A field of eight sophomores will run 1 1/2 miles over Big Sandy in the 153rd edition of the $1.5 million Belmont S. (G1) on Saturday. The daunting 12-furlong feature headlines a blockbuster day of racing in Elmont, New York, and the third leg of the Triple Crown boasts a talented and well-matched field of three-year-olds.
Conditioner Todd Pletcher is responsible for three previous winners of the race -- Rags to Riches (2007), Palace Malice (2013), and Tapwrit (2017) -- and each came into the Test of the Champion off of a five-week absence. The Hall-of-Fame trainer has two who fit the same profile this season, led by Florida Derby (G1) winner Known Agenda. The chestnut really came to hand this campaign when blinkers were added, and he has trained in fine fashion in preparation of the Belmont Stakes, as well. He is the Expert Pick of the Week.
Known Agenda was unplaced in his first pair of graded stakes tries before putting it all together at Gulfstream Park on March 27, drawing drew off to a convincing Florida Derby score under Belmont pilot Irad Ortiz, Jr. The well-bred son of Curlin lost virtually all chance in the days leading up to the Kentucky Derby (G1) when being assigned the dreaded rail post, although he did show late interest when ninth in the Run for the Roses. The St. Elias homebred has given the impression that he will prosper on the stretch out in distance in the demanding event.
The colt has ample gate presence to secure a good spot in the early going, and while the pace is not expected to be a torrid one, I envision that Known Agenda will have a healthy tempo to run at in the lane.
I was on Rombauer for his Preakness S. (G1) triumph, and I expect the talented three-year-old to put in another fine showing on Saturday. Trained by former Pletcher assistant Mike McCarthy, the ever-improving son of Twirling Candy was superb at Pimlico in his first classic attempt and has reportedly been doing well in the interim.
The bay colt looks like a horse who will handle the added ground with ease, and I believe picking up John Velazquez to ride is a bonus due to his vast experience over Big Sandy.
I will be in the minority being in the corner of Wood Memorial S. (G2) winner Bourbonic, but the long-striding colt seems like a dream fit for a 1 1/2-mile test. The dark bay is a touch below many of his foes from a class standpoint, but his tally in the Wood was excellent, and the one-run closer will benefit from having a run in the Kentucky Derby, too. If the Pletcher pupil is within range at the top of the lane, then he will pass horses and make an exotics push through the wire at a big price under the guidance of Kendrick Carmouche.
An exacta with Known Agenda on top of Rombauer and Bourbonic is the Best Bet of the Week.