A field of eight 3-year-olds will start in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes.
This is the smallest field since 2015, and it is the first time since 2010 that there are no horses that have competed in all three legs of the Triple Crown.
The field includes five horses that appeared in the Kentucky Derby (G1) five weeks ago and two that ran in the Preakness three weeks back; none of them ran in both races. The other starter came by way of the Peter Pan (G3) at Belmont Park.
The Belmont Stakes is listed as race 11 on a card of 13, with a scheduled Post Time of 6:50.
1) BOURBONIC [ML 15-1] Trainer: Todd Pletcher. Jockey: Kendrick Carmouche. The 72-1 Winner of the Wood Memorial (G2) finished 13th in the Kentucky Derby at 30-1. Before the Derby, he Won three of four of his races. BOURBONIC seems like the type that can get the 12-furlong distance, but he would have to improve enough to beat three Derby horses who beat him in that race.
2) ESSENTIAL QUALITY [ML 2-1] Trainer: Brad Cox. Jockey: Luis Saez. Based on his five Wins in six career starts – including Victories in two Grade 1s, a Grade 2 and a Grade 3 – he was made the 2-1 Morning Line favorite here. As the deserving favorite in the Kentucky Derby, ESSENTIAL QUALITY had to race wide and could not make up much ground down the stretch as he finished 4th. His unorthodox stride continues to raise questions about his ability go even farther in the Test Of Champions.
3) ROMBAUER [ML 3-1] Trainer: Michael McCarthy. Jockey: John Velazquez. The up-and-coming trainer Won his first Triple Crown race in the Preakness. Yes, he got an ideal pace set-up in Baltimore, and took full advantage of it as he blew by the field to Win convincingly. He had the look of an improving horse, heading into that Victory and should continue to do so in what will be only his fourth start of the year. ROMBAUER is the only horse to have a Victory in his most recent race. He went right to New York after the Preakness to prepare for the Belmont.
4) HOT ROD CHARLIE [ML 7-2] Trainer: Doug O’Neill. Jockey: Flavien Prat. Jockey Prat moves off the Preakness Winner ROMBAUER to ride this guy. Distance does not seem to be a problem after running 3rd in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Winning the Louisiana Derby (G2). In the first leg of the Triple Crown, he stalked the pace and made up ground. In Louisiana, he led the 9 1/2 furlongs almost the whole race. He will come to the Test Of Champions well rested after skipping the Preakness.
5) FRANCE GO DE INA [ML 30-1] Trainer: Hideyuki Mori. Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr. His career began in Japan as a 2-year-old with a Maiden and Allowance Win. This year he shipped to Dubai, where he ran 6th in the UAE Derby (G2). He then finished 7th in the Preakness after pressing the pace. Although he may be able to compete for the entire 1 1/2 miles, he has yet to do so successfully at the Grade 1 level.
6) KNOWN AGENDA [ML 6-1] Trainer: Todd Pletcher. Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr. It’s hard to know what to expect here after his 9th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. His general lack of speed put him far back on the first Saturday in May, and the best he could do was get to 9th. However, a return to his performances at Gulfstream Park this spring, including that Florida Derby (G1) Victory, make him a serious contender to Win the Belmont. The distance should not be a problem for the son of CURLIN.
7) ROCK YOUR WORLD [ML 9-2] Trainer: John Sadler. Jockey: Joel Rosario. All the handicapping articles about this years Belmont Stakes will read the same way – this colt will be the pacesetter because that is his only chance to Win. He Won the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on the front end against the eventual Kentucky Derby Winner, but he lost all chance in the Run For The Roses after a rough and tumble start. His prior two Wins were from stalking positions and on the turf. Can he repeat the Santa Anita Derby performance?
8) OVERTOOK [ML 20-1] Trainer: Todd Pletcher. Jockey: Manny Franco. Great breeding and a $1 million price tag made this Pletcher runner highly regarded from the get-go. After his Maiden Victory at Aqueduct in December, he ran 2nd in the Withers (G3) and 3rd in the Peter Pan (G3). Those two Grade 3 performances makes it hard to believe he could beat this Belmont field. On the upside, his breeding says that he should handle the 1 1/2-mile distance.
Summary: This Belmont Stakes field includes several of the highly regarded sophomores, but just how good is this crop of 3-year-olds?
This is a question that is hard to answer and one that makes it difficult to be confident about any choice to Win the 12-furlong race.
The top two finishers from the Derby are not here, although this Belmont field does include the top three Derby choices; ESSENTIAL QUALITY, ROCK YOUR WORLD, and HOT ROD CHARLIE, along with the Preakness Winner ROMBAUER.
Even if ROCK YOUR WORLD goes right to the lead, don’t expect a particularly fast pace because these riders know that handling the Belmont distance will not be easy.
That is why the race is called the Test of Champions.
KNOWN AGENDA should settle in a relaxed fashion settling around 4th or 5th, and then grind his way towards the lead by the top of the stretch and face any late oncoming challengers.
Trainer Todd Pletcher knows how to Win the Belmont.
The Play: Trifecta Box #6 KNOWN AGENDA with all, Exacta same way. If your bank is light throw out #5 and 8.
Best of luck no matter how you play it.