I've lamented before about the horseplayer compulsion to pick THE winner, and nothing upsets that need more than coupled entries. The Brisnet.com Ultimate Past Performances now available for Belmont Park this weekend include program numbers and morning line to help you navigate this situation.
When it comes to the pari-mutuel pool, though, you don't get extra credit for saying Real Solution will win the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic rather than "the Ramsey entry." The flipside benefit to that is even if you're wrong then you can still get paid of Big Blue Kitten or Joe's Blazing Aaron win.
The biggest reason touts don't like coupled entries is because they think it automatically hurts their value. Yes, if you like the less likely winner of a coupled entry, then you will undoubtedly get a lower price, but does that mean you're getting less value?
In the case of the Flower Bowl where I see Laughing as the most likely winner but Tannery as the best chance for an upset, the answer is NO. In the case of the Hirsch where I see Big Blue Kitten as a far more likely winner than either of his entrymates, the answer is YES.
Let's look at the Flower Bowl where the aforementioned Alan Goldberg-trained duo of Laughing and Tannery is 8-to-5 on the morning line. Those odds represent a 38.5% chance of either winning. If you see Laughing as a 5-to-2 choice (28.5%) then that leaves a 10% chance for Tannery, or fair odds of 9-to-1.
Both prices are overlays to me, as I see Laughing winning this race 33% of the time for fair odds of 2-to-1 and Tannery getting the job done 20% of the time for fair odds of 4-to-1. Even if the entry is 3-to-2 then Tannery would have to be 6-to-1 individually to offer better value (Bet 100 races, the entry wins 53 times and pays $5 for $265. Alone, Tannery wins 20 times and pays $14 for $280. If she's 5-to-1 then the return is only $240).
But I do most of my betting in the pick "N" pools, and in this case the Flower Bowl entry makes things easier on me because I like both horses and can now single. This is the opposite situation as the Hirsch where I think coupling the Ramsey horses lowers my expected value on them while increasing it dramatically on Slumber, who I like second off the year layoff.
Individually, I could make a case for either Big Blue Kitten or Real Solution at a certain price, but I think their coupling will make them a betting interest that people feel they "have to use" in the multis, and while either winning wouldn't shock me, I just don't think the value is there when I like a horse better, anyway.
The other race on the stakes portion of the Belmont card with coupled entries is the Kelso Handicap that includes the Lapenta-owned duo of Easter Gift and Jackson Bend. Neither would be favored individually, and getting "two for one" with these appeals to me since I don't fully trust Graydar off the bench giving weight. Souper Speedy will also be on my tickets.
There are no coupled entries in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, which is too bad from a wagering standpoint because I think coupling the Mott and Pletcher horses (Flat Out and Ron The Greek for the former and Cross Traffic, Palace Malice, and Vitoria Olimpica for the latter) would inflate the price on others, including my top pick Last Gunfighter.
Palace Malice has actually run faster than Cross Traffic has early on occasion (e.g. the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby), but based on their last couple races I think it's fair to assume Cross Traffic will have the lead down the backstretch.
Palace Malice, Orb, and Flat Out will try to get to the leader before Last Gunfighter does, but at 10-to-1 I'm hoping a sort of "pressers duel" develops between those three and that they go too quickly on that expansive far turn. That leaves Ron The Greek and Last Gunfighter to close, and I'll take the latter, though for the Pick 4 I'll use Flat Out as an "A" as well.
That was a lot to go over, so let me make sure I'm clear about my picks (especially since they're not all listed above!): Royal Delta (Beldame), Souper Speedy (Kelso), Strapping Groom (Vosburgh), Santulli/Goldberg entry (Flower Bowl), Slumber (Hirsch), Last Gunfighter (JCGC), Mucho Macho Man (Awesome Again), Cleveland Indians (American League Wildcard contender).
Again, FINAL Brisnet.com Ultimate Past Performances are now available for Belmont Park's Super Saturday program. FINAL means the file includes program numbers and morning lines are included, which is extremely helpful when dealing with coupled entries!