Horse Racing
Chris 'The Bear' Fallica talks FOX Sports TV debut, 2023 Belmont Stakes
Horse Racing

Chris 'The Bear' Fallica talks FOX Sports TV debut, 2023 Belmont Stakes

Published Jun. 8, 2023 12:45 p.m. ET

While there’s no Triple Crown on the line Saturday, the Belmont Stakes is a major race on the North American calendar, a fact borne out by the sheer strength of the field.

Forte, the Kentucky Derby favorite before withdrawing with a hoof bruise, returns to action as the +250 favorite. And the field is so good that Preakness winner National Treasure is actually the +500 fourth choice on the Belmont odds board.

A race this big needs world-class coverage, and we will get that this weekend with FOX Sports making its foray into the Triple Crown, broadcasting the Belmont Stakes. FOX is coming in with a bang, luring legendary race announcer Tom Durkin out of retirement to make the call. And from a betting perspective, sports betting/horse racing aficionado Chris "The Bear" Fallica will make his FOX Sports TV debut as part of the day’s coverage.

Fallica, who spent 28 years with ESPN, talked about his transition to FOX Sports, his love of horse racing and how he expects Saturday’s race to run.


The Bear on FOX Sports

Fallica, nicknamed "The Bear," officially joined FOX Sports on Jan. 1. Most notably, he was a key component of ESPN’s College GameDay as an on-air personality and research producer. He also co-hosted "Stanford Steve and The Bear," a popular sports betting podcast. Over the years, he built up a huge following on Twitter, where he shares a plethora of gambling nuggets for every sport imaginable. 

He was eager to join FOX Sports and branch out, with Saturday’s Belmont Stakes presenting a perfect opportunity.

"It’s been great. This will be my first TV appearance, so I’m excited," Fallica said. "But we’ve been cranking out content on the digital side since January, and I’m very happy with how the USFL picks have been going (4-0 last week for those of you counting at home). Everyone I’ve worked and interacted with at the company has been so helpful and open to someone who has spent his entire professional life elsewhere.

"They’ve made everything easy and comfortable."

Now, in his most forward-facing assignment so far in his new role, he’ll be part of a loaded FOX Sports Belmont team. Durkin is arguably one of the best horse-race callers ever. Tom Rinaldi brings his unique storytelling ability to race day. Curt Menefee anchors the studio show that starts at 4 p.m. ET, and he’s joined by highly regarded trainer Tom Amoss and Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.

And joining Fallica for up-to-the-minute wagering information is host Charissa Thompson.

"I’m extremely excited for the telecast," Fallica said, particularly noting his affinity for Durkin. "Growing up on Long Island, I’ve been to Belmont countless times and listened to thousands of calls by Tom Durkin. So it’s only fitting in a sense that this is my first on-air appearance for FOX Sports.

"It was a great decision to bring Tom back for this call. His voice is synonymous with the sport for a generation of racing fans, so it will be a treat to hear him call a race again."

Raised on Racing

As Fallica noted, he has been to this track more times than he can count. He’s been around horse racing since he was a youngster.

"Growing up in Suffolk County, we had a quarter-horse track close to our house, and it was a fun way to spend a night with my dad," Fallica recalled. "So, it was like many sports relationships begin, by watching and going to games — or in this case, to the track — with your dad."

He grew to enjoy diving into the minutiae of how to bet on the ponies.

"I love the challenge of it," Fallica said. "Reading the past performances, interpreting all of the info that exists in one line. It’s the pari-mutuel aspect of the betting — you can get a better price on a horse that you may like [by going] against public opinion. And it’s the variety of the wagering. I love putting together multi-race tickets, like Pick Fours and Pick Fives."

Fallica can certainly do that Saturday, as nine races are on the card, capped by the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes.

Race Day Expectations

As noted above, Forte is back after missing both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, and the rested horse is a +250 favorite. He’s followed by Tapit Trice (+300), who had a four-race win streak before a disappointing seventh-place Kentucky Derby effort.

Angel of Empire, who won two consecutive races before a third-place showing in the Kentucky Derby, is the +350 third choice. Then comes National Treasure at +500 in a solid nine-horse field.

"There might not be a Triple Crown on the line, and the Derby winner [Mage] isn’t here, but there is a lot of intrigue," Fallica said. "We’ve got Forte, who was the morning-line favorite in the Derby before he scratched. We’ve got Angel of Empire, the Derby favorite who ran a very good third. We’ve got Tapit Trice, who was the second choice in the Derby, and history shows [trainer] Todd Pletcher has done very well with horses that he sends to Tampa, then runs in the Derby and rests them until the Belmont.

"And then there’s Preakness winner National Treasure. A case can be made for all four, as well as a horse like Hit Show, who was fifth in the Derby and has run well in New York before."

Midweek, Hit Show is the +1000 sixth choice in Belmont odds.

So how does Fallica see it playing out?

"I’d assume National Treasure will go to the front, and after that, we’ll see how the race develops," he said. "One of the biggest fallacies about the 1.5-mile Belmont is that if you close fast at 1 ¼ miles, that means it will carry over to 1 ½ miles. That’s not always true. More often than not, the Belmont is won by a grinding-type horse, one that’s in touch with or on the lead, not a horse that comes from way out of it.

"That’s why I’m going to use Tapit Trice and Hit Show as my two keys in the race. If one of those two finishes first or second, I’ll be in good shape. I’ll play each of them in the first and second spots in trifectas and exactas, and hope to catch either a price or a press ticket in third."

But there’s still plenty of time until Saturday’s 7:10 p.m. ET Belmont post. So, Fallica isn’t quite ready to give a firm prediction.

"You’ll have to tune in to my picks coming on Thursday and to my broadcast on Saturday afternoon for that," he said. "Right now, I’m leaning toward Tapit Trice or Hit Show. But if the track plays funny, or Mother Nature gets involved, there could be a change in plans."

Patrick Everson is a sports betting analyst for FOX Sports and senior reporter for He is a distinguished journalist in the national sports betting space. He’s based in Las Vegas, where he enjoys golfing in 110-degree heat. Follow him on Twitter: @PatrickE_Vegas.

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