THE TRAVERS

                                             AUGUST 28, 2021

                                     GOING FOR THREE IN A ROW!!!

     You know when summer is about to conclude when we are handicapping the soon to run – end of the Saratoga season – Travers Stakes.  It’s that last chance for three-year-olds to show their stuff, in advance of the Breeder’s Cup championships in November. 

 

     So, I am on a winning streak!  Picked the winners of the Belmont and Haskell (thanks to a DQ).  Three will be a charm!  Here it goes…

 

     This year’s Travers has some remnants of the best three-year-olds we watched in the Triple Crown races and Haskell.  Lucky for Saratoga, they have a strong field, headed by the best of the bunch in ESSENTIAL QUALITY, fresh off wins in the Belmont Stakes and Jim Dandy.  Will he win a third in a row here?  Probably.  Will he be my bet/pick?  Nope, not at 4/5. 

 

     Well then, if not the obvious favorite, who will win the race?  Here is my take on the seven-horse field:

 

1 – MIDNIGHT BOURBON:  Back at it after a stumble in the Haskell, this $525K yearling purchase finished second in the Preakness and has found the money in 8 of 10 starts.  You know he will be competitive here and given his front running style should never be far off the pace from gate to finish line.  He has a chance to win but needs help from others.  I don’t see him running a better race than the favorite, so I am not picking him to win in an upset.  Just don’t think he is the one to do that, not here under these conditions at this distance.  Having said that, do not exclude from your exotics. 

 

2 - ESSENTIAL QUALITY:  The obvious favorite, the best horse in the race, and arguably the best three-year-old in the country, as we saw in his blistering Belmont victory.  He followed the Belmont with a nice win in the G-2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga against some topflight competition.  You can argue that the Grade-2 Jim Dandy field was more competitive than the Grade-1 Haskell.  In any event, this talented colt topped the field, including two of the competitors here, 3-KEEPMEINMIND and 6-MASQUEPARADE.  All good reason to make this colt a heavy favorite.  My sense, however, is that this race is ripe for an upset.  I just don’t see that this race shapes up well for this colt.  He may be forced to run on the lead early.  Not loving that strategy.  Still, no doubt, ESSENTIAL QUALITY will be there at the end, just think that he will be nipped at the wire by another. 

 

3 - KEEPMEINMIND:  Here is horse that has found his best form of late.  Missed 2-ESSENTIAL QUALITY by half a length last time out in the G-2 Jim Dandy; and missed 6-MASQUEPARADE by half a length in the G-3 Ohio Derby the race before that, in June.  His best speed ratings in his ten race career were those two races and who is to say he won’t improve here.  What I like in this field is that the colt loves to run from behind.  In a mile and a quarter race, that stride will help him down the stretch.  Having said all those nice things, the one factor from his record that signals caution is that this horse has only won once, way back in November 2020.  It happened to be a G-2 stakes race (not a maiden race), but one time, nonetheless.  Will win #2 be the Travers?  Hmmm, seems like a tough hurdle. 

 

4  - DYNMAIC ONE:  I don’t really know why I am so enamored by this Pletcher trained horse.  I liked him for a share in the Derby, which he flubbed finishing 18th.  Maybe it’s because he was a $725K yearling purchase; maybe it’s because his sire is Union Rags and broodmare sire is Smart Strike, meaning the horse is bred to run all day; maybe it’s because champion jockey Irad Ortiz is his rider; or just maybe it’s because his owner is Mike Repole who was a kid from the streets of NYC who hawked vitamin water out of the trunk of his car until he sold the product to Pepsi for zillions of dollars… and he invested in racehorses, which is exactly what I would have done if I thought of that when I was a kid on the streets of Brooklyn.  Damn!  Anyway, what I really like about this horse is that he loves to kick it in gear down the stretch which I believe is a key against this field.  He also ran the best of all Saratoga speed ratings in his last race, albeit not against top competition.  But he did beat Chad Brown’s 5-MILES D in that race.  If there is an upset winner, I can see Todd Pletcher celebrating in the winner’s circle with this colt. 

