By US Racing Team
The Todd Pletcher home-track advantage handicapping angle (is that a thing?) has apparently impressed our usracing.com panel in making their selections for Saturday’s $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1).
Pletcher, a three-time Belmont winner and newly elected to racing’s Hall of Fame, trains three of the eight horses entered in the 1 ½-mile final leg of the Triple Crown.
The most accomplished of the trio is Known Agenda, winner of the Florida Derby (G1) who finished ninth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) after breaking from the unfavorable No. 1 post.
With a five-week break, Pletcher hopes this son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin is ready for another winning race. Our contributors think so, too.
Four of our 10 contributors are picking Known Agenda to win, with another going with Bourbonic, who won the Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct at 72-1 odds before running 13th in the Derby.
Rock Your World, winner of the Santa Anita Derby (G1) but 17th in the Derby due to an uncharacteristic slow start and a bumpy trip early on, is the choice of two contributors, while beaten Derby favorite Essential Quality is the winning selection by two other contributors. Preakness (G1) winner Rombauer? He’s the pick from one of our contributors.
Here are the picks and comments from our crew:
Mike Farrell/ 1. Rock Your World 2. Essential Quality 3 Hot Rod Charlie
“Admittedly, I’m chasing the money I lost in the Derby when I make Rock Your World my Belmont pick. The top colt still in action on the West Coast, Rock Your World got crunched at the break in Louisville. This is his chance to make amends and mend the hole in my wallet.”
Ray Wallin/ 1. Essential Quality 2. Known Agenda 3. Hot Rod Charlie
“Essential Quality is a Tapit colt and can easily get the distance. He had troubled trips in both his last two starts in the Kentucky Derby and Blue Grass and will make a big move forward here coming from off the pace.”
John Furgele/ 1. Bourbonic 2. Hot Rod Charlie 3. Essential Quality
“The Todd Pletcher pupil struggled in the Derby but has had three good works over Big Sandy and could be ready for a signature performance.”
Ed McNamara/ 1. Known Agenda 2. Essential Quality 3. Rombauer
“Known Agenda sits fourth behind a solid pace set by Rock Your World and Hot Rod Charlie before the brilliant Irad Ortiz, Jr. moves him entering the stretch. Known Agenda steadily edges clear to give Pletcher his fourth Belmont trophy.”
Julie Basso/ 1. Rock Your World 2. Hot Rod Charlie 3. Rombauer
“Rock Your World will do just that in the Belmont.”
Lynne Snierson/ 1. Known Agenda 2. Essential Quality 3. Hot Rod Charlie
“Newly minted Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher knows how to bring a horse up to the Belmont in prime condition to be able to stay the trip, and that is no easy trick. Skipping the Preakness after Known Agenda was compromised in the Kentucky Derby with that rail draw proved wise, so that horse will be fresh and ready to take advantage of what looks to be a hot pace set by the speed horses. Add in home field advantage with not having to ship plus getting to train in familiar surroundings and run right out of his own stall, and he stands out as the one who’ll be wearing winner’s circle carnations.”
Richard Rosenblatt/ 1. Essential Quality 2. Rock Your World 3. Overtook
“He’s ready to rebound in a big way. Plenty of room to run, a smaller field than the Derby, and this colt will prove he’s a 3-year-old champion in-the-making after being voted 2-year-old champion.”
Jenny Kellner/ 1. Known Agenda 2. Essential Quality 3. Rombauer
“Just have to go with Pletcher and what looks like his best runner in Known Agenda. He did not have smooth sailing in the Derby but seems ready for a big race.”
Margaret Ransom/ 1. Rombauer 2. Essential Quality 3. Known Agenda
“Preakness winner hasn’t missed a beat and is even improving.”
Noel Michaels/ 1. Known Agenda 2. Hot Rod Charlie 3. Rock Your World
“Known Agenda is the fifth betting choice on the morning line. Bargain alert! He gets off the rail in this one and should like the longer distance.”