News and STORIES

Derby Favorite, Essential Quality Favored in the Belmont Stakes

Author: Chris Adams
Published: Thursday June 03, 2021

The Belmont Stakes will not crown a Triple Crown winner in 2021, but Saturday, June 5, promises a top notch race card for fans.


History of the Belmont

The Belmont Stakes is the longest of the three Triple Crown races and was named for August Belmont who put up the money for the first running in 1867.


The race has been run at three different tracks. Prior to the opening of Belmont Park it was run at the now defunct Jerome Park and Morris Park Racecourse. Belmont opened in 1905 and has hosted the race since then.


The race has been the site of 13 successful Triple Crown bids starting with Sir Barton in 1919 and concluding with Justify in 2018.


Significant Stories Heading Into The Belmont

  • Brad Cox will bring Essential Quality back to the races after failing as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby. The horse’s last work was a bullet at Churchill Downs.
  • Rombauer looks to become the first horse since 2014 to win exactly 2 of the 3 Triple Crown races after winning the Preakness.
  • A number of notable entries won’t be running in the Belmont. Keepmeinmind appears to be pointed toward the Belmont Derby on the undercard. International sensation Rebel’s Romance will skip the weekend all together with an infection.
  • Bob Baffert has been suspended from NYRA tracks pending the decision from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission regarding Medina Spirit’s confirmed drug positive in the Derby. While he never stated his runners would be going here, the supertrainer will not have any presence in the Belmont Stakes.


The Morning Line Favorite

  • #2 Essential Quality: The horse entered as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby. He finished fourth in the race, but will likely be moved up to third when Medina Spirit is officially disqualified. The horse is working well and trainer Brad Cox is on the record as saying that he identified the horse as his Belmont horse following the horse’s first workout.

The Contenders

  • #1 Bourbonic can claim the home field advantage as he did much of his prep work at Aqueduct on the NYRA circuit over the winter. The horse is a plodder which could present challenges with little indication of a blazing pace.
  • #3 Rombauer won the Preakness convincingly which shocked the racing world as he can be seen by the generous win payout. The question for racing fans will be to determine if the last performance was an indication of forward development or a circumstantial victory that will lead to a bounce in this race.
  • #4 Hot Rod Charlie finished just ahead of Essential Quality in the Kentucky Derby. By most accounts the race had a much better trip than the favorite that day. He will be well served by his likely pressing trip once again in this spot.
  • #5 France Go De Ina returns from the Preakness where he showed an early move followed by a moonwalk to the back of the field. Players looking to wager on this 30-1 shot would have to excuse the effort as a conditioning race to sustain that early move in this spot.
  • #6 Known Agenda is listed at 6-1 on the morning line but goes out for Pletcher with Irad aboard. People are likely to write off his Derby as a result of the #1 post position. He did his Derby prep work in Florida where the form has stacked up poorly against other regions during the prep season.
  • #7 Rock Your World stuffed a lot of players in a locker when he bumped the break and couldn’t get the lead in the Derby. Everyone assumes he is a need-the-lead type. If true he could end up on the front, but that analysis is based on a single dirt start in California which is hard to fully trust.
  • #8 Overtook is another Todd Pletcher runner who did all of his prep work in New York. The horse is 0-2 at Belmont including a 3rd place finish in the Grade 3 Peter Pan at the beginning of May. It feels like the waters may be a bit deep here.


Daily Horse Picks Insights

Conventional wisdom in U.S. dirt racing is that horses on the lead have the greatest chance to win. Although only a 12 race sample size, the Daily Horse Picks Bias Analysis suggests this is no ordinary race.


  • Almost 60% of the winners in the 12 races a mile and a quarter or longer at Belmont have been identified with a pace rating of “Closer” or “Deep Closer”.
  • Even when including 9 furlong races the distribution of pace designations is much more even than at many venues around the country.
  • Adding to the chaos of handicapping Belmont is the fact that none of the horses with a speed designation of “Fastest” have won at the longer distances.