2021 Belmont Stakes Quick Sheet: Get to Know the Belmont Horses

Rombauer, Essential Quality, and Hot Rod Charlie (left to right) headline a competitive 153rd edition of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 5. (Eclipse Sportswire)

The unofficial conclusion of the first half of the horse racing calendar arrives June 5 with the 153rd running of the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets at Belmont Park. While there won’t be a Triple Crown on the line this year, the 2021 Belmont Stakes still shapes up to be an exciting and competitive race, as Preakness Stakes winner Rombauer squares off against Hot Rod Charlie and Essential Quality, the respective third- and fourth-place finishers in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve.

Eight horses are entered in the 1 ½-mile “Test of the Champion,” which has been won by an honor roll of legends that arguably eclipses even the list of Kentucky Derby winners, from Colin and Man o’ War through Citation, Native Dancer, Damascus, Secretariat, Affirmed, A.P. Indy, and up to American Pharoah

The $1.5 million, Grade 1 Belmont Stakes will be televised live on NBC. Coverage on June 5 begins at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and then shifts to NBC at 5 p.m. ET. NBCSN will also preview the Belmont Stakes on a Friday, June 4 broadcast, beginning at 5 p.m. ET.

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Read on for more information about all eight Belmont Stakes contenders.

Chelsea Durand/NYRA Photo

1. Bourbonic (15-1)

Jockey: Kendrick Carmouche

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owner: Calumet Farm

Career record: 7 starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $465,880

Earnings per start: $66,554

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 100

Pedigree: Bernardini – Dancing Afleet, by Afleet Alex

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Bourbonic will be one of the longest shots in the Belmont field come post time and will be hard pressed to recapture the form that enabled him to post a 72.25-1 upset in the Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by Resorts World Casino. On April 3 at Aqueduct, he lit up the tote board with a last-to-first rally in the Wood and earned a 100 Equibase Speed Figure that was far and away the best of his seven-race career. That earned him a berth in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, where he settled in 18th of 19 through the backstretch and passed tired horses late to finish 13th with an 89 Equibase Speed Figure. He was defeated by 16 lengths in the Kentucky Derby and was far back of horses such as Essential Quality (third), Hot Rod Charlie (fourth) and even Known Agenda (10th). It’s hard to envision a scenario where Bourbonic improves enough – and that trio plus Preakness Stakes winner Rombauer regress enough – to make an impression in the Belmont Stakes. Coming out of the inside post, he’ll most likely sit near the back of the field again in the Belmont and grind his way through the stretch, and filling out the bottom rung of the superfecta should be considered a success for this deep closer. Belmont history: Todd Pletcher, who will be inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame this summer, has won the Belmont three times from 30 starters: Hall of Fame filly Rags to Riches (2007), Palace Malice (2013), and Tapwrit (2017). He’s also finished second six times and third three times. Calumet Farm won the Belmont twice in the 1940s with Triple Crown heroes Whirlaway (1941) and Citation (1948). The legendary farm started 11 horses in the Triple Crown when owned by the Wright family, with five runners-up including Alydar in 1978 to his rival Affirmed. Brad Kelley has been racing under the Calumet name since 2012 and has sent five horses to the Belmont Stakes. His best finish came with his first starter in 2013 as Preakness Stakes winner Oxbow finished second to Palace Malice. Jockey Kendrick Carmouche has enjoyed success riding in New York in recent years and will be making his first start in the Belmont.

Eclipse Sportswire

2. Essential Quality (2-1)

Jockey: Luis Saez

Trainer: Brad Cox

Owner: Godolphin

Career record: 6 starts – 5 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $2,415,144