 

5 - MILES D:  Outstanding pedigree resulted in a $470K yearling purchase.  Add Chad Brown as your trainer and Flavien Prat as your rider, and you automatically must be considered.  However, despite the positive breeding and connections, there is an experience factor which is lacking.  This colt has only run three prior races, with one win coming in his second race, a Maiden Special Weights race at Belmont.  Interestingly, his jockey in that victory was Joel Rosario, who has chosen to ride 3-KEEPMEINMIND.  Until this horse offers more experience and a greater body of work from which to judge, I must pass. 

 

6 – MASQUEPARADE:  Winner of the best named horse contest.  This $180K yearling purchase really got his act together a bit late for some of the Triple Crown races.  Once getting started though he has made an impression.  Two outstanding races in May and June, with very strong speed ratings to match, both victories.  His form faltered a bit in the G-2 Jim Dandy against better competition in 2-ESSENTIAL QUALITY and 3-KEEPMEINMIND.   My concern here is his level of talent, which is good, but not striking.  In other words, he is not as talented as the favorite and shows nothing in running style or pedigree that would compel me to select this colt over the top contenders.  Exotics should not be discounted. 

 

7 – KING FURY:  Then there is always that $1 Million yearling purchase that finds his way into a G-1 stakes race, and third time off a layoff to boot.  This Curlin sired three-year old won the G-3 Lexington in April which would presumably put him in a good position for entry into the Triple Crown races.  Alas, he spiked a fever and was scratched from his start in the Kentucky Derby (owner buzz kill for sure).  He returned to racing in June in the G-3 Ohio Derby where he ran a terrific race, missing winner 6-MASQUEPARADE by half a length.  He then tried the Saratoga turf and found he did not like the grass field.  So, back to the dirt and tough competition in the Travers.  I thought about this expensive, well-bred horse as a possible upset special.  His late running style works well here.  What kept me off this horse to be my selection was his several unsuccessful prior bids against the competitors here.  He was beat by 2-ESSENTIAL QUALITY twice, 3-KEEPMEINMIND, and as stated, 6-MASQUEPARADE.  Having said that, if he wins with a late running charge, I would not be shocked. 

 

MY SELECTIONS:

 

My WINNER selection is also my LONGSHOT selection: 

 

4-DYNAMIC ONE. 

 

EXACTA:  4/2 is my primary and box 4/2 and 4/ALL.

 

TRIFECTA:  4/2/ALL and 4/ALL/2

 

SUPERFECTA:  Key the 4 with 2/1/ALL

 

CELEBRITY SELECTIONS:

 

HOWIE THE HORSE Fresh off his winning selection in the Haskell – 3-KEEPMEINMIND

 

Essential Quality is definitely the class of the field and appears to be in good shape coming into the race.  That being said, KEEPMEINMIND looks very sharp in the mornings after giving the favorite all he could handle beaten by a nose.  At odds of 6-1 KEEPMEINMIND is my selection. 

 

Rounding out my picks is MASQUEPARADE in the exotics.

 

Exacta box:  2/3/6

Trifecta box:  2/3/6

Win:  3

LEFTY LOUIE – ESSENTIAL QUALITY

I see 2 good bets here. Essential Quality and Midnight Bourbon  an exacta, 2-1. It I a good investment in this bet is a sure thing. Because of the odds, a trifecta is necessary to win a few more bucks. Masque parade has the speed to not only finish third, but to make this race closer than most expect, so 2-1-6 for the trifecta. Good luck!

 

DANNY DIMES – MILES D

 

I am going with Miles D. This is a horse that is peaking at exactly the right time, and I love Chad Brown at Saratoga!

