Turf Writers Ehalt and Pedulla Pick the Belmont Stakes Superfecta

Champion Essential Quality, shown training at Churchill Downs in April, is the 2-1 morning-line favorite for the Belmont Stakes on June 5. (Coady Photography)

Bob Ehalt and Tom Pedulla became fast friends when they met on their first day at Fordham Preparatory School in the Bronx, N.Y., in 1970. Bob soon introduced Tom to the joys of Thoroughbred racing.

They have endured some rough moments at the track, with Tom taking exception when Bob repeatedly smacks him on the back with a program as one of their horses launches an all-out drive. Much to Tom’s chagrin and the amusement of onlookers, Bob has been known to call for security as he proceeds to cash a $27 triple.

They have owned a number of horses together and were part of the group that owned 1998 Whitney Stakes runner-up Tale of the Cat. They are often seen carrying on as if they never left their teenage years.

Here is their take on the 153rd Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets:

weekend Television schedule

Friday, June 4: 12:30 p.m.-5 p.m. ET and 6 p.m.-7 p.m. on FS2; 5 p.m.-6 p.m. on NBCSN; post time varies on TVG

Saturday, June 5: 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.-8:15 p.m. on FS2; 3 p.m.-5 p.m. on NBCSN; 5 p.m.-7 p.m. on NBC; post time varies on TVG

Sunday, June 6: 12:30 p.m.-6 p.m. on FS2; post time varies on TVG

PEDULLA: Bob, I am looking for horses that have shown consistency, have the ability to secure good early position and possess the pedigree to go the mile and a half. For those reasons, Essential Quality stands out. He shows up every time. Do not let that fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, his only defeat in six starts, fool you. He ran his race. He simply lost too much ground to get the job done. There is every reason to believe Luis Saez will work out a better trip this time and that this gray son of Tapit will keep on ticking. A bullet five-furlong work at Churchill Downs on May 29 attests to his readiness.

EHALT: Thomas, I keep going back to your Kentucky Derby pick, Known Agenda. I thought that drawing the rail would come back to haunt him, and I was right. Yeah, it was the only thing I was right about on Derby Day. But right is right – right? Anyway, I liked the way Known Agenda rallied after being shuffled back to 17th at the start and with five weeks of rest – a winning formula for trainer Todd Pletcher - I believe we’ll see the same Known Agenda who won the Florida Derby, only this time he’ll win New York’s biggest race. Right?

PEDULLA: Well, I picked Known Agenda in the Derby, but I have a legitimate excuse for that ninth-place flop. Forced to break from the dreaded rail, he simply did not have the early foot to overcome that disadvantage and join the first flight. He breaks from post six in an eight-horse field this time, so there is much less pressure at the start with a very reasonable pace anticipated. This Curlin colt improved his position in the Derby despite his unfortunate beginning. He is a major player here.

EHALT: I think we’re playing a game of musical horses. You picked Known Agenda in the Derby and I had Essential Quality. Now you have Essential Quality in the Belmont Stakes and I have Known Agenda. I am a little confused, which happens quite often. I expect a big race from Essential Quality and was a little troubled by his race in the Kentucky Derby. He did not have a good trip, but it wasn’t an awful trip and he should finished better than fourth. I still have faith in him and I am sure we can both agree on playing a exacta box with him and Known Agenda as  a good wagering compromise.

PEDULLA: Bob, you know I have been on the Hot Rod Charlie bandwagon before it got crowded. Cool horse, cool story with five former Brown University football players as part of the ownership group. “Chuck,” as they like to call him, is wonderfully versatile and as game as they come. I expect him to be on or close to the lead – and then it’s hold-your-breath time.

EHALT: I’m sure we can both agree that Rombauer was much the best in the Preakness Stakes, and while there are things to like about him here, in the end I can only include him at the bottom of the trifecta. He was in the right place at the right time three weeks ago, but here, he’s the one on short rest rather than the ones at Pimlico who were exiting the Derby. I believe he’ll handle the distance so that encourages me to use him in the exotics, but I can’t see him pulling off back-to-back classic wins.

PEDULLA: Time for the unexpected. I must harken back to Lani, a Japan-based horse that you will recall I liked a bit going into the 2016 Belmont. Sure enough, he snagged third and would have enriched a triple we did not have (sorry to reopen old wounds). As you know from your coverage in Japan, horses there are trained in a very different manner from their American counterparts. They typically lack great acceleration, but they are superbly conditioned. That stamina will allow France Go de Ina to snag fourth while the trailers battle exhaustion.

EHALT: Boy, you know how to hurt a guy. For once I mess up a trifecta. Well, maybe twice and possibly three times and … forget it. I can see where you’re heading with that pick and I was thinking about using Bourbonic in that role, but in the end, I believe Hot Rod Charlie is too talented to leave out of the superfecta. Until next time, at the Breeders’ Cup!

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