Earnings per start: $402,524

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 109

Pedigree: Tapit – Delightful Quality, by Elusive Quality

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Essential Quality enters the Belmont off of the first loss of his career, a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. The 2.90-1 post-time favorite in the Derby, Essential Quality traveled wide on both turns at Churchill Downs but otherwise had a clean trip while stalking in fourth behind pacesetter Medina Spirit, and he appeared ready to run by that leader as well as Mandaloun and Hot Rod Charlie at the top of the stretch. Instead, that quartet finished in the exact same order at the finish line, and Essential Quality was defeated by a length. This son of leading sire Tapit is still arguably the leader of the 3-year-old division and his solid workouts at Churchill Downs since the Derby bode well for a bounce-back performance in the Belmont. His pedigree is suited for stretching out to a mile and a half as Tapit has already sired three Belmont winners, and he should not be too far off what could be a modest pace either. Essential Quality is a leading win candidate in Belmont 153 and is a must-use in all exotic tickets. If the track comes up wet, boost his chances even higher. Belmont history: Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum has sent six prior horses to the Belmont Stakes under his own name and the Godolphin banner, finishing second in 2015 with Frosted. Jockey Luis Saez will be making his fifth Belmont start, and reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox will saddle his first Belmont starter.

Eclipse Sportswire

3. Rombauer (3-1)

Jockey: John Velazaquez

Trainer: Michael McCarthy

Owners: John and Diane Fradkin

Career record: 7 starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $890,500

Earnings per start: $127,214

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 103

Pedigree: Twirling Candy – Cashmere, by Cowboy Cal

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Rombauer spent last fall and this winter and spring as a second-tier contender in the Triple Crown races, with a win in the El Camino Real Derby back in February as his strongest showing, but he rewarded his connections’ faith in his talent with a breakthrough performance in the Preakness Stakes on May 15 and now enters the Belmont as a leading win candidate. One start before the Preakness, trainer Michael McCarthy and jockey Florent Geroux adjusted his running style from closing from well off the pace to stalking in midpack, and Rombauer finished third in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in April. He skipped the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve and then took a big leap in the Preakness, employing the same stalking style under Flavien Prat during the early and middle stages and then shooting past Midnight Bourbon and Medina Spirit in midstretch en route to a 3 ½-length victory. Prat will be riding his Kentucky Derby mount Hot Rod Charlie in the Belmont, but Rombauer picks up an elite replacement as Hall of Famer John Velazquez – a two-time Belmont winner – gets aboard for the first time. Look for Velazquez to have Rombauer positioned no worse than fifth through the backstretch and in touch with projected pacesetter Rock Your World before he urges his mount into contention on the far turn. Rombauer faces a tough task in the Belmont wheeling back three weeks after such an impressive win and facing talented horses like Essential Quality, Hot Rod Charlie, and Known Agenda who are coming off an extra two weeks of rest. He’s now established among the leaders in the 3-year-old division, however, and should be moving up to challenge for the lead when the field turns for home with a good shot at another classic win. Belmont history: Owners John and Diane Fradkin and trainer McCarthy took home the Preakness trophy in their very first appearance in a Triple Crown race, and will look to make it 2-for-2 in their Belmont debut. John Velazquez’s pair of Belmont wins came aboard Hall of Fame filly Rags to Riches in 2007 and Union Rags in 2013. He’s also finished second three times from 24 total starters.

Eclipse Sportswire

4. Hot Rod Charlie (7-2)

Jockey: Flavien Prat

Trainer: Doug O’Neill

Owners: Roadrunner Racing, Boat Racing, Strauss Bros. Racing, and Gainesway Thoroughbreds

