Belmont Stakes 2021: Early Predictions for Rombauer, Top Contenders

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistMay 17, 2021

Belmont Stakes 2021: Early Predictions for Rombauer, Top Contenders

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Rombauer stormed into the history books with a win at the 2021 Preakness Stakes disrupting a Triple Crown bid for Medina Spirit. 

    Now the question becomes whether the colt is good enough to steal a second jewel in the crown heading into the final leg at the 2021 Belmont Stakes.

    The Belmont is a fitting conclusion to the trio of races. Each race presents a different challenge. The Derby typically draws the strongest and largest field, forcing the winner to navigate a field of around 20 horses. The Preakness challenges a horse's speed. The grueling mile-and-a-half Belmont is a test of endurance and will. 

    The field for the Belmont is uncertain at this point. If Rombauer decides to run, a difficult field could await. None of the top five finishers at the Kentucky Derby went to Pimlico to challenge Medina Spirit so a few of those horses could be looking at one last shot at glory. 

    Then again, Rombauer was a relative unknown heading into the Preakness. Another little-known challenger could come and surprise once again. 

    For now, let's examine some of the top contenders who are considered probable or possible, per Horse Racing Nation

Rombauer

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Rombauer was a great story at the Preakness, and it's easy to be impressed with how he ran. But there's reason to be skeptical about his chances in the Belmont. 

    First, it's not a guarantee that he will even make a start in New York. Owner John Fradkin was noncommittal about taking his newly crowned champion to the third leg of the Triple Crown. 

    "I'd say it's a possibility," he told Howard Fendrich of the Associated Press, "but it's probably a little less of a possibility than if we had run like a good third or something.”

    Fradkin has been selective with the colt to this point. They held him out of the Kentucky Derby, biding their time for the Preakness. The owner has also indicated he'd like to see his horse in at least one of the New York Racing Association's Turf Triple series. 

    Those races begin on July 10 at Belmont. 

    It wouldn't be shocking to see Rombauer's connections ultimately decide that winning just one of the American Classics is good enough for them. Trainer Michael McCarthy said they will ship the horse to Belmont and make a decision from there. 

    The fact that they are wavering on entering the horse and no one has won the Preakness and Belmont after skipping the Derby since 1932, it's hard to see a repeat performance from the Preakness winner. 

    Prediction: Misses the board (if he runs)

Essential Quality

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Essential Quality entered the Kentucky Derby as the favorite for a reason. Before running a disappointing fourth place at Churchill Downs he was undefeated in five career starts, including wins in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Southwest Stakes and Bluegrass Stakes. 

    A fourth-place finish in Louisville shouldn't discount the son of Tapit from having his Triple Crown moment. Should his connections decide to bring their horse to New York to compete in the Run for the Carnations he would likely be installed as one of the favorites to win it. 

    After all, everything that was true about the colt heading into the first leg of the Triple Crown remains. The only difference is that he is more well-rested while some of his biggest competitors will be coming off an appearance in the Preakness. 

    Essential Quality didn't have the best trip in the Derby, and trainer Brad Cox still felt he was the best horse in the race, even if it didn't show on the leaderboard. 

    "Not taking anything away from the top three horses, but (Essential Quality) was the best horse yesterday," Cox said, per Alicia Hughes of TVG. "Some people may not agree with that, but I think he was the best horse yesterday. He ran a huge race, very proud of his effort."

    He'll have the chance to prove that should he participate in the Test of the Champion.

    The long race is a true test for any horse, and Essential Quality is one of the most talented three-year-olds in this year's crop. 

    Prediction: Winner

Midnight Bourbon

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Outside of winner Rombauer, no one got more validation out of the Pimlico race than Midnight Bourbon and his connections. The colt was another entrant who had a rough trip in the congested Kentucky Derby field. 

    While some chose to bypass the Preakness, trainer Steve Asmussen put his horse right back into the Preakness, and he proved the Derby was just a bad day with a second-place finish. The trainer was pleased with the result and believes there's still room for him to grow. 

    "He had every chance yesterday, and he ran second. He's a good horse who needs to continuously get better, but we have a lot of confidence that he will, pedigree-wise, and who he is physically and the fact that he has continuously improved to this point," he told Richard Rosenblatt of US Racing. 

    Even if his horse doesn't win, it's hard to predict anything but a competitive run from him. Outside of the Derby disappointment, he has finished in the top three in his other four starts in 2021 and seven of nine total for his career. 

    He is capable of running with every horse in the pack and has put in a good showing everywhere he has got a clean break out of the post. 

    Don't expect anything to change if his connections bring him to the Belmont. 

    Prediction: Show

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