2021 Belmont Derby Cheatsheet
By TwinSpires Editorial Team, Sponsored Content

By Vance Hanson (TwinSpires.com)

1. PALAZZI (15-1) has been an admirably consistent check-getter in his turf career thus far, the lone hiccup being a fifth in the American Turf (G2), where he seemingly conceded too much ground and position to make more of an impact in the latter stages. While this smaller field, and the step up to 1 1/4 miles, likely helps his cause, the underlying feeling is that he’s a cut below having settled for minor awards in softer spots.

2. BOLSHOI BALLET (7-5) seeks redemption after faltering as one of the heavier favorites in recent Epsom Derby (G1) history. Although an underlay in that spot, he was well positioned to strike until just past Tattenham Corner. It was later discovered that he had suffered a nasty leg gash after being struck by a rival, so the severity of his defeat (17 lengths) was likely inflated under the circumstances. While there’s a chance he could be a touch overrated, still, this left-handed 1 1/4 miles should be right up his alley, given the ease at which he captured his two Derby preps at Leopardstown. Strictly the one to beat.

3. SAFE CONDUCT (15-1) has solid turf form, but much to answer for from a class perspective. Clearly not up to snuff when the Pennine Ridge (G3) was washed off the grass and onto a sloppy main track, so that run is forgivable. Otherwise, he has no stakes form to speak of. His two upset wins on the surface came at the expense of Modern Science and Public Sector, both of whom have placed in minor stakes but certainly aren’t up to this level. Figures to be a pace factor for a while, but anything beyond that would be a bit of a surprise.

4. SAINTHOOD (10-1) didn’t get the initial turf exposure trainer Todd Pletcher intended for him to have when the Pennine Ridge was taken off, but the colt came through with a one-length win in a nice rebound effort from the Kentucky Derby (G1), in which he was a relatively inexperienced longshot. Hard to fault the rest of his form, and the ability he displayed on Tapeta at Turfway, and his turf-leaning pedigree, has kept Pletcher optimistic that he’ll handle this surface just fine. Has shown tenacity digging in on a couple occasions, an asset in his favor. An intriguing candidate if anywhere near his morning line price.

5. DU JOUR (9-2) is hard to knock on form. A rare, budding turf star for Baffert when taking down a competitive renewal of the American Turf on Derby Day, he’s since been transferred to Mott out of necessity. That shouldn’t make a difference, and also good to see Prat retaining the mount as he’s guided the Temple City colt to all of his wins. Has so far shown the ability to win from just about anywhere, and that flexibility can always come in handy. One thing he hasn’t yet dealt with is ground that’s less than firm, and late week rain figures to have an impact on conditions. Likeable regardless.

6. HARD LOVE (5-2), like others, enters with turf form that’s hard to fault. Aside from proving second best in the Central Park S. in his juvenile finale, he’s done everything right. While the competition in the April 11 Woodhaven S. at Aqueduct wasn’t particularly strong, his defeat of a solid group of older allowance types last time is a relative feather in his cap, and the minor step up in distance should pose no issue. Figures to race in close attendance throughout for a barn that is striking at an incredible 35% this year and won this event several years ago with Catholic Boy.

7. TOKYO GOLD (15-1) exits a convincing win in the Italian Derby (G2), which these days is a prize more lucrative than a demanding test of class. His relative class among European runners was exposed prior to that run in Rome, with his earliest victories occurring at the provincial tracks in France and Group 3 runs in that country resulting in fourth- and fifth-place finishes. Obviously not as formidable-looking as Bolshoi Ballet among the Euros, and has the look of a horse who would probably enjoy ground firmer than he might get here.

8. CELLIST (12-1) earned a tactical victory against a couple of his longer-priced rivals here in the Audubon S. at Churchill Downs last time, and best chance for an upset might be for Leparoux to replicate that run by slowing the pace down. By a grass champion and out of a full sister to Optimizer, he has the pedigree to get even better, and distance figures no problem. Like some others, though, he faces a stern class test.

9. HIDDEN ENEMY (30-1), a regally-bred son of Galileo and the Grade 1-winning, multi-surface wiz Acoma, enters with the potential to be loads better than he’s shown, but with baggage similar to that of Palazzi, to whom he’s been out-finished in two of three prior meetings. Neither looks quite classy, or quick enough, on paper. Undone chasing a slow pace last out in the Audubon, he might not get a proper set-up here either with conditions potentially less than firm.