2021 Belmont Stakes Cheatsheet
By TwinSpires Editorial Team, Sponsored Content
By J. Keeler Johnson (TwinSpires.com)
1. Bourbonic (15-1) – Bourbonic deserves some credit for his flashy stretch-running victory in the Wood Memorial (G2), where he charged from dead last to win by a head. But the Wood Memorial wasn’t the strongest race on paper, and Bourbonic subsequently failed to challenge when finishing 13th in the Kentucky Derby (G1). Generally speaking, deep closers don’t have the best luck in the Belmont (G1), since the 1 1/2-mile classic typically unfolds at a modest pace favorable to horses with tactical speed. As a result, the third jewel of the Triple Crown looks like a tricky spot for Bourbonic.
2. Essential Quality (2-1) – The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) dates back to 1984, but a Juvenile winner has never gone on to win the Belmont. This foreboding stat suggests a simple truth: horses who mature early enough to win the Juvenile usually fall behind their late-maturing rivals by the time the Belmont rolls around. Last year’s Juvenile winner Essential Quality stands a better chance than most to complete the elusive double, considering he was only beaten a length in the Kentucky Derby after racing wide throughout. But the son of Tapit had every chance to win and flattened out when it mattered, so it’s fair to wonder if stretching out over 1 1/2 miles will stretch the limits of his stamina.
3. Rombauer (3-1) – The rapidly improving Preakness (G1) winner displayed a strong burst of acceleration at Pimlico, finishing fast around the far turn and down the homestretch to trounce his rivals by 3 1/2 lengths. This effort produced a 103 Brisnet Speed rating (the highest figure in the Belmont field), and it followed a deceptively good third-place finish in the Blue Grass (G2), where Rombauer was compromised by a slow early/fast late race shape. Two-time Belmont-winning jockey John Velazquez takes over the mount, setting the stage for Rombauer to deliver another resounding performance.
4. Hot Rod Charlie (7-2) – A son of 2013 Preakness winner and Belmont runner-up Oxbow, Hot Rod Charlie has been a force to reckon with since adding blinkers last fall. Runner-up behind Essential Quality in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), Hot Rod Charlie has made steady progress this season, following up a front-running victory in the Louisiana Derby (G2) with a pace-tracking third-place effort in the Kentucky Derby. Hot Rod Charlie was only beaten a length under the Twin Spires and possesses a relentless, grinding style well-suited to success in the Belmont. He figures to receive a perfect trip stalking Rock Your World, and take note, jockey Flavien Prat has elected to ride Hot Rod Charlie rather than Preakness hero Rombauer. Hot Rod Charlie’s third attempt to win a Grade 1 might just be the charm.
5. France Go de Ina (30-1) – Granted, France Go de Ina faded to finish seventh by a wide margin in the Preakness. But the son of Will Take Charge had barely acclimated to the U.S. after shipping in from Japan, and he also got caught up in chasing a quick pace. France Go de Ina is bred to thrive over 1 1/2 miles and may enjoy the expected slower tempo of the Belmont Stakes, opening the door for an improved performance at impressive odds.
6. Known Agenda (6-1) – Trainer Todd Pletcher has won the Belmont Stakes on three occasions, including twice with horses who finished off the board in the Kentucky Derby. Could Known Agenda become Pletcher’s latest success story? The stoutly bred son of Curlin endured a tricky trip in the Kentucky Derby, getting shuffled back from the rail draw before rallying to finish ninth. He had previously unleashed a decisive burst of acceleration from mid-pack to dominate the Florida Derby (G1) by 2 3/4 lengths, and a return to this level of form would make Known Agenda dangerous at Belmont Park.
7. Rock Your World (9-2) – After cruising to victory in his first three starts, including the Santa Anita Derby (G1), Rock Your World encountered a challenging trip in the Kentucky Derby. The pure speedster suffered a poor start and soon found himself racing wide in mid-pack, after which he retreated to finish 17th. Rock Your World figures to receive a much more favorable journey in the Belmont, considering he’s the only true front-runner in the field. An easy lead should be in the offing under two-time Belmont-winning jockey Joel Rosario.
8. Overtook (20-1) – If there’s a longshot with a chance to crash the Belmont trifecta, it’s probably Overtook, since no horse in the field is better bred to handle the 1 1/2-mile distance. Overtook is a son of 2007 Belmont runner-up Curlin (the sire of 2013 Belmont winner Palace Malice) out of Got Lucky, a Grade 1-winning daughter of 1992 Belmont winner and renowned stamina influence A.P. Indy. Overtook recently returned from a three-month break to finish third in the Peter Pan (G3) over this track, and trainer Todd Pletcher will equip the colt with blinkers for the Belmont, opening the door for Overtook to show more tactical speed and grind his way to a strong finish at double-digit odds.