Betting by Mail

IMG_1080My Preakness bet arrived in the mail just the other day.

To be precise, this particular “bet” is more like a Derby & Preakness parlay, since I made it before American Pharoah won a garland of roses, a trip to Baltimore and two weeks off by winning the Kentucky Derby (no, Firing Line did not win two trips to Baltimore by coming in second).

I didn’t think of it as a bet until after reading this post by my friend Richie, who pointed out that perhaps the only way to get 4-1 odds on American Pharoah winning the Preakness (short of betting a winning cold exacta or an awfully chilly trifecta) was to buy seats to the Belmont Stakes and then scalp them find someone willing to pay the free market rate for them on Stub Hub after another victory by the Pharoah.

It is quite possible and even likely that if American Pharoah wins the Preakness, this little ducat could be worth $550 to some sucker champion of the free market, but that’s not really the reason why we went with the USPS as our runner.


After having attended sixteen out of seventeen runnings of the Belmont between 1989 and 2005 (missing only Julie Krone’s triumph aboard Colonial Affair in 1993), one day this pilgrim’s devotion wavered. The prospect of a warm and crowded Big Sandy started losing ground to the charms of a late spring day in Columbia County. Sometimes (2006, 2010), it was because the big race was just not that compelling. Sometimes – ironically enough, after all those years of hoping to see a Triple Crown winner – it was out of concern that the wrong “horse” (read: trainer) might finally end the drought (2008, 2012).

But in May of 2013, Orb failed to win at odds-on in Baltimore and the lure of distressed market rate tickets on Stub Hub proved impossible to resist. It turned out to be a splendid day, and it was great to be back in Elmont on the biggest day of the downstate racing calendar. When the New York Racing Association gilded a perfectly nice lily by adding the Met Mile to an already stakes-loaded card last year, the thought of taking a pass on Belmont Day went out the window, perhaps never to return.

These last two years have added a new question to be asked during the buildup to the Derby. How likely is it that the winner of the Derby might also win the Preakness? Without a standout favorite, there would be a strong likelihood that two different horses winning the first two legs of the crown would once again knock the legs out from under the secondary market. But even though we only used California Chrome and American Pharoah defensively in our Derby bets, their pre-Derby reputations suggested that a Derby win would result in a near-walkover of a Preakness and make it a seller’s market for Belmont seats.

So the risk/reward scenarios that danced before us were not so much the idea that Belmont seats might quintuple in value, but whether we would be able to wait a while and then get them on the cheap. The ducat is not for sale regardless of where American Pharoah finishes later today. The question is whether or not paying retail four weeks ago was the right move, and the Derby winner will provide that answer presently.

4 thoughts on “Betting by Mail

  1. Apologies if I just left a blank comment…

    AP losing might be the best case scenario as far as you enjoying Belmont Day…you’ll have nice seats, the crowd will be thin, the card will still be tremendous, and even without the buzz of a potential Triple Crown, the Belmont may still be a great betting race.

    If he wins, you’ve already got a market price ticket to the circus.

    They’re playing Maryland My Maryland now so I better go…if my memory’s correct there’s some, um, interesting history behind that song…

    • I hope, for your sake and everyone else’s, that American Pharoah does run. Baffert said he will only run if training well, which is what we all wish for. It would be a tremendous letdown if he didn’t get to even try. Good Luck.

      • Thanks, Doc! You ain’t kidding. I would not blame them for not running if he is not right. That would take some huge ones on their part but it would be the right thing to do. If he does scratch (knock wood) I sure hope it is not on the morning or afternoon of the race. That could make for an ugly scene.

    • Hey, Papa. You are right that it would be a much more pleasant day at the racetrack without the TC bid and the extra 20 or 30 thousand. But, so long as AP holds together for the next 19 days it looks like the circus. And boy oh boy I just looked up “Maryland, My Maryland” on Wikipedia. I never knew the words or the story of that bloodthirsty song. It would need a hell of a lot more than the “light editing” that they give to My Old Kentucky Home to make it safe for mixed company. No wonder they only sing the 3rd verse at the Preakness. Yikes!

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