Does post position matter in the Belmont Stakes?

The field for the 153rd running of the Belmont Stakes has been set, along with post positions and morning line odds, but does where the horses start have any bearing on the result?

In a sprint race of six furlongs in length or shorter, it's reasonable to assume that certain post positions, particularly those closest to the rail, would be more advantageous than others.

For the Belmont Stakes, which at a mile and a half in distance is among the longest races that many thoroughbreds will run, it might be easy to assume that where a horse breaks from the starting gate has little or no influence on the outcome of the race. After all, two and a half minutes and more than one trip around the track should give any horse ample time to make up for starting farther off the rail than the entry in the number one post position.

Believe it or not, this isn't necessarily the case. Secretariat was the overwhelming 1/10 favourite to win the 1973 Belmont Stakes and complete the Triple Crown regardless, so it could be assumed that it didn't really matter where he started the race, especially in a five-horse field.

Where is the best starting spot for the Belmont Stakes?

It turns out that in the history of the Belmont Stakes, one post position has produced almost double the number of winners as the next most successful starting spot. The fact that the preferred post position is the one on the inside, number one, shouldn't necessarily come as a surprise, but its 23 winners may.

Secretariat was one of those 23 winners of the Belmont Stakes to start on the rail and is one of the past five Triple Crown winners to do so, along with Justify in 2018.

The two post positions that have produced the next highest number of winners are numbers three and five, with 13 champions each.

Those are also the places where the other three recent Triple Crown winners started, with Affirmed breaking from post position three in 1978. Meanwhile, Seattle Slew in 1977 and American Pharoah in 2015 both started from the fifth spot and went on to victory. While Affirmed also ran in a small, five-horse field, American Pharoah and Seattle Slew were both part of eight-horse fields, while Justify defeated nine other horses for his win.

Another advantageous position is number seven, with 11 winners coming from that post, which is significant because, as mentioned previously, many races have been run with fewer than seven entries.

It could therefore be helpful to consider post positions when considering wagers for Saturday's event.

Entries in the winningest post positions

Post Position One (1), Bourbonic, 15/1: When Bourbonic shocked the Wood Memorial field to win at 72/1 odds, he broke from post position three.

Post Position Three (3), Rombauer, 3/1: When Rombauer won the Preakness Stakes as a 12/1 underdog, he started from post position six in a 10-horse field and earlier defeated seven other horses in the El Camino Real Derby after drawing the far outside spot.

Post Position Five (5), France Go De Ina, 30/1: The 25/1 shot in the Preakness Stakes broke from starting position seven, which is where he finished the race.

Post Position Seven (7), Rock Your World, 9/2: In the Santa Anita Derby, Rock Your World took an early lead from the third post position and ran away from the field, winning by more than four lengths over the runner-up - Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit.

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