A well balanced field enters the gate for the 2021 Belmont Stakes. Pedigree is a major factor of course but so is pace. This race is often won by a horse on our close to the lead and this year the pace looks soft. This figures to be a tightly grouped field down the backstretch. Below is my sheet for the race.
There are 3 pace scenarios I will describe in order of likelihood:
A. Rock Your World gets the early lead and clears the field. Essential Quality & Hot Rod Charlie are the next quickest and will stalk the pace but EQ will be inside HRC. RYW and HRC have the advantage.
B. Saez pushes EQ to hold rail position and RYW clears HRC. The pace will be quicker in this scenario so advantage to EQ and HRC with chance for closers to hit Exacta.
C. RYW stalks in 3rd outside EQ & HRC. Pace is slowest in this scenario with EQ & HRC having advantage.
Personally, I'm predicting Scenario A but there are no guarantees which is what makes pace handicapping difficult. But I do expect the winner of the Belmont to come from this group of horses.
1. Bourbonic - Won very slow Wood when race fell apart late. Was no threat in KY Derby. Pedigree is rock solid and could limp in for a minor piece of the Trifecta/Super. Toss from Win.
2. Essential Quality - Best horse in the race and is a decent bet at 5-2 or better. I don't think he goes below 2-1 because of the buzz on other horses I'm hearing. He's not that much better than HRC on paper from past performance standpoint but he is better on distance pedigree substantially as a son of Tapit. He can lay close to RYW like he did Highly Motivated in the Bluegrass. Working superbly. Saez is a great jockey and he is very likely to be in the Exacta.
3. Rombauer - I bet on and won with this horse in Preakness and have liked him since the El Camino Real. With that said, he did get a perfect set-up in Preakness and only gets 3 weeks rest. He also was eligible for a big step up in 3rd start of year in Preakness (fast race) but now figures to regress slightly. The pace set-up is not ideal. In Bluegrass, he stalked a slow pace and was no match for EQ. Underneath only.
4. Hot Rod Charlie - I've been high on this horse from the get-go but was disappointed he didn't run down Mandaloun in the Derby. His works are good and people are bragging about how great he looks. He is a very hard trying colt who should keep running to the finish and appears logical to hit the Exacta. But is this horse really a 12F runner? His pedigree is much weaker than EQ. Still think he is a win contender with "A" grade on sheet.
5. France Go De Ina - This horse made a bold move with Rosario in the back-stretch of the Preakness but then faded badly. Can't touch this horse off that effort and is an easy Toss.
6. Known Agenda - I thought this horse was over rated going into the Derby but horse clearly improved with blinkers added. The rail draw shouldn't have been such a concern with the new gate but Irad got shuffled back badly and horse had no chance. Superb pedigree for 12 furlongs makes this a legitimate contender to hit Exacta/Trifecta but with running style will be at a disadvantage for the win.
7. Rock Your World - Rosario didn't have his feet in irons at start of Kentucky Derby. Then he bumped hard with Essential Quality and race was over. He beat Medina Spirit when he got the lead in Santa Anita Derby and think Rosario will go for lead here. If he clears EQ he has a huge advantage with EQ stuck down inside of HRC. He raced greenly in stretch and/or was getting a bit leg weary in Santa Anita Derby. Pedigree for 12F is good. Strong contender and working great.
8. Overtook - The 3rd Pletcher horse and least proven against top class competition. $1M colt with superb pedigree gets blinkers which was huge asset to Known Agenda. Velazquez opting for Rombauer is not a good sign. Lost to Nova Rags in Peter Pan which was not a quick race. Toss.
Bottom Line - Think Rock Your World, Hot Rod Charlie or Essential Quality win race and could use Rombauer & Known Agenda underneath. Bourbonic only deep in Super. Toss the rest.
How you bet race depends on the odds. EQ is a good bet at 5-2 and need longer like 7-2 on either RYW or HRC. So watch the tote. Big negative on HRC is pedigree. He could hang late.