 

 

BRIAN THE BUG BOY - KEEPMEINMIND

It’s Travers Day, where the elite of the elite meet at Saratoga for one of the biggest summer race dates of the year.  Seven 3 years old are set to go a mile and a quarter at what is called the graveyard for favorites.  I don’t believe the Travers Stakes will be any different at The Spa.  Essential Quality will undoubtedly be the post time favorite, running exceptionally well for Brad Cox as of late winning the Jim Dandy at Saratoga July 31.  Even considering his current form, I will still be betting against him.  Keepmeinmind for Robertino Dioboro is where I will be putting my win money.  His past two tries have been right on par finishing a 1/2 length behind Essential Quality in the Jim Dandy.   With Joel Rosario up, Keepmeinmind will be doing his best running late with the mile and a 1/4 helping his chances to cross the wire first. Keepmeinmind to win and a straight exacta with Keepmeinmind over Essential Quality

 

 

 

                                                THE HASKELL

                                                          JULY 17, 2021

     New Jersey racing centers around (aka: is reduced to) the Monmouth season.  The Monmouth season (aka: best summer track outside of Saratoga) centers around its biggest, high-profile race, The Haskell.  It is a Grade 1 race for three-year olds, running a 1 1/8 mile.  The race usually draws some of the best competitors from the Triple Crown series which ended a month before.  The 2021 Haskell is no exception. 

 

This year, a field of seven, can best be described as a matchup of the Triple Crown runners-ups.  Derby runner-up (and perhaps victor if a drug disqualification comes to fruition as expected) – MANDALOUN; vs. Preakness runner-up – MIDNIGHT BOURBON; vs. Belmont runner-up HOT ROD CHARLIE.  Add to the mix a new Pletcher-trained horse, formerly trained by trainer Bob Baffert – FOLLOWING SEA; New Jersey bred – PICKIN’ TIME; and longshots ANTIGRAVITY and BASSO.  A good competitive race, all seven vying for the $1 Million purse. 

 

     Here’s my thoughts on the field:

 

1 – FOLLOWING SEA:  This lightly raced colt was formerly trained by Bob Baffert, and now moved to the Pletcher barn.  His first two races were impressive, then laid up for three months before knocking the socks off a Belmont Racetrack allowance field.  Tempting to play because of Pletcher matched with super jockey Joel Rosario who traveled to New Joisey to ride this horse.  However, lack of experience against top tier horses and breeding which suggests 1 1/8 mile may be too long a run against top competition.  Have to see a race against the best to be sold on this horse to win a Grade 1 stakes race at 1 1/8 mile. 

 

2 – ANTIGRAVITY:  It took 11 tries for this $4K yearling purchase to win his first race. He followed with a win in an optional claimer, with leading jockey Paco Lopez in the saddle on both victories.  That was nice, but not enough to make anyone believe this horse can be competitive with top tier talent.  Oh, and btw, Lopez has shifted to the 6 – MIDNIGHT BOURBON (good move).

 

3 – MANDALOUN:  Boy, did this horse impress everyone in the Derby.  He started that race as a 27-1 longshot and almost stole the race, finishing a super-impressive second.  A good friend told me before the race to watch for that horse.  I mistakenly ignored that advice and it cost me.  If you look close at his racing career, you will see the talent from inception.  Trained by Brad Cox, who also trained the Derby favorite and Belmont winner, Exclusive Quality, this horse fell under the radar after he flubbed the Louisiana Derby.  Well, turns out he just had a bad day/race.  He returned to form in the Kentucky Derby and then followed with a non-graded stakes win at Monmouth.  Expect this horse to be ready to go. 

 

4 – HOT ROD CHARLIE:  This colt is always competitive and always challenging to win.  His Belmont run, albeit second to Essential Quality, was a spectacular race.  No reason to believe that he will not be challenging down to the wire once again.  Nothing deters this horse.  He can run on the lead or sit off the pace.  While it will be difficult to top his effort in the Belmont, I do note that this colt seems to get better with each race.  If he improves off the Belmont, expect a blow out victory.  My gut says he won’t do that and perhaps bounce a bit back to reality. 

