It is still the Belmont Stakes and the Test of Champions

June 3, 2021

Geo Sette breaks down the Belmont Stakes for Past the Wire with his precise predicted order of finish for each horse.

Not many break down a race like Geo Sette does. Sure he has swept cards for us here at Past the Wire, but we all know how humbling this game can be. That is why we appreciate Geo so much, his heart and soul goes into his handicapping and analysis, and he does his homework! Geo comes prepared.

Geo “attack mode”

This 3rd Jewel of the Triple Crown has always been one of my favorite races. Although I won’t be attending this year, I have attended this “Test Of Champions” 13 times over the years as it was an easy ride taking the Belt Parkway East towards Long Island.  I last attended back in 2012 watching Union Rags running down the field in dramatic fashion with a fabulous drive on the rail through the stretch.  

In 2007 I was in attendance to watch the filly Rags to Riches become the first filly in over 100 years to win this race. It was another fabulous moment.  Thrilling for sure, but in my opinion, no Belmont Stakes was as thrilling as the 1998 event which had Real Quiet running for the first Triple Crown in 20 years. He made a big move taking the lead as they turned for home and drew clear by 4+ lengths as they approached the 1/8th pole, only to have Victory Gallop gobble up mounds of ground in relentless fashion to get up winning by a nose. One of the closest finishes you will ever see in a Triple Crown race. A photo that was worth 5 Million dollars and prevented Real Quiet adding his name in the record book. 

Inaugurated back in 1867, this “Run for The Carnations” will always be intriguing because of its grueling mile and ½ distance. The racing Gods always make sure the horse that wins it earns his way to the record books.  In last year’s event in the middle of the pandemic, the race was won by Tiz The Law who was a much deserving winner, but it was at a reduced 9-furlong distance and run much later in the year in September.  I am so delighted that we are back to normal. 

We have a field of 8 starters , none of which raced in all 3 Triple Crown Races. It’s not a fabulous field, but it’s solid for sure and we’ll never know when a special moment will surface. As the world is opening up, let’s hope this 2021 version of the Belmont Stakes will be one we’ll always remember. 

The following is my precise order of finish in how I see the race shaping up. As always, I’m hoping my analysis will provide a guide for you to make an informed decision for yourself at the windows.  

It should be a great day at Belmont Park, the undercard sports many high-quality stakes races leading up to our main event.   Are you ready? Let’s Go! 

1st # 2 Essential Quality   

After much time spent greatly dissecting the pros and cons of my top three contenders in this race,  I came to the conclusion that this guy is the best three year old in training so he is my top choice and he should be well respected and backed at the windows.  Luis Saez is back up for Brad Cox. As we know, Essential Quality was our two-year-old champion then showed continuous improvement winning each of his first two starts as a three-year-old. He came into the Kentucky Derby as the lukewarm favorite and although running a disappointing 4th, he ran a rather brave race.  Breaking from the 14 hole he was bumped at the start and was forced to race wide throughout the race. Although beaten to the wire falling a length short, he still showed a driving ambition, he simply just wasn’t good enough that day to overcome his obstacles. He’s now been off for 5 weeks having skipped the Preakness. He comes into this race fresh and fit by evidence of his morning drills at Churchill Downs for this race, topped off by his .59 and 2 breeze. He’s 5 for 6 in his brief career with his close 4th Kentucky Derby being his only defeat.  His bloodlines say he’ll make the distance and his overall speed ratings are as good as his contending opponents in this race. To be honest with you, I originally had him placed 2nd but after further review I feel he’ll be assured a perfect trip and ultimately he will show his class as they come down the lane in the stretch.  He wins this with his best race. A must use in your exactas and triple wagers as well. 

2nd #4 Hot Rod Charlie

This colt has proven himself to be a gutty hard hitter and just like my top choice, he comes into this race fresh and fit after running a quality 3rd in his Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs.  These guys ran 1-2 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland last November. On film it was a very impressive race by him, but he just came up a little short. It was the beginning of a very consistent run for him, showing improvement with each race.  Flavian Prat who won the Preakness Stakes aboard Rombauer will now be in the saddle for Doug O’Neill. This son of Oxbow has wonderful tactical speed. He’s versatile with his approach and he too should be sitting a nice trip being forwardly placed in the early stages of this marathon voyage.  His works are steady, but not very imposing and he is traveling from the West Coast.  Look for him to break alertly and to likely sit 3rd behind Rock This World and Essential Quality and then after moderate fractions for the first mile, he should make his presence felt as the turn for home. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s good enough to take the lead during his stretch run, I’m just feeling that Essential Quality may be sitting on a big race which may be better than all this guy can give. He’s an obvious contender and should be respected and used on most of your exotic tickets. 

