The 153rd running of the Belmont Stakes will place this Saturday, June 5, with post time at 6:47 p.m. ET.
After being postponed in 2020 due to COVID-19, the final race of the Triple Crown is back to its usual place. Essential Quality was set Tuesday as a 2-1 favorite.
Here is my breakdown of the race:
With no Triple Crown possibility, the Belmont Stakes has a very different feel. It is a race for true racing fans -- and true horseplayers. Everyone still interested in betting the race is a wise guy, and there are only eight horses in the race – including one that was a winner his last time out in ROMBAUER, the Preakness winner at 11-1. Recent history says Preakness horses -- winners and losers – don’t do well in the Belmont. The only exceptions since 2006 were American Pharoah and Justify, and I don’t see any horse like those in this 3-year-old crop. ESSENTIAL QUALITY is a deserving favorite, largely because he was undefeated before he finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby. Two of his victories came as a precocious 2-year-old in Grade 1 races. KNOWN AGENDA (Florida Derby) and ROCK YOUR WORLD (Santa Anita Derby) also have Grade 1 success on their past performances, and that is not to be ignored this weekend. Being sired by Curlin, Known Agenda appears to be bred for the 12 furlongs. Rock Your World figures to set the early pace, so he may try to become only the fourth horse this century to lead the Belmont from gate to wire.
KNOWN AGENDA never had a chance in the Derby after drawing the No. 1 post position. He did about as much as he could, going from 17th to finish ninth. This time he drew much more favorably in post 6. With 11 fewer horses, traffic should not be a problem, even in New York. This colt has the top Equibase speed figure among 3-year-old males, and he earned that 112 with his triumph in the Florida Derby. Newly minted Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher and reigning three-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. will be ready to rumble, so start spreading the news: They can make it anywhere. ESSENTIAL QUALITY is poised for a big effort after his Derby disappointment that marked the only time in his six starts that he did not win. He got bumped at the start in Louisville, but the smaller field means he should have a cleaner trip on Long Island. Don’t forget his daddy: Tapit has sired three of the last six Belmont winners at 1½ miles.
With so few horses, value will be hard to come by. At 6-1 on the morning line, KNOWN AGENDA should bring it. At 2-1 ESSENTIAL QUALITY would not appear to provide value, except maybe playing him vertically into an exacta bet. HOT ROD CHARLIE might be just a Grade 2 winner, but that was an impressive, front-running performance in the Louisiana Derby. Even though he found traffic at Churchill Downs, he still had what it took to finish third, which means he did better in the Derby than anyone else in the Belmont field. ROMBAUER must overcome the problem that all deep closers have at Belmont Park, and that is the short, 366-yard homestretch. The last winner to come from more than two lengths behind at the top of the stretch was Summer Bird in 2009. The Preakness winner should still figure into a superfecta, though.
$100 WAGERING STRATEGY:
• $50 exacta box
KNOWN AGENDA-ESSENTIAL QUALITY
TOP 4 PICKS:
1. KNOWN AGENDA
2. ESSENTIAL QUALITY
3. HOT ROD CHARLIE
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