The essential trends you need to know before wagering on the Belmont Stakes

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May 2nd, 2022

Winning the Triple Crown is no easy feat. There’s a reason why only 13 horses have managed to do it. But, while winning all three is incredibly difficult, using history to point us toward the winner of the Belmont S. (G1) is a little easier.

Going back 25 years, only Justify (2018) and American Pharoah (2015) have won the Belmont and completed the Triple Crown. Nine other horses have arrived at Belmont Park in that period with Triple Crown history at stake, only to fail in the final race. The group includes Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), Charismatic (1999), War Emblem (2002), Funny Cide (2003), Smarty Jones (2004), Big Brown (2008), I’ll Have Another (2012), and California Chrome (2014).

Given how tough it is to perform in the Triple Crown races, the key to finding the winner of the Belmont may be in looking for horses who have avoided the Preakness S. (G1).

  • In the last 25 years 64% of Belmont winners ran in the Kentucky Derby, while 72% of Belmont winners skipped the Preakness

That’s not a good sign for Rombauer or France Go de Ina, who both skipped the Derby but ran in the Preakness — the opposite of what the trends suggest is a Belmont winning formula. But at least they’ve both made an appearance in a Triple Crown race.

  • 68% of Belmont winners ran in at least one of the other Triple Crown races

In the last 25 years, there have only been eight winners of the Belmont who had previously not run in one of the other two Triple Crown races (that includes Tiz the Law last year, when the Belmont was the first leg of the Triple Crown). Eighteen winners ran in at least the Derby or the Preakness, and that’s a red flag for Promise Keeper and Overtook, who have not yet participated in a leg of the Triple Crown.

  • No horse in the last 25 years has finished out of the money in the Preakness and the Derby and gone on to win the Belmont
  • 20% of Belmont winners finished in the money in the Derby, but 44% of Belmont winners finished out of the money in the Derby

Finishing in the money in the Derby may not be the strong pointer you’d hope for in the Belmont, and that’s not good news for Hot Rod Charlie, who battled to a third-place finish in the Derby.

  • The strongest trend is that 44% of Belmont winners in the last 25 years ran in the Derby, finished out of the money, AND either didn’t run in the Preakness, or if they did, finished in the money

So, who does that leave for 2021? There are three horses who hit the trend — Essential Quality (fourth in the Derby, didn’t run in the Preakness), Known Agenda (ninth in the Derby, didn’t run in the Preakness), and Bourbonic (13th in the Derby, didn’t run in the Preakness).

Bourbonic settled in near the rear in the Derby, and although he passed a few tired horses on the run in, he was still five lengths off Known Agenda and 15 lengths behind Essential Quality. Bourbonic’s racing career peaked when he won the Wood Memorial S. (G2), and although he hits the key trends, it’s hard to see him winning.

Known Agenda is a far more likely candidate to upset the leading favorites. He was fancied by some shrewd bettors for the Kentucky Derby, after a win in the Florida Derby (G1), but he drew the dreaded post position 1, and that left him stuck for room on the inside. He was a lot farther off the lead than he would have liked in the Derby, and although he made his move outside on the home straight, it was too little, too late. With 10 fewer runners and an extra quarter-mile in the Belmont, Known Agenda should have a smoother run and can make his presence felt in a big way.

The third and final horse who ticked the key trend is Essential Quality, the likely Belmont favorite. Brad Cox’s star won all five of his races before the Derby and was the favorite for the race at Churchill Downs. He stalked the pace and raced in fourth at the top of the straight, but he was unable to pass the leaders and was beaten by a length.

Essential Quality is still a leading light in the three-year-old division, and as a son of Tapit, he should relish the extra distance. Tapit has already sired three Belmont winners, and Essential Quality can become the fourth Saturday.

Belmont Stakes Pick: Essential Quality