3rd #6 Known Agenda

This colt also ran in the Kentucky Derby and then skipped the Preakness to be fresh for this race.  He’s one of 3 horses entered coming out of the Todd Pletcher barn, and he seems to be Todd’s best contender.  Irad Ortiz is back in the saddle after the colt’s disappointing run in the Kentucky Derby where he never really got going as he tried to get past his poor post from the # 1 hole. This son of Curlin certainly has the pedigree that suggests he’ll relish the added distance and he’s one of 4 starters in the race that has worked over this Belmont deep soil and has actually raced over the track as well.  His last work for this race was an impressive bullet breezing 5 panels in 1:01 flat.   He’s likely to face a moderate pace, and he should be able to get into solid position under the skilled handling of Ortiz, then offer his very best as they are coming down the stretch. He’s a contender to win this if my top two falter and not take to the track both making their first start at Belmont Park.  I’m using him in some of my exactas and a must use with your deeper gimmicks like your Triples and Superfectas. 

#3 Rombauer 

This little guy, the son of Twirling Candy, was quite impressive running his career best race in winning the Preakness Stakes.  I have great respect for Michael McCarthy and was happy to see him win his very first entry in a Triple Crown race.  Hall of Famer Johnny Velazquez will now be his 7th new rider in as many races, something you never really see at this level.  The barn sent him over to Belmont as soon as they could and he worked over the track in a rather ordinary .50 4-panel breeze.  This colt has improved his gate speed in recent races which suggests that he’ll be in pretty good mid-pack position again, which of course is better than he needed to close from the clouds.  I am confident he’ll come closing, improving his position but feel that he may have run his best race already at the Preakness, so I am giving him my respectful 4th placing. 

# 8 Overtook  

This guy is the new shooter in the race having not run in either the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness Stakes. He’s making only his 2nd start as a three-year-old. His first was an even 3rd place finish in a very small Peter Pan field ( only 5 horses ran).  This is the 2nd of 3 horses entered by Todd Pletcher and will now be wearing blinkers, the same equipment change he used to great success with Known Agenda.  This colt is the son of Curlin and has the bloodlines to run all day, so I’m not worried about him making the distance. He was a mad crazy expensive yearling being purchased for $1,000,000. He’s hit the board in 4 of his 5 career races but won just once when breaking his maiden. He comes into this race with a couple of smart breezes and I’m expecting him to show a pretty decent measure of improvement; however, based on his overall Beyer speed ratings, he would need to improve dramatically to “overtake” the choices I have listed above him. He may be good enough to perhaps pass some tiring horses in the stretch, so giving him added consideration at a generous price to potentially hit the board for your deeper gimmicks, I would definitely use him in your superfectas.  Manny Franco gets the mount so you’ll be assured a good ride from a jockey that is very familiar with Big Sandy.   

# 7 Rock Your World  

This colt is back after his rough start in the Kentucky Derby, he was never able to establish his typically early foot. He’s blessed with high speed and with a good break he should be either on the lead for the first half mile or very close to it. He comes into this race fresh with a series of handily works on the West Coast at Santa Anita, his last was razor sharp in .58 and 2.  Joel Rosario is back up for John Sandler. High speed can always be dangerous as horses at times get very brave on the lead just as he did in the Santa Anita Derby, but he is facing some very proven talented colts who shouldn’t let him get away, there’s no doubt that the pace will make the race.  He should be contending for the first mile, perhaps the first 9 furlongs, but I am expecting him to tire in the final ¼ mile and likely finish off the board.  There will be some gamblers taking a stand with him to potentially wire the field,  but his price won’t be right in terms of value.  He will need to beat some very seasoned hard hitters in this race and it’s something I do not see happening. 

# 1 Bourbonic   

This colt is a good looking guy, and his effort closing from the clouds to win the Wood Memorial was very impressive, but he was simply very lackluster in the Kentucky Derby without much excuse. Now the Pletcher barn breezes him 3 times for this race and yeah, he’s fresh and pretty fit, but he seems to be outclassed in the numbers department.   He would need to run his career best race and that still wouldn’t be good enough to get passed many of these.  You just can’t kiss all the girls,  and in this case all the boys. He’s likely to make one big run, perhaps he closes to finish 5th but he’s my 7th choice and that means I’m tossing him. 

#5 France Go De Ina  

This colt made his U.S. debut racing in the Preakness Stakes and he ran rather awkwardly. He was rushed up to make an early bid, but then shortly thereafter he fell back. Rombauer my 4th choice beat this guy by 17 lengths, and even though the distance may be to his liking, I simply cannot use him. He should be 50-1 in this field, I’m tossing him.

Ok, there you have it. Overall, the race looks to be pretty form-full, sometimes you just need to accept it and not take any unnecessary punches.  It’s a great full card, be smart and confident with your window action and enjoy the entire day, it’s a fabulous card at Belmont.  Thanks again in advance for your readership and your comments.   Go ahead, make it a day to remember, Let’s Go!  


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Contributing Authors

Geo Sette

Geo serves multiple roles at Past the Wire. He is a columnist, handicapper, and analyst. Geo has been fascinated with the Sport of Kings since...

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@jonathanstettin u should really do a 2 minute Past The Wire recorded segment for @Steve_Byk Monday Morning. Very grounded, excellent stuff

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