Belmont Stakes news roundup and workouts report: May 31, 2021

May 31st, 2021

The 153rd running of the $1.5 million Belmont (G1) at Belmont Park is rapidly approaching. The historic final jewel of the Triple Crown is the oldest of the three U.S. classics, predating even in the Kentucky Derby (G1).

In 2020, the Belmont was held over 1 1/8 miles on a date two weeks later than usual, due to the effects of COVID-19. But the race is back to its traditional date and 1 1/2-mile distance for the 2021 renewal, setting the stage for an exciting and competitive contest.

Let’s get up to speed on all the latest Belmont news, notes, and workout reports:

Post position draw slated for Tuesday

Where can I watch the post position draw?

The post position draw for the Belmont will take place on Tuesday at 11 a.m. (ET). Nine horses are expected to enter the 1 1/2-mile classic, led by champion two-year-old male Essential Quality and Preakness (G1) winner Rombauer.

The complete list of horses under consideration for the Belmont includes the following names:

  • Bourbonic
  • Essential Quality
  • France Go de Ina
  • Hot Rod Charlie
  • Known Agenda
  • Overtook
  • Rebel’s Romance
  • Rock Your World
  • Rombauer

California contenders arrive in New York

Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Hot Rod Charlie and Santa Anita Derby (G1) hero Rock Your World, who finished third and 17th in the Kentucky Derby, arrived at Belmont Park on Saturday evening.

Doug O’Neill, the trainer of Hot Rod Charlie, reported his Belmont contender bounced out of the Derby in fine shape and remains in strong form. “I think he's put on weight,” O’Neill told the New York Racing Association. “He looks phenomenal. He's training well and doing well.”

On the work tab

All quotes courtesy of the New York Racing Association unless otherwise noted.

Bourbonic: Took the stage on Friday at Belmont Park, working a half-mile in company with his Todd Pletcher-trained stablemate Overtook. The duo reached the finish line in :48.49 off an opening quarter in :23.60, then continued on through five furlongs in 1:00.80.

“(Bourbonic)’s a horse that at times will work like he’s capable of stepping up,” Pletcher said of the Kentucky Derby 13th-place finisher. “The one thing he does is gallop out strongly. He’s always given indications that the distance would suit him.”

Essential Quality: The Kentucky Derby fourth-place finisher and possible Belmont favorite completed his serious preparations with a fast five-furlong workout on Saturday at Churchill Downs. Working in company with his graded stakes-winning stablemate Bonny South, Essential Quality posted quick fractions of :12.20, :23.80, and :46.60 before reaching the finish line in a bullet :59.40. He then galloped out six furlongs in 1:12.80.

“Overall, it was a very good move,” trainer Brad Cox told Churchill Downs. “Both horses are definitely ready to run. I got back to the barn and Essential’s rider, who has been on him since last fall, said how easily he got around there. It didn’t take anything out of him. It’s a real positive sign when you have a work like that leading into the Belmont. He’s still a pretty lightly raced horse but has faced adversity in his previous races, which is good going into a Triple Crown race. I think the distance will suit him very well being a son of Tapit.”

Hot Rod Charlie: Clocked five furlongs in 1:00.40 on Friday at Santa Anita, traveling in company and leaving his rival behind on the gallop-out.

“I think early on in his career he was more comfortable as a pack horse and running with the group. He'd never get tired, but he just kept hanging with the other horses,” O’Neill told the New York Racing Association. “Recently, he's very comfortable separating himself from other horses and I think that's a great trait that he's added and it's necessary to win big races. That's what I saw when he pulled away from his workmate.”

Known Agenda: On Friday at Belmont, Todd Pletcher’s Florida Derby (G1) winner breezed five furlongs in company with 2020 Belmont runner-up Dr Post, starting off with fractions of :24.60 and :36 before edging his rival to the finish line in 1:01.12. Along the way, Known Agenda and Dr Post unexpectedly ran up behind two other morning workers.

“We got caught in behind a couple of horses and they were kind of off the rail and spread out a bit which made it a little tricky,” Pletcher said. “In the end, (jockey) Irad (Ortiz Jr.) thought it was good. He said that Known Agenda had more of a target, jumped into the bridle and was on the muscle. He finished up and galloped out well.”

Overtook: Traveled a half-mile in company with stablemate Bourbonic, running the opening quarter in :23.60 and the full distance in :48.49 before galloping out five furlongs in 1:00.80.

Trainer Todd Pletcher indicated Overtook has been making progress since a third-place finish in Belmont’s Peter Pan (G3).

“Overtook is historically not an overly ambitious work horse, but I thought he went well this morning,” Pletcher said. “I was looking for him and Bourbonic to just show they have some decent energy. I think his two breezes since the Peter Pan have been better than what we were seeing beforehand, so I’m happy with that.”

Rebel’s Romance: The UAE Derby (G2) winner breezed a stiff six furlongs in 1:14.29 on Wednesday at Belmont. Traveling in company with stablemate Desert Peace, the Charlie Appleby trainee posted splits of :25, :36.80, and 1:00.58 before edging his rival to the finish line by 0.32.

The breeze was the third from Rebel’s Romance in the span of eight days, following a half-mile in :50.54 on May 19 and five furlongs in 1:01.05 on May 22.

“The plan was to make him work a little bit harder and push to the line to really get that strong piece of work,” said Sophie Chretien, traveling assistant for Appleby. “I’m very happy with the horse. He’s progressing very well. It’s 10 days before the race, so this was the big work for him, and he’s going forward. They are moving well on the surface and they’ve been eating great.”

Rock Your World: Turned in a blazing five-furlong workout on Friday at Santa Anita, getting the distance in a bullet :58.40 while working solo. “It was a good work,” trainer John Sadler told Santa Anita.

Rock Your World never factored in the Kentucky Derby, finishing 17th after a troubled start. The speedy frontrunner will hope for a clean break in New York. “We hope to right the ship in the Belmont,” said Sadler.

Rombauer: Preakness (G1) winner worked in company with That Quality through a straightforward half-mile, getting the distance in :50.01 under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.

“I was very happy with the work,” said trainer Michael McCarthy. “I just wanted him to go ahead and get familiar with Johnny. He went in :13.2, :25.4 and :50 and 2. He came through the lane nicely and galloped out from the wire to the mile and three-eighths pole in :12 and 2, so I'm happy with everything I saw.

“It seemed like he was well in hand at all times,” McCarthy continued. “Johnny asked him to gallop out a little bit going underneath the wire and the horse seemed to respond nicely. I'm very happy with what I saw today.”

Stay tuned to TwinSpires Edge for more Belmont news and notes as the final leg of the Triple Crown draws closer.