 

5 – PICKIN’ TIME:  I love that a New Jersey bred was included in New Jersey’s biggest race.  The problem with this NJ bred, however, is that his past races suggest he has been spending too much time at the Stone Pony rather than training for a big race.  Last three races, including the Grade-2 Remsen, were terrible efforts.  Last race on May 28th at Monmouth, this colt finished dead last 22 lengths back.  Trainer Kelly Breen would have to dig deep to get this horse competitive against the best in the world. 

 

6 – MIDNIGHT BOURBON:  A Steve Asmussen trained entry who is always competitive.  This colt was  $525K yearling purchase who finished second to upset winner Rombauer in the Preakness.  He loves to run with the front runners, but seemingly can not get past the leader.  He finished in the money 8 of 9 lifetime races, winning twice.  The good news is that Paco Lopez rides him.  The bad news is that his top competition here has beaten him in the last three times they competed against each other. 

 

7 – BASSO:  A local entry which has not been all that impressive in his brief five-race career.  His lone win came in his first race.  He has not won since and has never run in a graded stakes race.  Last race, he finished 6th to fellow longshot 2-ANTIGRAVITY.  The only positive factor (and this is a stretch) is that this colt had not run since November 2020 before his last race.  Perhaps he will improve second time off a layoff.  Probably not enough. 

 

MY SELECTIONS:

 

WIN:  3-MANDALOUN.  With 4-HOT ROD CHARLIE the favorite, 3-MANDALOUN will get some decent odds and worth a play on top. 

 

EXACTA:   While the top two (3 and 4) are obvious, I am going to avoid a big exacta bet on the favorites in favor of wheeling 3-MANDALOUN with the field, hoping one of the longshots wakes up and squeaks by 4-HOT ROD CHARLIE.  I will place another bet on 3-MANDALOUN with 6-MIDNIGHT BOURBON because I know the 6 will be competitive and has the best chance in the group to nudge out the favorite, 4-HOT ROD CHARLIE. 

 

SUPERFECTA:  Key the 3 with 6, 4, ALL

 

CELEBRITY SELECTIONS: 

 

Danny Dimes:  1-FOLLOWING SEA

 

     I would rather watch paint dry on a wall than pick a 6-5 favorite in a 7-horse race. I am going with Following Sea. Pletcher has gone all-in this year at Monmouth, and this would be a statement win. I will play the "bump-up, stretch-out" angle all day. Throw in Rosario, and this is too good to pass up. Btw, I am going for Pletcher-Rosario earlier as well in the Molly Pitcher (Race 10) with #9 Graceful Princess at 8-1, and adding a 9-1-ALL as a Pick 3 (Races 10-12). Good luck everyone!

 

LEFTY LOUIE:  4- HOT ROD CHARLIE

 

     The Haskell should be a very exciting race. It is a small field, but the horses are of a high quality.  Although the favorite has traditionally not won in The Haskell, I don’t see a horse that can beat Hot Rod Charlie if he runs up to his capability.   He is just too fast and has the stamina to run at this distance.  A lot is being said about Following Sea, I don’t share in all the chatter I am seeing. He is unproven especially at this distance. Mandaloun will not be able to compete at this distance. I see Midnight Bourbon finishing a strong second and will hope Antigravity, Pickin’ Time or Basso comes in third in order to make a few bucks on a trifecta.  I am going with Hot Rod Charlie to win and then a trifecta , Hot Rod Charlie, Midnight Bourbon and wheeling the rest of the field.  Of course, I never get it right like my mentor, Jeff Nash, or my step-daughter Ava who picks the horse with the best name and has won 3 of the last 4 Triple Crown races. But, as long as we have a great race in New Jersey, I will be happy. Good luck everyone.

 

USA SCHWEIM TEAM:  1-FOLLOWING SEA

 

     I like Following Sun to win, Hot Rod Charlie and Mandaloun to place and show.  These are my picks!!

