one of those, anyway?"
To deal with the language issue first, there doesn't seem to be a word "betable," or "bettable." Our language was pulled together in a simpler time, one without so many gambles, obviously. In this age of many wagers, there should be a registered word to describe a proposition that could be profitable, or hittable, which is a word. So bettors have taken it upon themselves to insert "bettable" into the vernacular. Perhaps the best way to handle a race worth betting would be to call it a betting race.
So what is it?
I'm not sure.
From the happily expectant tone used by those celebrating it, a betting race would seem to offer optimum wagering conditions for making a haul. The typical betting race appears to offer a full field of horses with similar form, a weak favorite, a strange mix of shippers and layoffs, rider and trainer changes. It probably would be ironic to note that the majority of the gigantic betting-race payoffs are won by people playing funky numbers off the program.
My idea of a betting race is a six-horse field with a 1-1 favorite fresh off a front-running $5,000 claiming win in a monsoon, tape jobs all over the place, with the only one that could win paying $6.20 over a $9 placer.
The Belmont Stakes gives every impression of being a betting race, with eight or nine of the runners showing stencil-like late running styles. With an unpredictable pace to run at, there is apt to be a whole lot of late, simultaneous swooping taking place. Only three or four horses have shown a speed pulse. Anybody drafting along in third or fourth should be hard to get around on down the road.
Before running through the field and listing some picks, here's a saving-grace selection that served a useful purpose at Pimlico in Baltimore. Sometimes you don't want others having all the fun. Sometimes you have to put a little something on a horse you tried before in a failed effort. Sometimes you have to have to play a horse you don't particularly like but could be talked into fearing, a favored deep closer, say, at a mile and a half. So here's a combination package for everybody who doesn't particularly like Ice Box but doesn't want to be left out should he get there: 1. Ice Box. 2. Fly Down/First Dude. 3. Drosselmeyer/Make Music for Me.
The Belmont field, by post
1. Dave in Dixie: Wrong turn.
2. Spangled Star: Likely to floor it.
3. Uptowncharlybrown: Spry, style fits.
4. Make Music for Me: Much better than 1-9 record.
5. Fly Down: Unbelievably enough, it's the only horse with a win at the track.
6. Ice Box: No rule says it has to trail by 25.
7. Drosselmeyer -- 7-for-8 in the money.
8. Game on Dude: Program odds of only 10-1 off sticks win suggests fast start.
9. Stately Victor: Un-wiseguy Derby tout.
10. Stay Put: Has been obeying.
11. First Dude: Shorter starting price than Fly Down, which beat it twice.
12. Interactif: Off some.
1. Fly Down
2. Make Music for Me
3. First Dude
Write to Jay at firstname.lastname@example.org.