- The Belmont Stakes will take place on Saturday, June 5 at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.
- Essential Quality is a 2-1 morning line favorite to win the third leg of the Triple Crown.
- One of his biggest challenges will come from Preakness Stakes winner Rombauer.
Earlier this week, I did a quick rundown of the post positions, entries and morning line odds for Saturday’s Grade 1 $1.5 million USD Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. In this article, I’ll come up with an actual betting strategy for the race including the horse I think will win along with a couple of exotics.
Before we get to that, there’s an injury issue you need to be aware of. Irad Ortiz, Jr. was transported from Belmont Park via ambulance after a spill in the fifth race on Thursday’s card. No official word on his condition but based on comments from NYRA analyst Richard Migliore it sounds like he could be in much worse shape:
On the America’s Day At The Races broadcast, Migliore said that after the race, both Jose Ortiz and Junior Alvarado “ran back up above the eighth pole to check on his condition and when (Jose) came back he said was he was moving everything, he’s talking, did have some cuts and contusions because he was clipped by one of the trailing horses.… his brother seemed relieved that he was talking and moving everything. It’s always a huge concern when a rider goes down, particularly when they are in the path of oncoming horses.”
Ortiz is scheduled to ride the #6 horse in the Belmont Stakes, the Todd Pletcher trained Known Agenda. He’s also slated to ride in nine races on Friday and all 13 races on the Saturday card. Keep an eye on his status but with 8 graded stakes events on Saturday’s Belmont schedule including 7 Grade 1 that’s a tough payday for a jockey to miss out on. Word is that Ortiz is ‘awake and alert, moving all extremities’ which is good news but still doesn’t put him in the clear for his upcoming mounts.
Essential Quality is the 2-1 favorite in the eight horse field and I’ve made the tough decision to take a pass Brad Cox trained entry. The price just isn’t right in what should be a wide open race with several other legitimate contenders. His biggest problem in the Kentucky Derby was the troubled start and traffic caused by the 20 horse field. He won’t have much traffic on Saturday and that should help Luis Saez get a better start. The Belmont distance should also work in his favor–no reason to think he can’t go a mile and a half and the distance gives Saez a chance to recover from any miscue at the start and formulate a strategy. Nothing but respect for essential quality and his connections but just see better value elsewhere. He should take money on raceday and could go off at an even more disadvantageous price.
Wasn’t impressed with Known Agenda during my first look at the field and the status of jockey Ortiz makes him even less attractive. No interest in Bourbonic, France Go de Ina and Overtook–all three horses look overmatched in this field. Rombauer has been pretty consistent throughout his 7 race career and that dependable form got him the Preakness win. Nothing wrong with Hot Rod Charlie but the ‘word on the street’ is that he’ll need to improve from his Kentucky Derby effort. He had a very problematic trip at Churchill Downs but scrapped his way to a third place finish–a finish that will likely improve to second after the expected disqualification of Bob Baffert’s Medina Spirit.
The entry that I keep coming back to–and one that I’ve heard repeatedly mentioned by very sharp horse players–is Santa Anita Derby winner Rock Your World. Got off to a horrible start in the Kentucky Derby–he broke late and then got into a bumping exchange with Essential Quality. After that he couldn’t get to the front due to the traffic and that’s bad news for a horse that has to set the pace to run his best. He spent much of the race midpack and finally faded to 17th.
Rock Your World started his career on turf before switching to dirt for the Santa Anita Derby. Jockey Joel Rosario should have every chance to give him a clean trip at Belmont and as the only real speed in the race he could spend the entire 1.5 miles at the front of the field. At the end of this article I’ve posted his Santa Anita Derby win where he just ran away from 8 challengers including (for now) Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit.
My thinking is that Rosario sets fast but realistic fractions daring his ‘off the pace’ challengers to run him down. Without any other pacesetters in the field Rosario can manage the race and make sure his horse has enough in the tank for the stretch run. The Kentucky Derby field and expected pace was very much not to his advantage but the dynamics of the Belmont Stakes look ‘made to order’ for the John Sadler trained entry. I’ll bet him to win and use him in a couple of exotics:
TO WIN: ROCK YOUR WORLD
EXACTA: ROCK YOUR WORLD/KNOWN AGENDA/ROMBAUER (BOX)
TRIFECTA: ROCK YOUR WORLD/KNOWN AGENDA/ROMBAUER/HOT ROD CHARLIE (BOX)
I’ll try to get some plays posted for the Belmont undercard. Good luck!