2021 Belmont Stakes Preview & Power Rankings: Can Anybody Upset Essential Quality on Saturday? (June 5)
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The last leg of Horse Racing’s Triple Crown is the mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes. Belmont is known for its big, sweeping turns and being a deep, sandy track (which is why it’s known as “Big Sandy”), so many believe that is the most difficult race of the Triple Crown.
This is one of the most competitive Belmont fields in recent memory. Some people may have something to say about there only being eight horses, but this field is deep and a number of horses have a legitimate chance to win on Saturday.
Let’s dive into the field:
No. 2 Essential Quality (2-1) is the morning-line favorite. He was also the Derby favorite, finishing fourth that day. He was caught four wide the entire trip and traveled further than any horse in that race. At the top of the stretch, it looked like he was going to be able to make his move and go by for the win but just didn’t have enough.
While I don’t think there’s much value in Essential Quality today, he is the most likely winner and one that you have to use in both horizontal and vertical wagers.
No. 6 Known Agenda (6-1) was initially my top pick for the Derby before the draw. When he drew the rail, he dropped down, but I thought he would still be able to work out a trip, which he wasn’t.
With his post position and the pace scenario, he should be able to sit just off the pace, in a stalking trip similar to his Florida Derby victory. One of the big questions is who will be aboard as jockey Irad Oritz Jr. took a nasty spill on Thursday and is off all his mounts.
Trainer Todd Pletcher always has his dirt horses ready to go in New York and Known Agenda has been training really well leading up to the Belmont.
No. 4 Hot Rod Charlie (7-2) ran third in the Derby, just ahead of Essential Quality. Similar to Essential Quality, it looked like Hot Rod Charlie was going to be able to go by Medina Spirit at the top of the stretch.
Hot Rod Charlie won the Louisiana Derby two back, but the biggest question will be whether or not he can he get the distance. He hasn’t had a recorded workout over the Belmont track since shipping in, but has been accompanied by his pony to make him comfortable.
No. 7 Rock Your World (9-2) will be the controlling speed in the race. He looked to be one of the pace-setters in the Derby, but after jockey Joel Rosario’s foot slipped out of the irons coming out of the gate, it all but destroyed any chance he had.
The issue for Rock Your World, similar to Hot Road Charlie, today will be the distance. If either Essential Quality or Hot Rod Charlie decide to push him Rock Your World early, it will hurt any chance he has.
No. 3 Rombauer (3-1) is coming in off his Preakness victory. He benefitted from a decent pace three weeks ago and took a huge step forward speed figure-wise. In order to compete here, he will need a similar pace set to what he had in the Preakness, which I’m not sure he will get in this field.
In addition to the lack of pace, I’m not confident in Rombauer’s ability to close at the big sandy.
No. 5 France Go de Ina (30-1) is my longshot play. There were a number of people who thought he had a chance to hit the board in the Preakness. He acted up before prior to entering the gate, which significantly hurts his chances.
If jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. can get France Go de Ina to relax, he stands a chance to be a part of the trifecta/superfecta at a huge price.
Horses to Toss
No. 8 Overtook (20-1) is another Todd Pletcher trainee. He’s coming in off two in the money finishes in the Withers and Peter Pan. In both of those races he was a one-paced horse, who didn’t have the closing kick needed to win.
He will need to take a significant step forward in here if he’s going to have any impact today.
No. 1 Bourbonic (15-1) was a huge upset winner in the Wood Memorial at 72-1. He didn’t run well in the Derby and while trainer Todd Pletcher always has his horses ready to race in New York, Bourbonic is in deep water here. He is just outclassed in this field to be able to do anything meaningful.