Eight horses are set to battle for supremacy in Saturday's $1.5 million Belmont (G1) at Belmont Park, the third and final leg of the Triple Crown. Preakness (G1) winner Rombauer will be joined in the 1 1/2-mile classic by a half-dozen alumni from the Kentucky Derby (G1), including Grade 1 winners Essential Quality, Known Agenda, and Rock Your World.

Total 7 start(s) Top Speed Rating: (94) when winning the Wood Memorial (G2).
Wins: 3 Total Earnings: $465,880
Place: 1
Show: 0
Owner: Calumet Farm Sire: Bernardini
Breeder: Calumet Farm Dam: Dancing Afleet
Trainer: Todd Pletcher Color: Dark bay/brown
Jockey: Kendrick Carmouche

The first of three entrants conditioned by three-time Belmont-winning trainer Todd Pletcher, Bourbonic produced an eye-catching stretch rally to charge from last place and win the Wood Memorial (G2) at odds of 72-1. But the stoutly bred colt never factored in the Kentucky Derby (G1), finishing 13th, and deep closers tend to be at a disadvantage in the Belmont Stakes. The slow-paced nature of the 1 1/2-mile race tends to favor speed horses instead.

Essential Quality

(Photo by Coglianese Photos/Dominic)

Total 6 start(s) Top Speed Rating: (102) when winning the Blue Grass (G2).
Wins: 5 Total Earnings: $2,415,144
Place: 0
Show: 0
Owner: Godolphin Sire: Tapit
Breeder: Godolphin Dam: Delightful Quality
Trainer: Brad Cox
Color: Gray/roan
Jockey: Luis Saez

Easily the most accomplished runner in the Belmont field, Essential Quality was voted champion two-year-old male of 2020 after rattling off victories in the Breeders' Futurity (G1) and Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1). The son of Tapit continued his winning ways in the Southwest (G3) and Blue Grass (G2) to kick off 2021, but faltered to fourth as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby (G1). A wide trip surely compromised Essential Quality's chances, as he gave up significant ground compared to the top three finishers. But Essential Quality also flattened out when it counted, so stretching out over 1 1/2 miles in the Belmont could be a question mark.


(Photo by Coglianese Photos/Susie Raiser)

Total 7 start(s) Top Speed Rating: (103) when rallying to victory in the Preakness (G1).
Wins: 3 Total Earnings: $890,500
Place: 1
Show: 1
Owner: John Fradkin and Diane Fradkin Sire: Twirling Candy
Breeder: John Fradkin and Diane Fradkin Dam: Cashmere
Trainer: Michael McCarthy Color: Bay
Jockey: John Velazquez

Rombauer showed talent as a juvenile, placing second in the American Pharoah (G1), but he's really come to hand as a three-year-old. After winning the El Camino Real Derby and finishing third in a slow-paced renewal of the Blue Grass (G2), Rombauer ran out of his skin in the Preakness (G1), exploding from behind a contested pace to dominate by 3 1/2 lengths. Rombauer finished fast down the homestretch and earned a 103 Brisnet Speed rating, the highest figure in the Belmont field. Some will write off his Preakness victory as a fluke unlikely to be repeated, but there's also a strong chance Rombauer is simply getting good at the right time.

Hot Rod Charlie

(Photo by Coglianese Photos/Dominic)

Total 8 start(s) Top Speed Rating: (100) when finishing third in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Wins: 2 Total Earnings: $1,305,700
Place: 1
Show: 3
Owner: Boat Racing, Gainesway Stable, Roadrunner Racing, and William Strauss Sire: Oxbow
Breeder: Edward A. Cox Jr. Dam: Indian Miss
Trainer: Doug O'Neill Color: Dark bay/brown
Jockey: Flavien Prat

Slowly but surely, Hot Rod Charlie has developed into a top-class prospect. Runner-up in the 2020 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) behind Essential Quality, Hot Rod Charlie turned the tables on his rival in the Kentucky Derby, coming home third by a length after tracking the early pace. A son of 2013 Preakness winner and Belmont runner-up Oxbow, Hot Rod Charlie has shown versatility in terms of running style, running well from pacesetting, tracking, and midpack positions. But Hot Rod Charlie's primary strong suit is his ability to maintain a steady pace over extended distances, which he displayed when leading essentially all the way in the Louisiana Derby (G2). Hot Rod Charlie's relentless nature bodes well for success over 1 1/2 miles in the Belmont.

