Scully: Analyzing new shooters in the Belmont Stakes

May 25th, 2021

Commonly referred to as new shooters, horses making their first start of the Triple Crown in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont S. (G1) have held their own in recent years. Excluding 2020, when the Belmont took place first due to the pandemic, new shooters have won six of the last 13 editions.

Only one of the six, Rags to Riches in 2007 (4-1), left the starting gate at odds of less than 9-1. She’s one of only two fillies to contest the Belmont this century.

New shooters will bypass the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) for various reasons. Some weren’t deemed ready for the demands associated with the Kentucky Derby. Others didn’t have the points to qualify. Horses will be redirected toward the Belmont due to health issues, and it’s an appealing option for late-maturing three-year-olds, as well.

New shooters tend to be overlooked in the wagering.

Sarava, disregarded at 70-1 following a victory in the Sir Barton S. on the Preakness Day undercard, produced the highest winning mutuel ($142.50) in the race’s 153-year history when upsetting the 2002 running. Other recent upsets by new shooters include Da’ Tara (38-1 in 2008), Ruler on Ice (24-1 in 2011), and Sir Winston (10-1 in 2019).

Granted, many new shooters are either exiting a loss and/or facing a massive class hike. But a promising sort like Tonalist, who was forced to miss the Kentucky Derby due to a minor setback early in the season, was dismissed at 9-1 in 2014 after romping by four lengths as the prohibitive favorite in the Peter Pan (G2).

Even new shooter Conquistador Cielo, who had galloped to a 7 1/4-length decision over older horses as the Metropolitan H. (G1) favorite five days previously, left the starting gate at 4-1 in the 1982 Belmont. Supporters received a generous double-digit mutuel after the eventual Horse of the Year thrashed the competition by a 14-length margin in the final jewel of the Triple Crown.

Bettors struggle to get past Kentucky Derby and Preakness form when it comes to betting the Belmont.

Let’s take a look at the possible new shooters for the 2021 Belmont:

Overtook at Aqueduct 2020 (Photo by Coglianese Photos/Aqueduct)


By 2007 Preakness winner Curlin, Overtook needed three starts before breaking his maiden in mid-December. The bay colt jumped straight to stakes competition with a respectable second in the Withers S. (G3) in early February, but he wasn’t seen again for another three months, returning with a decent third in the May 8 Peter Pan (G3).

The Peter Pan lacked pace and Overtook wasn’t ridden all-out. He netted a career-best 95 Brisnet Speed rating, as well as his first triple-digit Late Pace number (105). And given how badly he needed the race, I thought it was an ideal prep for the possible late bloomer. His pedigree and physical makeup suggest longer distances will be to his liking, and Overtook is trained by three-time Belmont winner Todd Pletcher.

Count me as intrigued. He’ll need to keep advancing on the class hike, and may have more appeal as an underneath option in vertical exotics, but Overtook is a new shooter I will use at expected long odds.

Rebel's Romance wins the UAE Derby 2021 (Photo by Coady Photography)

Rebel’s Romance

Owned by Godolphin, who had the Kentucky Derby favorite in Essential Quality, Rebel’s Romance bypassed the Kentucky Derby after winning the UAE Derby (G2) on March 27. He torched rivals at Meydan, rallying from just off the pace to score easily by 5 1/2 lengths, and the Dubawi gelding has won 4-of-5 career starts for Charlie Appleby.

How his international form will stack up is a legitimate question, but Rebel’s Romance looks like a good fit for the 1 1/2-mile distance. He gets the services of three-time Belmont winner Mike Smith.

Promise Keeper wins at Keeneland 2021 (Photo by Coady Photography/Keeneland)

Promise Keeper

A convincing winner of two straight at 1 1/8 miles, Promise Keeper exits a 2 1/4-length tally in the Peter Pan. He’s on the fence for Todd Pletcher, who has Bourbonic, Known Agenda, and Overtook confirmed for the Belmont, and connections had been leaning toward the $500,000 Ohio Derby (G3) on June 26. However, Belmont officials added Promise Keeper back to the list of possible runners recently.

He could add pace to the mix. The chestnut colt broke his maiden wire-to-wire and raced close to the pace from the start of the Peter Pan. After dominating short fields in the last two, Promise Keeper would face a much steeper challenge in the Belmont, but his up-and-coming form is an asset.