 

SAY IT AIN’T JOE:  4-HOT ROD CHARLIE


     The Haskell offers a small but interesting field with a redo for all three of the runners up in the Triple Crown Races. The three, HOT ROD CHARLIE, MANDALOUN and MIDNIGHT BOURBON are all win candidates in a race where there seems to be little chance to make money. My pick is the likely heavy favorite HOT ROD CHARLIE. He always shows up and his perfectly improving Beyers sets him apart from the others. My bet HOT ROD CHARLIE to win with MANDALOUN to finish the exacta.

 

BUCKET LIST:  6-MIDNIGHT BOURBON

 

     We picked 4-HOT ROD CHARLIE in the Belmont and believe that he is the horse to beat in this race.  With morning line odds of 6-5, we will go with a value pick here in the Haskell.  We will make a case for 6-MIDNIGHT BOURBON to get the winner's circle photo.  This horse likes to get out front and will compete for the lead.  The shorter distance, amount of rest since his last race, and new jockey may prove to be the deciding factors.

 

Winner: 6-MIDNIGHT BOURBON

Exacta: 6 – 4

 

HOWIE THE HORSE:  3-MANDALOUN

 

     Still love Mandaloun who has a win over at Monmouth racetrack in the Pegasus Stakes. Throw in a bullet workout on July 3rd at Churchill Downs in 59.1 when Essential Quality, easily the class of all 3 year olds, ran same day in 100.3. Let's not forget Mandaloun is soon to be declared 2021 Kentucky Derby winner.

 

     In the end, Mandaloun wins the day. 

 

THE BELMONT - JUNE 5, 2021

                 LISTEN TO JEFF NASH HANDICAP THE RACE ON ESPN RADIO 97.3 FM

                                                   THE LOCKER ROOM WITH BILLY SCHWEIM - 11:15 AM                             

 

     The Kentucky Derby has all the pizzaz associated with being the most famous race in the world.  The Preakness is like that middle-child; does not get the attention of its older brother or younger sister, but incredibly unique.  The Belmont Stakes, the third and final test in a five-week long Triple Crown series, is the Crown Jewel.  It is the longest race most of these horses will ever run.  It is where Secretariat ran and won by a record-setting 32 lengths.  It is where American Pharoah and Justify won Triple Crowns, and where Smarty Jones and California Crome did not.  It is the ultimate racing test of strategy, power, and endurance.  Quite simply, The Belmont Stakes is THE classic race for three-year old thoroughbreds.  And my favorite race to handicap. 

     The racing world had anticipated a Belmont Stakes that matched the best colts Medina Spirit, Essential Quality, Mandaloun, Rock My World against the undefeated filly Malathaat.  Oh, what a race that would have been. 

     However, Malathaat will ship to Saratoga for the summer.  Mandaloun, trained by Brad Cox, will skip the Belmont in favor of NJ’s Haskell Stakes, leaving his stablemate Essential Quality as the lone Cox-trained horse in the race.  As for Medina Spirit, looks like he will be disqualified from his Derby win and with his trainer Bob Baffert suspended by the NY Racing, he is packing up and going home to California. 

     Still, we are left with an outstanding field of eight three-year old colts.  Five of the horses ran in the Kentucky Derby and passed on the Preakness in favor of this race:  1-BOURBONIC, 2-ESSENTIAL QUALITY, 4-HOT ROD CHARLIE, 6-KNOWN AGENDA, and 7-ROCK YOUR WORLD. 

     Hall of Fame Trainer Nominee and New York-based Todd Pletcher trains three horses in the race:  1-BOURBONIC, 6-KNOWN AGENDA, and 8-OVERTOOK.  Pletcher has won three Belmont’s with two of those three winners running unplaced in the Derby, skipping the Preakness, then winning the Belmont.  See a pattern? 

 

     Only two from the Preakness field are returning for a shot at the Belmont:  Preakness winner, 3-ROMBAUER and 5-FRANCE GO DE INA.

 

     One horse is new to the Triple Crown races:  8-OVERTOOK. 