France Go de Ina
Total 5 start(s) Top Speed Rating: (84) when finishing seventh in the Preakness (G1).
Wins: 2 Total Earnings: $145,291
Place: 0
Show: 0
Owner: Yuji Inaida Sire: Will Take Charge
Breeder: Kidder Betz, B & K Canetti, and Jim Betz Dam: Dreamy Blues
Trainer: Hideyuki Mori Color: Chestnut
Jockey: Ricardo Santana

Although France Go de Ina could only finish seventh in the Preakness, the globetrotting Japanese colt didn't run badly in his first U.S. start, tracking a quick pace before weakening down the homestretch. He took a complex shipping route to reach Pimllico and didn't have much time to acclimate to local conditions, so the stoutly bred son of Will Take Charge is eligible to improve in his second U.S. start. France Go de Ina is bred to relish 1 1/2 miles and figures to appreciate the slower pace of the Belmont, setting the stage for an improved performance

Known Agenda
Total 7 start(s) Top Speed Rating: (101) when winning the Florida Derby (G1).
Wins: 3 Total Earnings: $541,700
Place: 1
Show: 1
Owner: St. Elias Stable Sire: Curlin
Breeder: St. Elias Stables Dam: Byrama
Trainer: Todd Pletcher Color: Chestnut
Jockey: Irad Ortiz

The second Todd Pletcher trainee has taken a big step forward since adding blinkers, dominating a Gulfstream Park allowance race before surging to a decisive score in the Florida Derby (G1). A son of Curlin (who sired Pletcher's 2013 Belmont hero Palace Malice), Known Agenda ran into some traffic when finishing ninth in the Kentucky Derby and is eligible to rebound with a clean journey in New York. Known Agenda brings competitive Brisnet Speed ratings to the table and retains the services of three-time champion jockey Irad Ortiz, setting the stage for an encouraging effort.

Rock Your World

(Photo by Coglianese Photos/Janet Garaguso)

Total 4 start(s) Top Speed Rating: (102) when wiring the Santa Anita Derby (G1).
Wins: 3 Total Earnings: $546,600
Place: 0
Show: 0
Owner: Hronis Racing and David Michael Talla Sire: Candy Ride
Breeder: Ron McAnally and Deborah McAnally Dam: Charm the Maker
Trainer: John Sadler Color: Dark bay/brown
Jockey: Joel Rosario

A poor start prevented Rock Your World from showing his best in the Kentucky Derby, as he spent most of the race running wide in midpack before  retreating to finish 17th. This was a complete departure from the front-running tactics Rock Your World displayed when trouncing a good field by 4 1/4 lengths in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). Speed is Rock Your World's weapon, and he should have little difficulty securing an uncontested lead in the Belmont. From there, he'll have every chance to vie for victory under two-time Belmont-winning jockey Joel Rosario.


(Photo by Coglianese Photos/Susie Raisher)

Total 5 start(s) Top Speed Rating: (95) when finishing third in the Peter Pan (G3).
Wins: 1 Total Earnings: $131,380
Place: 1
Show: 2
Owner: Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable, Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, and Derrick Smith Sire: Curlin
Breeder: Hill 'N' Dale Equine Holdings and Philip J. Steinberg Dam: Got Lucky
Trainer: Todd Pletcher Color: Bay
Jockey: Manny Franco

The third and final Pletcher trainee is the only Belmont entrant who has yet to compete in a Triple Crown race. The son of Curlin has instead been flying under the radar, finishing second in the Withers (G3) during the winter before returning from a three-month layoff to finish third in the Peter Pan (G3). The Peter Pan has been a productive local prep for the Belmont, producing two winners since 2014, and Overtook's pedigree is stacked from top to bottom with classic stamina. The only concern is the possibility Overtook's late-running style will prove disadvantageous, though on the bright side Pletcher is equipping the bay colt with blinkers, which could potentially sharpen his tactical speed.