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The American Triple Crown concludes Saturday with the 153rd running of the Belmont Stakes from Belmont Park in Elmont, NY. Known as the “Test of the Champion”, the Belmont is contested at the demanding distance of a mile-and-one-half, far and away the longest race of the Triple Crown series. Although there are only eight three-year-olds scheduled to line up on Saturday afternoon, the field is a competitive one that could see any number of results unfold. Below you’ll find the most likely winner of the Belmont Stakes, a horse who may offer some value, and a longshot to consider in exotic wagers.
MOST LIKELY WINNER
On paper, the fourth-place finish from Essential Quality (#2, 2/1 morning line) in this year’s Kentucky Derby may appear underwhelming, but considering the wide trip he endured, the performance was a very credible one. Trainer Brad Cox has long considered this son of Tapit to be a Belmont Stakes type of runner, one who will thrive as the distances get longer. In six career starts, Essential Quality has demonstrated the ability to adapt to any pace scenario thrown at him. If the pace is fast, he is content to sit back and bide his time before making his move for the front. If the pace is on the more moderate side – which is likely to be the case on Saturday – jockey Luis Saez can position the three-year-old colt closer to the lead and equally as effective. While this colt represents the most likely winner of Saturday’s race, it’s not as though he has any real edge when it comes to speed figures. Accordingly, anything near his morning line odds of 2/1 would represent an underlay. Odds of 4/1 (roughly 20% chance of winning) would present fair value, however there is no scenario in which he will approach that price.
After drawing post position #1 for the Kentucky Derby, Known Agenda (#6, 6/1 morning line odds) was certain to face an uphill battle on race day. Unfortunately for he and his connections, the dreaded inside stall in a field of 20 (19 in the case of this year’s Derby) likely prevented the Todd Pletcher trainee from truly strutting his stuff, forcing him to weave through traffic before finishing with late interest. Following the ninth-place finish in the Derby, Pletcher immediately pointed the son of Curlin to the Belmont Stakes, a race the trainer has won on three occasions (2007 with Rags to Riches, 2013 with Palace Malice, 2017 with Tapwrit). With leading rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. aboard, look for Known Agenda to settle midpack before warming up as the field enters the far turn at Belmont Park on Saturday. If the race turns into a stamina test, this colt has as good a chance as any to prevail. Known Agenda has the look of a horse who may take slightly more attention than his morning line odds of 6/1 would suggest, but odds of 4/1 (roughly 20% chance of winning) or better would represent fair value for this runner.
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There appears to be a hard line between the top five contenders and the three longshots. Of the three – Bourbonic (#1, 15/1 morning line odds), France Go de Ina (#5, 30/1 morning line odds), and Overtook (#8, 20/1 morning line odds) – perhaps Overtook is the colt to consider underneath when constructing exotic wagers. Another Todd Pletcher trainee, the son of Curlin will add blinkers following an even third-place finish in last month’s Peter Pan Stakes, the local prep for the Belmont Stakes. He has always given off the impression that additional distance will be kind to him, however he’s considerably slower than the horses he’ll be squaring off against on Saturday.
MATT BERNIER’S 2021 BELMONT STAKES PICKS
1) 6 – Known Agenda, 6/1 ML
2) 2 – Essential Quality, 2/1 ML
3) 7 – Rock Your World, 9/2 ML
4) 3 – Rombauer, 3/1 ML