2021 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap Cheatsheet
By TwinSpires Editorial Team, Sponsored Content

By Vance Hanson (TwinSpires.com)

1. LEXITONIAN (20-1) – Best to ignore the terrible run in the Met Mile (G1). He’s had some of those before and bounced back with better efforts. However, inconsistency is drawback. On the days when he generally puts his best hoof forward, it usually comes as a surprise to bettors. A sub-:45 half-mile would be a huge help, but no guarantee of that here for a horse who’d probably be more effective with an extra sixteenth or furlong to work with.

2. MISCHEVIOUS ALEX (2-1) – Didn’t quite see out the distance in the Met Mile after prompting the pace, but it was still a solid showing against a small, select group. Trainer Saffie Joseph thinks the shorter distance of this race and the Forego (G1) later this meet will work to this colt’s advantage, and hard to argue the point after he opened up his 2021 account with three terrific wins. The Carter H. (G1), especially, was a dynamite performance, albeit against a soft field for the class level. The one to beat if he reproduces anything close to that effort.

3. FIRENZE FIRE (3-1) – Has enjoyed a remarkable career with numerous graded wins, a credit to both his talent as well as astute placement on the part of his connections. Certainly fits and belongs in this spot, but hard to overlook the fact this six-year-old just seems to bring his A-game more often at Belmont than elsewhere. You have to go back to the second start of his career, in the 2017 Sanford (G3), to find his lone win in seven starts over this main track. Has come up short against Whitmore a couple times lately, too. Fodder for the vertical exotics, but leaning against for the win.

4. STRIKE POWER (15-1) – Dueled himself into defeat in this race two years ago against the likes of Imperial Hint and Mitole, and since then hasn’t done a whole lot to suggest he’s up to this class yet (or ever will be). Sidelined for most of 2020, his one score this term came against allowance foes. Settled for minor awards facing some of these this year, and last couple of runs suggest he’s more of a Grade 3 type.

5. THREE TECHINQUE (15-1) – Like Strike Power, his relative class is a concern, though he’s arguably less exposed sprinting at graded level than that rival. Connections see fit to add blinkers today, and the colt has come back with a strong half-mile breeze over the Oklahoma training track. Could see a swifter pace up front than he saw in the John A. Nerud (G2), which would be beneficial. An alert, clean start will be key for a horse who’s run well here before.

6. WHITMORE (4-1) – The grand, old man of the field keeps chugging along and giving a good account of himself. Perhaps a tad unlucky to have come out on the wrong side of a couple photos this year to C Z Rocket and Flagstaff, but that hasn’t been all that unusual over his distinguished career. Won the Forego a couple years back and was second best to the extremely talented Volatile in this race last summer, so hard to envision him turning in a bad run this time provided the track stays dry (which it is forecast to be). Logical threat.

7. MILES AHEAD (12-1) – Former starter allowance type prevailed against a softer group in the Smile Sprint (G3) last out, so this represents a significant step up in class. Also worth noting this marks his first start ever outside South Florida, so hard to know how he’ll react being outside his comfort zone for the first time. On paper, he needs a career best and for several others to regress quite a bit.

8. MONTAUK TRAFFIC (15-1) – A deep-closing, feast-or-famine type, he’ll need a very strong pace and a lot of improvement to run all of these down. A minor stakes winner at three, he snuck in and out with a win against N3L claiming foes earlier this season before returning to higher levels, in which he’s acquitted himself well. However, this is obviously a much better group he’s facing here, and the gap between him and Mischevious Alex has undoubtedly grown since the 2020 Gotham (G3).

9. SPECIAL RESERVE (9-2) – The wild card in the field has improved leaps and bounds since the claim for $40,000 by Mike Maker in February. After holding second in the Commonwealth (G3), won by subsequent Churchill Downs (G1) winner and True North (G2) runner-up Flagstaff, this gelding has been more at home over six panels with solid victories in the Maryland Sprint (G3) and Iowa Sprint. Faces tougher foes here, but his recent figures are competitive, and he’ll have the potential luxury of breaking outside the other speed. Intriguing top-three player.