Career record: 8 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $1,305,700

Earnings per start: $163,213

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 109

Pedigree: Oxbow – Indian Miss, by Indian Charlie

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Hot Rod Charlie profiles as a good middle-odds win candidate in the Belmont Stakes based on his class and consistency. He has hit the board in four straight graded stakes races against some of the best horses in his age group since breaking his maiden in his fourth career start last fall, starting with a runner-up effort at 94.40-1 odds to Essential Quality in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. This year, he’s finished third by a neck to Medina Spirit in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park, won the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds in wire-to-wire fashion, and then finished third by a length in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. In the Derby, he enjoyed a perfect stalking trip in third behind Medina Spirit and Mandaloun under Flavien Prat and competed hard all the way to the finish line while unable to pass the top pair. Flavien Prat rode Rombauer to a victory in the Preakness Stakes but gets back on Hot Rod Charlie Saturday, and his patient riding style should serve him well in his first start in the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes. Prat figures to have Hot Rod Charlie up close to the pace once again and positioned to make a winning move coming out of Belmont Park’s far turn. This colt’s pedigree for the distance is a bit lacking compared with some of the other Belmont starters, but overall he’s got a chance at the upset come Saturday and an even better chance to hit the board. Belmont history: California-based trainer Doug O’Neill will be making his third Belmont start and lost his best previous chance at winning the race when 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another was scratched the day before the Belmont with an injury. This is the first Belmont Stakes appearance for Hot Rod Charlie’s ownership group.

Eclipse Sportswire

5. France Go de Ina (30-1)

Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.

Trainer: Hideyuki Mori

Owner: Yuji Inaida

Career record: 5 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $145,291

Earnings per start: $29,058

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 78

Pedigree: Will Take Charge – Dreamy Blues, by Curlin

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: France Go de Ina makes his second North American start in the Belmont following a dull effort in the Preakness Stakes. He boldly moved up in the backstretch to stalk in third behind pacesetter Medina Spirit and pressing Midnight Bourbon, but then backed out of contention on the far turn and faded to seventh, defeated 17 ½ lengths by Rombauer. Prior to the Preakness, he had won twice in Japan in late 2020 while being forwardly placed and then finished sixth in his first start as a 3-year-old in the UAE Derby Sponsored by Emirates NBD at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, where he broke slowly and made up some ground late but was no threat to winner Rebel’s Romance. He faces Rombauer again in the Belmont, plus champion Essential Quality and top-class Hot Rod Charlie, and while this U.S.-bred son of Travers Stakes winner Will Take Charge is bred for a mile and a half, he appears to be a one-paced grinder who doesn’t match up at all with the leading Belmont contenders in terms of speed figures. As such, he’s a deserved longshot in Belmont 153. Belmont history: This is the first Belmont Stakes for owner Yuji Inaida and trainer Hideyuki Mori. Ricardo Santana Jr. will be making his third Belmont appearance. He finished fourth last year aboard Pneumatic.

Eclipse Sportswire

6. Known Agenda (6-1)

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owner: St. Elias Stable

Career record: 7 starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $541,700

Earnings per start: $77,386

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 112

Pedigree: Curlin – Byrama, by Byron

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Known Agenda comes into the Belmont seeking redemption after a nonthreatening ninth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. He shipped to Churchill Downs off of an eye-catching win in the Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa where he earned a 112 Equibase Speed Figure, and built up some buzz as a “wise guy” Derby pick during his initial workouts there. That backside chatter dwindled somewhat after Known Agenda drew the dreaded rail post position for the Derby, however, and as it turned out the inside draw affected his performance in the run for the roses, as he was positioned near the back of the pack along the inside for the first mile of the race and didn’t shift out until he entered the homestretch, where he picked off a few tired horses late. He shipped back to Todd Pletcher’s Belmont base to train after the Derby, and should be prepared for a comeback effort in a race that has 10 fewer starters and gives him extra quarter of a mile to work with. Known Agenda has a running style that is geared toward making one sweeping move, and he should be able to work out a good trip in midpack before angling out in the far turn and commencing a rally. Add in a pedigree that gives him a solid stamina foundation for the “Test of the Champion,” and Known Agenda is a legitimate upset candidate against a quality field. Belmont history: Todd Pletcher, bound for the Racing Hall of Fame later this summer, has won the Belmont three times (Rags to Riches, 2007; Palace Malice, 2013; Tapwit, 2017) from 30 total starters, with six seconds and three thirds. Vincent Viola’s St. Elias Stable finished second in last year’s Belmont with Dr Post and co-owned 2018 fourth-place finisher Vino Rosso with Repole Stable (both trained by Pletcher). Irad Ortiz Jr. was initially named to ride Known Agenda but will miss approximately two weeks after a spill Thursday at Belmont, according to his agent Steve Rushing. Viola and Pletcher tabbed Irad's brother Jose to replace him on the morning of the Belmont Stakes. Jose Ortiz won the 2017 Belmont for Pletcher aboard Tapwrit and also finished second in 2018 and 2019 with Gronkowski and Tacitus, respectively, from six total mounts.

