The last race of this year’s Triple Crown returns to its usual spot, the first Saturday in June. The Belmont might not have a Triple Crown champion, but other storying lines will unfold.
This year’s Belmont lacks some of the luster of the past. Many a horse has won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness only to be undone by having to race 1 ½ miles in five weeks. On occasion, the Belmont has different Derby and Preakness champs go head-to-head to see if one horse could grab two legs of the Triple Crown. Neither scenario will happen this year and that’s just fine.
Let’s see the horse racing odds.
Rombauer is the Preakness champion and he’ll try to become the first horse who did not run in the Kentucky Derby to win the Preakness and Belmont Stakes since Pillory 99 years ago.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who will enter the horse racing Hall of Fame this year, has taken three different horses to the winner’s circle for the Belmont (Rags to Riches (2007), Palace Malice (2013), and Tapwrit (2017). Pletcher has three entrants in this race, #1 Bourbonic, #6 Known Agenda and #8 Overtook.
Essential Quality is the early line favorite after finishing fourth at the Derby. He was bumped early and slid wide and had to take both turns on the outside and had nothing left for a stretch run. If he can win the Belmont, EQ could regain the belief among experts he’s the best three-year-old.
Because we only have eight horses and France Go de Ina and Overtook do not look like – Win – candidates and at best at the bottom of verticals on superfecta tickets, that leaves five horses when you eliminate Essential Quality. Here are three we like for Triple Crown betting that offer value for our horse racing picks.
Could Win or Finish in the Money
#4 Hot Rod Charlie (7-2 odds)
Hot Rod Charley has hit the board in four straight graded stakes races against some of the best horses in his age group. After finishing second to Essential Quality at the Breeders Cup Juvenile at 94-1 odds, this stalker who likes to press the pace and won the Louisiana Derby, finished third at Santa Anita to Medina Spirit and third at the Derby. He’ll have a different jockey, with Preakness winning rider Flavien Prat who rode Rombauer. Prat is known for patience and figures to have Hot Rod Charley at or near the lead at the first turn. Look to get him in a comfortable rhythm that is not taxing to save energy for a stretch run. His Beyer Speed Figure is nearly identical in his last three races to Essential Quality. Win candidate.
#6 Known Agenda (6-1)
Known Agenda was thought of as a “wise guy” pick for the Derby until the post positions were announced and he was on the rail. As expected, that didn’t work out and he was a pedestrian ninth five weeks ago. However, this Pletcher horse is back at his home track and before the Churchill Downs outing had three 1sts and a 3rd in five starts. The last two victories came with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons and he will be aboard yet again. Being a Curlin colt, Known Agenda is built for distance and the longer race should not affect him. This horse is not known for making a quick jump when called upon, rather, more a locomotive style, that once he goes, KA is churning. A threat to win or top 3 finish.
#7 Rock Your World (9-2)
Rock Your World was doomed from the start on Derby Day, slow out the gate and bumped around before the first turn, which seemed to lessen his appetite to run hard. With far fewer horses, on the outside and a longways around, this horse has a chance to run its race. That would mean this pacesetter goes with Hot Rod Charlie and they settle at a moderate pace. If jockey Joel Rosario can grab an inside position and keep his horse comfortable, let’s not forget Rock Your World won the Santa Anita Derby over Medina Spirit in April, one of three first-place finishes in 2021. No question a wild card, but winning is not out of the question and a trifecta choice.