Here is my analysis of each horse and the race:

1-BOURBONIC:  Was the 72-1 upset winner of the Grade 2 Wood Memorial.  With that win in hand, he ran in the Kentucky Derby and never got untracked, finishing 13th in a field of 19.  Not surprising.  He is one of three horses trained by Todd Pletcher and bred to handle the long distance.  A longshot in this race, for sure.  Still, never discount a Pletcher horse in the Belmont, especially one that is bred to handle the 1 ½ mile distance of this race. 

2-ESSENTIAL QUALITY:  My failed selection to win the Kentucky Derby.  He came into that race winning five of five starts.  But the Derby is known to eat up the best with a stampede of 19 horses leaving the gate.  This colt was bumped out of the gate and was forced to settle in four-wide.  He had no gas in the tank down the stretch, hung and finished a disappointing fourth, one length behind the winner Medina Spirit.  Trainer Brad Cox decided to give the horse a breather and aim for the Belmont Stakes.  Good call.  The horse worked a bullet in preparation for the race and appears super-ready to run back to form.  His sire Tapit has already seen three of his past offspring win the Belmont Stakes.  I said before the Derby, and will repeat, ESSENTIAL QUALITY is the best three-year old in the world. 

3-ROMBAUER:  Longshot winner of the Preakness, after skipping the Kentucky Derby two weeks prior.  He ran the best race of his career that day, topping his best speed rating.  Was not a real surprise given the good, but not great, Preakness competition.  Can he repeat?  Tougher field, longer race.  Breeding says no, but current form says maybe.  So interesting that his jockey in the Preakness, Flavien Prat, has been replaced by New York’s top jockey (and winner of the Kentucky Derby on Medina Spirit) John Velasquez.  Why would ownership change jockeys after winning the Preakness?  When you can attract the best in the business, you make that tough decision.  It is even more intriguing because Velasquez is a favorite of trainer Pletcher who has other riders saddling his three horses.  Velasquez decided this was his best shot.  

4-HOT ROD CHARLIE:  Here is a colt based in California who is always competitive irrespective of track location, distance, or surface.  Sired by Oxbow who finished second in the Belmont but has not produced any Belmont winners to date.  The mare side does not suggest this horse has the pedigree to handle the distance.  Having said that, this colt has finished in the money six of eight starts, including a competitive third in the Derby.  Jockey Prat who saddled this colt in the Derby returns to ride him in the Belmont, having been bumped from 3-ROMBAUER.  Must think that trainer Doug O’Neill has this horse ready for a good run, third time off a layoff and fresh after the Derby five weeks ago.  Not sure he can beat the others in this very competitive field, but never discount in the Exotics. 

5-FRANCE GO DE INA:  I said in my analysis of the Preakness that this foreign invader was using that race as a prep for the Belmont Stakes.  He was not overly impressive in his first US start, finishing a dull 7th in the field of 10.  That was not unexpected given the plane trip from Dubai.  The horse has now been in the US training at Pimlico, albeit with only one published workout.  But this colt is bred to handle the distance and may stick around longer than his longshot odds suggest. 

6-KNOWN AGENDA:  This colt was presumably trainer Todd Pletcher’s best shot to win the Kentucky Derby.  He did not, finishing a disappointing 9th, ten lengths behind the winner.  He now comes home to a New York track where he started his racing career six races ago.  Sired by Curlin whose offspring Palace Malice won the 2010 Belmont, this horse is sneaky talented and should be a factor in the Belmont.  Ridden by an outstanding NY-based rider, Irad Ortiz, bred to handle the long distance, winner of the Grade 1 Florida Derby, expect this horse to be competitive, at higher odds than normal because of his Derby flub. Good horse with a great price.  Don't ignore. 

7-ROCK YOUR WORLD:  The $650K yearling purchase, undefeated in three races entering the Kentucky Derby.  He was one of the favorites that day, many expecting him to challenge for the early lead and possibly wiring the field as he did so impressively in the Santa Anita Derby.  Some compared him to the Triple Crown winner Justify.  Then the Derby cavalry charge left this colt at the gate.  Rather than challenge for the lead, he fell back 15th early on and never found his stride.  He finished 17th, without really trying.  Well, he went home to California to regroup and train, bypassing the Preakness.  Based on his post-Derby workouts, this colt seems very fit to run well in the Belmont.  Bred to handle the distance, expect this colt to surge to the front from the beginning with the hope of replaying that Santa Anita Derby victory by wiring the field.  Could happen, for sure.  

