The final leg of this year’s Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, takes place this Saturday, June 5th at 6:49 pm ET and features several Kentucky Derby contenders along with Preakness Stakes’ victor Rombauer.
The 1.5-mile race consists of eight talented horses with five of them having a realistic chance of winning the 153rd edition of the G1 $1.5 million event at Belmont Park and three others being considered relative longshots.
The current bet365 odds for the race as of June 3, looked like this: Essential Quality 2/1; Rombauer 7/2; Hot Rod Charlie 4/1; Rock Your World 6/1; Known Agenda 13/2; Bourbonic 16/1; Overtook 25/1 and France Go De Ina 33/1.
The favorite, Essential Quality captured last year’s Grade 1 Breeders Futurity as well as the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and took home an Eclipse Award for Brad Cox as champion trainer. Essential Quality kicked off his career by going five for five including winning the Grade 3 Southwest in February and the Grade 2 Blue Grass in April to begin his second campaign. The Tapit colt also placed fourth in this year’s Kentucky Derby, which was the only race he has entered and failed to win this year, but finished just a length behind winner Medina Spirit. Essential Quality will start from post 2 and will be ridden by Luis Saez, whose best finish in a Triple Crown event was as Preakness runner-up with Bravazo in 2018.
Rombauer won the Preakness by 3.5 lengths on May 15 at Pimlico and is hoping to become the first horse to win the Belmont-Preakness double since 2005 when Afleet Alex achieved it. But let’s not forget that American Pharoah and Justify won all three legs of the Triple Crown in 2015 and 2018 respectively. Rombauer also took the El Camino Real Derby in February and has impressive wins on synthetic, turf and dirt surfaces. Jockey Flavien Prat rode Rombauer in the Preakness victory but he’ll be riding Hot Rod Charlie this weekend. Therefore John Velazquez, a two-time Belmont Stakes-winner will ride Rombauer from post 3.
Hot Rod Charlie placed third in this year’s Kentucky Derby after securing a spot in the race by winning the 1 3/16th mile G2 Louisiana Derby in March. Trainer Doug O’Neill feels the son of Oxbow will be fresh after sitting out the Preakness. However, the horse’s longest run so far has been the 1 1/4 mile Run for the Roses. Hot Rod Charlie finished second to Essential Quality in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November and has improved or matches performance in each of his eight starts. Jockey Flavien Prat rode the horse at the Kentucky Derby and won the Preakness with Rombauer but will be back aboard Hot Rod Charlie from post 4 this weekend. The last jockey to capture two legs a Triple Crown while riding different horses was Calvin Borel back in 2009 by taking the Kentucky Derby with Mine That Bird and the Preakness with Rachel Alexandra.
Rock Your World posted a Grade 1 win by just over four lengths in April at the Santa Anita Derby in his main track debut to go three for three overall to begin his career. However, he finished a disappointing 17th at the Kentucky Derby. Rock Your World, trained by John Sadler, won his turf debut at Santa Anita on New Year’s Day and then won the Pasadena in February at the same course. Sadler then ran the horse on the dirt. Joel Rosario will be the jockey at post 7. He’s a two-time Belmont Stakes winner with Sir Winston in 2019 and aboard Tonalist in 2015.
Known Agenda placed ninth in the recent Kentucky Derby but won the 1 1/8th mile Grade 1 Florida Derby in March before that. Known Agenda is aiming to become the seventh horse to run to victory at both the Belmont Stakes and Florida Derby. The horse, who is trained by Todd Pletcher is the son of Hall of Famer Curlin and will be ridden by jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. From post 6. Ortiz Jr won the 2016 Belmont Stakes aboard Creator.
Bourbonic, the son of Bernardini and also trained by Todd Pletcher, placed 13th in the recent Kentucky Derby. However, he won the Grade 2 Wood Memorial in April with odds of 72/1. He’s looking to become the first dual winner of the Belmont Stakes and Wood Memorial since 2003 when Empire Maker pulled it off. Jockey Kendrick Carmouche, who rode Bourbonic at the 1 1/8th mile Wood Memorial and Kentucky Derby will be back aboard the horse on Saturday at post 1.
Overtook was also sired by Hall of Famer Curlin and is trained by Todd Pletcher. He’s looking for his first stakes triumph win after placing second behind Risk Taking in the Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct Racetrack in February. Overtook also finished third at the Grade 3 Peter Pan on May 8th at 1 1/8th mile and this will be his first Grade 1 race. Although Overtook didn’t run in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness this year it may not matter since seven of the last 20 Belmont Stakes champions didn’t enter those other Triple Crown races either. The horse will be ridden by Manny Franco from post 8. Franco won the Belmont Stakes last year aboard Tiz the Law and is aiming to become the first jockey to win two straight Belmont stakes since Laffit Pincay, Jr who won three in a row from 1982 to 1983.
France Go de Ina is hoping to win a $1 million bonus which is up for grabs for the connections of Japanese-based horses which win the Belmont Stakes. The horse is won twice at Hanshin Racecourse in November and December and is trained by Hideyuki Mori. He then placed sixth at the Group 2 UAE Derby and finished seventh in the recent Preakness in his first North American race. France Go De Ina will start at post 5 with Ricardo, Santana, Jr as the jockey.
There isn’t an obvious winner for the Belmont Stakes or just a few legitimate contenders as 10 of the last 20 winners have won after starting the race at odds of 10/1 or higher. None of the horses have run 1.5 miles before.