All I Needed to Know About the Belmont I Learned in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness
Roger LeBlanc (for LazyBettorUSA.com)
Flash back to the 2021 Kentucky Derby:
- Essential Quality was widely touted as the best 3-year-old and deserving favorite. In my Kentucky Derby Preview (as well as in my video “4 Reasons to Bet Against Essential Quality in the Kentucky Derby”), I said he was too slow in early portions of the race to close the gap late on quality speedsters. I also noted his running style might be better suited for victory in the Belmont.
- I rated Hot Rod Charlie and Rock Your World as the best of the early speedsters and most likely winners.
- With Rock Your World getting slammed out of the gate and Hot Rod Charlie jammed up entering the first turn, the drug-enhanced Medina Spirit grabbed the lead on a somewhat soft pace. Mandaloun parked in behind him and found the easy pace to his liking, holding on for second place.
- Belmont Stakes entrants Known Agenda and Bourbonic never got into contention in the Kentucky Derby.
Bettors viewing the results from this perspective would’ve doubted that the top two finishers in the Kentucky Derby were the best two three-year-olds on the track that day. They’d believe the future figures to be brighter for Essential Quality, Hot Rod Charlie and Rock Your World. They’d also rate Known Agenda and Bourbonic as unlikely to defeat top Grade 1 horses in the Belmont or beyond.
Flash back to the 2021 Preakness:
- Medina Spirit, without extra medication, couldn’t handle real pace pressure and lost lots of ground in the stretch (just as he had in the Santa Anita Derby against Rock Your World).
- Midnight Bourbon, another uncompetitive Derby contestant, finished in second place.
- Rombauer, who skipped the Kentucky Derby, picked off Medina Spirit and Midnight Bourbon, both of whom might not be true Grade 1 competitors.
Viewed from this angle, the Belmont holds only three top-tier Grade 1 horses:
- Essential Quality
- Hot Rod Charlie
- Rock Your World
Four factors lead me to again prefer Hot Rod Charlie:
- He outfinished Essential Quality in the Kentucky Derby as I expected him to.
- His odds will be much more generous in the Belmont than those offered for Essential Quality.
- He has finished ahead of Essential Quality, Known Agenda, Rock Your World, Rombauer and Bourbonic in graded stakes races. Except for the two longest shots in the race (who haven’t faced Hot Rod Charlie), every Belmont entrant has finished behind Hot Rod Charlie at some point.
- His widely traveled jockey Flavien Prat owns more experience in stakes marathons (races of a mile and a half or longer) than any other jockey in the race.
Yes, the grueling marathon distance might change everything. The Belmont Stakes has murdered my neat calculations frequently in years past. But Hot Rod Charlie at 7-2 or higher screams “value” to me. And the lessons learned in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness seem to underscore where the real quality lies in this year’s Belmont Stakes.