8-OVERTOOK:  The lone newcomer to the Triple Crown races.  This colt, the third of three trained by Todd Pletcher, was purchased as a yearling for a whopping $1 Million.  He is owned by a trio of horseracing elite.  The colt’s early career did not match up to his price tag, taking his third trip to the track to finally break his maiden with limited speed.  Then he finished second in the Grade 3 Withers Stakes, again with modest speed.  Followed by a decent run in the Grade 3 Peter Pan.  He has improved a bit in each race, so apparently headed in the right direction in his career.  What is intriguing about this colt is his outstanding breeding for distance, the addition of blinkers in this race to keep the horse focused, and his improving final quarter times.  It is possible that this colt will find his form in this lengthy race and power his way into the Exotics. 

HOW THE RACE WILL BE RUN:

7-ROCK YOUR WORLD will charge to the lead from the get-go.  Every other horse will need to position themselves behind him with the hope of catching the frontrunner down the stretch. 

Expect 2-ESSENTIAL QUALITY and 4-HOT ROD CHARLIE to track closely.  These two cannot allow ROCK YOUR WORLD to pull away and win wire-to-wire.  If they let the leader run without expending some exhaustion, the race will be over.  The trainers know that and will push. 

I expect that will be too much for 4-HOT ROD CHARLIE. 

Behind those three will be the mid-range runners such as 5-FRANCE GO DE INA and 6-KNOWN AGENDA.  They will not concern themselves with pushing ROCK YOUR WORLD.  These two will track and let the race come to them. 

Trailing the field will be the closers, 1-BOURBONIC, 3-ROMBAUER, and 8-OVERTOOK.  These colts will hope that the three leaders into the stretch have sufficiently exhausted themselves, allowing for their energic charge toward victory down the very, very long Belmont stretch. 

In the end, I see 2-ESSENTIAL QUALITY passing 7-ROCK YOUR WORLD.  Coming strong from the rear is 6-KNOWN AGENDA and 3-ROMBAUER.  2-ESSENTIAL QUALITY, the best three-year old in the world wins the race. 

WINNER:  2-ESSENTIAL QUALITY

LONGSHOT:  6-KNOWN AGENDA

EXACTA:  2/6-7

TRIFECTA:  Key the 2 with 6/ALL

SUPERFECTA:  Key the 2 with/6/7/ALL

GOOD LUCK TO ALL!

CELEBRITY SELECTIONS:

HOWIE THE HORSE:  ROCK YOUR WORLD

 

Rock Your World will set the early pace.  If he can get six furlongs in 1:12 or slower on the lead he will steal the Belmont wire to wire.  Essential Quality had a horrible trip in the Derby and should fare much better.  He has been working well in the morning.  Rombauer will be in the mix.

 

BUCKET LIST HANDICAPPING:  HOT ROD CHARLIE

 

HOT ROD CHARLIE is a consistent horse and has been training well.  ESSENTIAL QUALITY was the Derby favorite and beaten favorites seem to come back strong.  We liked ROCK YOUR WORLD in the Derby and are sticking with him to have a strong race and be in the money. 

 

LEFTY LOUIE:  ROCK YOUR WORLD

 

I like the field for this race. It should be an incredibly competitive race. I think the top three horses are Essential Quality, Rombauer and Rock Your World. I will box all three in a trifecta, that does not result in a big payout, but a win is a win.  Rock Your World will lead from the start and stave off challenges from Rombauer and Essential Quality. I will also bet Rock Your World to win and use him in an exacta with the rest of the field.
My stepdaughter Ava picks her winning horses based on the names of the horses. She won last year’s Derby, this year’s Derby and Preakness. She likes Known Agenda for the Belmont.
Trifecta Box 2-3-7
Win 7
Exacta 7-rest of the field
Win 6

