Horse Betting: Belmont Stakes (USA)
Union Rags is rated 124 against I'll Have Another's 130, but 124 has been good enough to win The Belmon
Triple Crown-seeking I'll Have Another has a lot going for him in Saturday's Belmont Stakes but Simon Rowlands has some ideas about looking elsewhere for a horse with better odds.
Betting on horseracing has a beautiful simplicity at times.
Whether the race in question is a lowly seller at a gaff track or a Group race packed with stars, there is only one thing that ultimately matters when striking a bet: do the odds justify the risk?
Some may try to tell you that successful betting is about picking winners and not about finding value. They are wrong.
Unless you have the good fortune to back only winners, or the bad fortune to back only losers, then the odds you secure about the winners need to offset the losses sustained from the losers. The odds matter: value is everything.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to tell what value is in most settings. One man's good value may be another man's bad value. Betting is, in effect, an extended experiment in how good, or how bad, an individual is at judging these things.
Perhaps that should be "fortunately", rather than "unfortunately", however.
Without such divergence of opinion it might never be possible to strike a bet. It takes two to tango - or to disagree enough about value to take opposite sides in a bet - after all.
Which brings us, in a round-about way, to this year's Belmont Stakes.
Few would question that I'll Have Another, the gutsy winner of the first two legs of the Triple Crown, has the best chance in the third leg, run at Belmont on Saturday. He beat his chief rivals - Dullahan and Union Rags - in the Kentucky Derby and took his form to an even higher level when following up in The Preakness.
But those facts are common currency, and I'll Have Another is a short price as a result. That is not to say that he is necessarily bad value, however: a short-priced horse is still value if it "should" be a shorter price still.
So, is I'll Have Another value?
I suspect not.
Number-crunching the ratings gives implied odds of around 2.38. You'll do well to get that sort of price - a fraction under 7/5 - Stateside, but that is exactly the sort of price he looks like being on Betfair.
In other words, I'll Have Another looks to be in the "Goldilocks Zone" in terms of price: he is neither too short, nor too long, but "just right".
If I'll Have Another does lose, it is more likely that he will lose on account of underperforming than through one of his rivals surpassing the sort of efforts he put up in the Kentucky Derby and (in particular) The Preakness. His 130 Timeform rating would be good enough to have won The Belmont every year since Point Given in 2001.
Underperforming may come about as a result of going to the well once too often - this will be his fifth run in a little over four months, and none has been easy - or through lack of stamina.
Or it may be as a result of something else entirely.
I'll Have Another is not bred to be a mile-and-a-half horse, but then very few ever are in the US. He has been strong at the end of his races at around two furlongs shorter, and it seems unlikely that the early pace in Saturday's contest will be anything like as exacting in the absence of the fleet-footed Bodemeister.
If I'll Have Another loses, then the betting suggests Dullahan will be the likeliest beneficiary. Here, I think the market may be wrong and that value may exist.
Dullahan is a smart and consistent performer who should see out the longer distance of The Belmont better than most. But he had a suicidal pace to suit him in the Kentucky Derby and still could not quite pick up the pieces.
His best is not as good as Union Rags' best at this stage. The latter was only seventh at Churchill Downs but got into a near-hopeless position through being hampered early.
Union Rags was also unlucky in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile and possibly in this year's Florida Derby. But he showed his class when winning on all of his other four starts, including when thumping Alpha at two years and News Pending in the Fountain of Youth Stakes in February.
Union Rags is rated 124 against I'll Have Another's 130, but 124 has been good enough to win The Belmont more often than not of late. He also races as if he will stay a mile and a half, despite his breeding.
I'll Have Another is the likeliest winner of the 2012 Belmont, but Union Rags is at significantly bigger odds and looks to be value.
In the end, that is the only betting consideration that should really matter.
Recommended Betfair Bet
1 pt win Union Rags