John Velazquez riding Medina Spirit, right, leads Florent Geroux on Mandaloun, Flavien Prat riding Hot Rod Charlie and Luis Saez on Essential Quality to win the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
- Saturday’s Belmont Stakes is the final leg of this year’s Triple Crown
- Many top Kentucky Derby contenders plus Preakness Stakes winner Rombauer highlight the field
- Where can we find strong betting value at The Test of the Champion?
To novice horse racing fans the Belmont Stakes is only a big deal when the same horse who won the Kentucky Derby also finished first at the Preakness Stakes, and a piece of history is on the line at Belmont Park.
There have been just 13 Triple Crown winners and indeed the accomplishment is awesome. That said, the ultimate test in horse racing is a big deal every year. A-mile-and-a-half is a challenge that only the strongest will attempt. Running a marathon if you participated in the Derby five weeks prior, and the Preakness three weeks earlier, is an unbelievably difficult task.
Five out of eight horses entered in this year’s Belmont have a very good argument why they are worthy of a wager. The three longshots can make a case too. Let’s look at the Belmont Stakes odds and discuss the candidates with an eye towards value.
2021 Belmont Stakes Odds
|Hot Rod Charlie||+400|
|Rock Your World||+550|
|France Go De Ina||+2500|
Odds as of June 1 at William Hill
Don’t be lulled into the thinking that this year’s Belmont winner is obvious, or that there are only a few legitimate contenders. While the favorites are well backed for good reason, over the last 20 years more horses have won at double-digit odds (10 winners at +1000 or better) than super low prices (six winners at +200 or under).
As is always the case at the Belmont Stakes none of these horses have ever run this far. Sure, look at breeding, or consider past races, but we really don’t know who wants the long stretch drive they’ll face on Saturday.
The Belmont is the feature on a spectacular card that features seven Grade 1 races including three Breeders Cup Win and You’re In events. NBC has television coverage starting at 5:00 pm EST. Post time for the main event it slated for 6:49 pm.
2021 Breeders’ Cup Classic Odds Tracker
The Favorites: Essential Quality, Rombauer, Hot Rod Charlie
Essential Quality was the Kentucky Derby favorite after a five-for-five start to his his racing career. He made a convincing move late to finish fourth.
The fourth out of 19 effort was especially solid because Essential Quality had a bit of a rough trip. He bumped hard against Rock Your World right out of the gate, and then went wide on both turns.
Rombauer was the upset winner of the Preakness Stakes. It was a pretty big surprise because he had never won a dirt race, and wasn’t particularly close in his Preakness warm-up, the Blue Grass Stakes.
Rombauer was incredibly impressive in Baltimore. Despite fair fractions, he rolled by two well regarded horses in the stretch. That said, his two meetings with Essential Quality have decisively gone to his rival.
Here is an interesting Belmont wrinkle for you. Jockey Flavien Prat had to make a difficult decision. Ride Hot Rod Charlie, who finished third in Kentucky, or Rombauer? He choose the Louisiana Derby winner, Hot Rod Charlie.
With Prat giving up the mount on Rombauer, that gave John Velazquez that opportunity to hop aboard the Preakness winner. Johnny V has won the Kentucky Derby four times, and each of the last two years. He has two Belmont Stakes victories.
Contenders: Rock Your World, Known Agenda
Rock Your World and Known Agenda were basically dead on arrival at the Kentucky Derby.
After winning his first two races on turf, Rock Your World romped on the lead in April’s Santa Anita Derby.
It is understandable at three-for-three, and having just beaten Medina Spirit at the Santa Anita Derby why Rock Your World was well supported in Louisville. When he broke awkwardly, and was bumped repeatedly in the opening seconds of the Derby, he could not get the early lead that he prefers and effectively his race was over.
Maybe Known Agenda’s Derby was done when the post position draw took place. The rail horse last won the Run for the Roses in 1986. With limited early speed Known Agenda predictably got buried on the extreme inside behind a wall of horses. His previous two races, his first two with blinkers, were both terrific.
Though they have very different styles, Rock Your World wants the lead early while Known Agenda should be coming hard late, if you liked either in Louisville they deserve another opportunity on Saturday. The price might be decent too, particularly since their excuses for the Kentucky Derby are legitimate.
Longshots: Bourbonic, Overtook
Like Known Agenda, Bourbonic and Overtook are trained by Todd Pletcher. He has won the Belmont Stakes three times.
Bourbonic was 13th at the Kentucky Derby after winning the Wood Memorial.
Overtook has won just one time in five tries but finished second in February’s Withers Stakes, and was third in May’s Peter Pan Stakes.
Belmont Stakes Best Bet
There are five horses who have a very good reason to believe they can win. Essential Quality is a reasonable favorite, but why take a short price when there are other strong options?
Hot Rod Charlie has done everything he has been asked to do. Five straight races he has given strong efforts. That said, he has only won two of them. His price is reasonable and he will be in the mix over the final quarter mile.
Known Agenda is the best value. If you ignore the Kentucky Derby, where he got buried on the rail, his prior two races were very sharp. His come-from-behind style should fit Belmont Park well. His father, Curlin, won the Belmont, and Pletcher is terrific with horses who in New York.
Dave Friedman has covered professional and college sports for two decades. From ESPN to the Associated Press, Regional Sports Networks, Metro Networks, and many local outlets, he has written about and broadcast major and minor events throughout the country.