 

DANNY DIMES:  ROCK YOUR WORLD

 

I would have taken Known Agenda as my first choice in the Kentucky Derby if it were not for the #1 Post. Someone must prove he can win from there, and until then, any horse is immediately thrown off my tickets. But Known Agenda is ready to roll, has the best jockey in the US on him, and loves Belmont. I also like Rock Your World. Here is another horse that had everything imaginable go wrong in the Kentucky Derby. The jockey, Joel Rosario, has proven repeatedly that he is a force in the Belmont Stakes. And then there is France Go de Ina. In my column for the Preakness, I thought the owners were using it as a prep for the Belmont, and if he gets entered here, watch out. Well, here he is. I am throwing out the favorites because the field is way too small to make any money in the exotics. I am going with my gut on Rosario and taking Rock Your World at the top but count on me using Known Agenda and France Go de Ina as well. Good luck!

 

SAY IT AIN'T JOE:  ROCK YOUR WORLD

My Kentucky Derby horse Rock Your World lost by 24 lengths and today he is my pick in the Belmont. I’m hoping and betting that today is a day of redemption. His Derby was over at the start with major trouble in a herd  of 19. With 8 starters, today should be different. His previous win in the SA Derby was impressive and he has the speed and stamina to get the job done today, hopefully at a decent price. Essential Quality, the deserved Morning Line favorite also had Derby trouble and the widest trip imaginable. His breeding points to this race being to his liking. He’s my close second choice. For my money, Hot Rod Charlie and Rombauer will round out the first four.

 

 

 

 

 

PREAKNESS RECAP

                                                May 18, 2021

     ROMBAUER’S surge to longshot victory in last Saturday’s Preakness was not as shocking as it would seem.  Sure, neither me nor the handicapping celebs selected the correct horse to finish first.  At best, I said ROMBAUER was training well, was running in an advantageous third race off a layoff, and could close.  However, I added that the horse probably did not have the talent to defeat the best in the race.  Wrong. 

     So, what happened?  As predicted, MIDNIGHT BOURBON challenged MEDINA EXPRESS for the lead through the first turn and backstretch.  As expected, CONCERT TOUR and FRANCE GO DE INA stalked the leaders.  The pace was not super-fast, giving hope to the leaders that they would go nose to nose to the finish, not having to expend too much gas to get to the eighth pole down the stretch. 

     Then, much to my dismay, my selected horse, CONCERT TOUR, could not keep pace.  He fell back as if he hit a wall.  I have read from some reliable experts that the horse may have bled.  There were suspicions of that issue impacting the horse in the Arkansas Derby where he fell to third in a field of six.  In any event, the track does not permit Lasix which would help with bleeding concerns.  Without Lasix, the horse was doomed to fail.  Of course, that information would have been immensely helpful BEFORE the race.

     Other horses in the field which offered promise also failed to fire.  Chad Brown’s two entrants, CROWDED TRADE and RISK TAKING (my failed longshot) disappointed.  Poor Todd Pletcher still has not won a Preakness.  His longshot UNBRIDLED HONOR finished behind as expected as did last place RAM, trained by spotlight seeking D. Wayne Lukas.  KEEPMEINMIND ran to form, making up ground down the stretch. 

     But it was an impressive race for winner ROMBAUER.  Proving yet again that a good trainer can peak a good horse at the right time and win a race against a moderately talented field.   

     The best part of the Preakness is that the best three-year-old thoroughbreds in the world saved their juice for The Belmont which is setting up to be a spectacular event.  I’m already sensing a big race from the Kentucky Derby favorite ESSENTIAL QUALITY who may get challenged by the best filly in the world, MALATHAAT.  Add MANDALOUN, MIDNIGHT BOURBON, HOT ROD CHARLIE, ROCK YOUR WORLD and ROMBAUER… WOW!  Three weeks to go!  And NO BOB BAFFERT... Hurray for the New York Racing Association.