BENOIT photo

7. Rock Your World (9-2)

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Trainer: John Sadler

Owners: Hronis Racing and Talla Racing

Career record: 4 starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $546,600

Earnings per start: $136,650

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 103

Pedigree: Candy Ride – Charm the Maker, by Empire Maker

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: After a Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve appearance that was doomed from the start, Rock Your World enters the Belmont Stakes as a contender who, on paper, shapes up as the lone speed in the race. He profiled as a pacesetter in the Kentucky Derby as well coming out of the Runhappy Santa Anita Derby on April 3, where he defeated Medina Spirit by 4 ¼ lengths going gate-to-wire. In the Derby, however, Rock Your World was a step slow out of the starting gate and was jostled between horses, losing any chance to gain a prominent early spot. He traveled five wide around both turns well back of Medina Spirit’s pace and faded late to finish 17th of 19 in a toss-out performance. Joel Rosario retains the mount on Rock Your World and the two-time Belmont-winning jockey will hope for a more responsive horse and better racing luck at the break this time. Look for Rock Your World to be on the lead as the field heads into the first of Belmont Park’s two sweeping turns, and for Rosario to keep the pace as moderate as possible. This colt has a pedigree suitable for a mile and a half, but he’s certainly no lock to win on the front end in such a competitive race where two other contenders – Essential Quality and Hot Rod Charlie – like to run close to the lead and also have class and stamina. Still, expect a much better effort from Rock Your World in the Belmont, and he should carry enticing post-time odds as a win candidate. Belmont history: Rock Your World is Hronis Racing and Talla Racing’s first Belmont starter, and John Sadler’s second. Rosario won the 2013 Belmont on Tonalist and the 2019 Belmont with Sir Winston; he’s also finished second once and third three times from nine prior starters.

Adam Coglianese/NYRA

8. Overtook (20-1)

Jockey: Manuel Franco

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owners: Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable, Michael Tabor, Susan Magnier, and Derrick Smith

Career record: 5 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $131,380

Earnings per start: $26,276

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 99

Pedigree: Curlin – Got Lucky, by A.P. Indy

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Overtook enters the Belmont Stakes off of a third-place finish in the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park on May 8, where he was positioned to make a rally at stablemate Promise Keeper and Nova Rags entering the stretch but flattened out. He’s lightly raced and the Peter Pan was only his second start this year following a runner-up finish to Risk Taking in the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct on Feb. 6 (where he also closed from off the pace). This colt has one of the best distance pedigrees in the Belmont Stakes field as a son of 2007 Belmont runner-up Curlin and out of Grade 1 winner Got Lucky, by 1992 Belmont winner A.P. Indy. Overall, though, Overtook is among the lower rung of Belmont Stakes contenders and his appeal as a longshot is mainly based on his solid connections and the assumption that he’s yet to reach his full potential. He’s got a remote chance to spice up the trifecta payout with a late-running third-place finish, but anything more than that would be a surprise. Belmont history: Todd Pletcher has three Belmont wins (Rags to Riches, 2007; Palace Malice, 2013; Tapwrit, 2017), six seconds, and three thirds from 30 prior starters. Members of Overtook’s ownership group have made prior Belmont appearances but not together. Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith owned Hall of Fame filly Rags to Riches and Tabor solely owned 1995 Belmont winner Thunder Gulch, his first big success in North American racing. Susan Magnier owned 2009 Belmont runner-up Dunkirk, Mike Repole campaigned 2011 Belmont runner-up Stay Thirsty, and Vincent Viola’s St. Elias Stable owned Dr Post, who was second to Tiz the Law in last year’s 1 1/8-mile Belmont. Manny Franco piloted Tiz the Law to the winner’s circle last June in his very first Belmont Stakes appearance.

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