The 2021 Belmont Stakes looks most competitive, with five leading contenders in the eight-horse field. Four of those runners have Grade I wins to their credit, and they range in odds from 2-1 to 6-1.
On paper, it appears that one of those leading favorites will win — Essential Quality, Preakness Stakes winner Rombauer, Hot Rod Charlie, Rock Your World or Known Agenda.
But a look at more recent Belmont Stakes history shows that over the past 15 years, there have been 10 horses to win the Belmont Stakes at post-time odds of 6-1 or greater. Eight of those winners had odds of 10-1 or greater.
2021 BELMONT STAKES FIELD AND OPENING ODDS
|1||Bourbonic||15-1||Kendrick Carmouche||Todd Pletcher|
|2||Essential Quality||2-1||Luis Saez||Brad Cox|
|3||Rombauer||3-1||John Velazquez||Mike McCarthy|
|4||Hot Rod Charlie||7-2||Flavien Prat||Doug O'Neill|
|5||France Go de Ina||30-1||Ricardo Santana Jr.||Hideyuki Moriwill|
|6||Known Agenda||6-1||Irad Ortiz Jr.||Todd Pletcher|
|7||Rock Your World||9-2||Joel Rosario||John Sandler|
|8||Overtook||20-1||Manny Franco||Todd Pletcher|
The Belmont Stakes is known as “The Test of the Champion,” and the 1 1/2-mile race requires speed and energy, but in the end, horses with stamina and well-rationed energy distribution often decide the race.
BELMONT STAKES FAVORITES AND MAIN CONTENDERS
According to Horse Racing Nation and its Super Screener methodology and horse evaluations, Essential Quality is the most reliable horse in the field and top board hitter. He’s working exceptionally well off his fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby and has won five of six starts, with four graded stakes victories, including two Grade 1 races.
Rombauer has continued to improve since late last year. He finished third behind Essential Quality in the Grade II Blue Grass Stakes but showed stronger late-pace figures after a slower early pace to the race. Rombauer skipped the Kentucky Derby and then won the Preakness Stakes at 11-1 odds with Flavien Prat riding. But Prat goes back to Hot Rod Charlie for the Belmont, and three-time Belmont Stakes winner John Velazquez rides Rombauer.
Hot Rod Charlie has finished in the money in four straight graded stakes starts over four different racetracks, with a win in the Grade II Louisiana Derby. He finished a solid third in the Kentucky Derby and has been one of the most consistent colts on the Derby trail. Hot Rod Charlie possesses that ideal balanced energy distribution profile, but the question of stamina is a big one to answer.
Rock Your World was so impressive in winning the Grade I Santa Anita Derby over now-disqualified Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit. He got squeezed out of the gate in the Kentucky Derby, and the race was essentially over for him before it began. Rock Your World should go to the front in the Belmont Stakes and be pressed by Hot Rod Charlie and longshot France Go de Ina in what is projected to be a modest pace. Rock Your World is well-bred to get this added distance, and strong stretch rider Joel Rosario could claim his third Belmont Stakes victory.
Known Agenda won the Florida Derby with a strong turn of foot but got shuffled back from the rail in the Kentucky Derby. He moved well coming home to finish ninth, and he offers potentially the best value of the leading contenders. He’ll likely close a fair amount less than his opening odds of 6-1, and the son of champion Curlin is New York-based trainer Todd Pletcher’s top chance to win his fourth Belmont Stakes. Bred to go the added ground, Known Agenda will be ridden by leading Belmont jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. again as he tries for his third Belmont Stakes victory.
If you’re looking for a bigger long shot to add to your entertainment interest, then Todd Pletcher-trained Overlook is the play. He’s a grinder and well-bred top to bottom. He’ll be closing from the back and has been maturing and improving.
HOW TO BET THE BELMONT STAKES AND TRIPLE CROWN RACES
The 153rd running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park is Saturday, June 5. Post time is 6:49 p.m. EST, and national TV coverage of the races starts at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN, with NBC taking over Belmont Stakes coverage from 5:00-7:15 p.m.