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2021 Belmont Stakes Predictions and Best Bets

Belmont Stakes predictions, best bets, and expert picks from our horse racing betting analyst.

We thought the 2020 Triple Crown turned upside down by a pandemic could not be topped, but here we are in 2021 with the race sequence back to normal and things don’t seem quite normal, do they?

We come to the $1.5-million Belmont Stakes (G1) with no Triple Crown on the line, and with the (G1) Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit likely to get disqualified for a positive test for the corticosteroid betamethasone, a legal therapeutic medication that is prohibited on race day in Kentucky.

Churchill Downs slapped his trainer, Bob Baffert, with a two-year suspension, meaning if it sticks, the Hall of Fame trainer will not be able to enter horses in the 2022 and 2023 Kentucky Derby.

However, there are still horse races to be run, money to be wagered, Belmont Stakes expert picks and predictions to be made, and we have a solid field of eight that will line up on Saturday, including five that last competed in the Kentucky Derby, as well as the Preakness Stakes winner.

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So, let’s not worry about the noise and look for our Belmont Stakes predictions.

Who is the Most Likely Winner of the Belmont Stakes?

Favorites have won 11 of the last 35 editions of this race, including last year when Tiz the Law won and returned just $3.60 when the race was run at 1 1/8 miles.

However, in recent years we have seen our share of long shots. Since Da’ Tara pulled off the upset in 2009 returning $79.00, we have seen seven winners pay at least $20 to win, including in 2019 when Sir Winston returned his backers $22.40.

With a smaller field this year, the chance of a big price seems unlikely. However, Rock Your World is currently the fourth choice in early Belmont odds at Bovada at +425 and may end up offering the best value in the race.

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Here are the top three contenders:

Rock Your World +425

Rock Your World was projected to be a pace player in the Kentucky Derby, but the colt was off a beat slow and then jostled while caught in between foes, leaving him near the back of the pack. It appeared his jockey, Joel Rosario, had a foot out of the stirrup as the gate opened. The colt raced in the 5/6 paths around both turns and did not make up any ground, checking in a well-beaten 17th at 9-2.

The colt made his first two career starts on turf and then took the field gate to wire to win the Santa Anita Derby (G1) in his first start on dirt. He beat Medina Spirit by 4¼ lengths in that outing. He now catches a field without much early zip signed up. He is capable of shaking loose early with a better break.

He should be able to set sensible fractions and he has the pedigree to handle more ground. He is by Candy Ride out of the stakes winner Charm the Maker ($350,290), who was sired by Empire Maker, the 2003 Belmont winner.

We have not seen many gate-to-wire winners in this race – just four over the past three decades, two of those Triple Crown winners. However, this colt looks capable, and his current price of +425 looks fair enough.

Essential Quality +225

The Brad Cox trainee was the beaten favorite in the Kentucky Derby where he was bumped coming out of the gate losing a bit of position, was wide much of the trip and did not have enough punch left late in a fourth-place finish, beaten a length for the top spot.

It was his first career defeat after winning his first five starts, including the Toyota Blue Grass (G2) two back at nine furlongs. That win was flattered when Rombauer came back to win the Preakness (G1) in his next outing. The Cox trainee is tactical and should work out a better trip than in the Kentucky Derby.

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He is by Tapit out of a stakes-placed Elusive Quality mare and should be able to handle the added ground. He fits here with his best, but his price may end up on the light side.

Hot Rod Charlie +400

This colt overcame some traffic coming past the wire the first time, stalked the early pace toward the outside and finished up well in a third-place finish in the Derby, beaten a length. He ran better than I thought he would. He came into the Kentucky Derby off a six-week break, having won the Louisiana Derby (G2) in his previous outing.

He was beaten a neck three back in the Robert. B. Lewis (G3) which was his three-year-old debut. He was beaten just three-quarters of a length when second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) last fall behind Essential Quality at 94-1. The Doug O’Neill trainee looks as if he still may have some upside, but I am not convinced he really wants to go 1½ miles.

Is There a Live Long Shot in the Belmont Stakes?

The three biggest prices in current Belmont Stakes odds at Bovada are Bourbonic (+1600), Overtook (+2500) and the Japan import France Go de Ina (+2800). They each look overmatched not only to win, but to land in the exacta.

Known Agenda at +600 might be the best option for value seekers. The colt won the Florida Derby (G1) but was a disappointing ninth in the Kentucky Derby, beaten 10¾ lengths.

His trainer, Todd Pletcher, has won the Belmont Stakes three times. His most recent winner was Tapwrit in 2017, who returned $12.60 to win. He had run sixth in the Kentucky Derby.

Pletcher saddled 2013 Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice, who paid $29.60. The colt was a well-beaten 12th in the Kentucky Derby.

Pletcher’s other Belmont winner was the filly Rags to Riches, who had won the Kentucky Oaks (G1) in her prior start.

So Pletcher knows how to bring them back off a five-week break after competing at Churchill Downs and having them ready for a top effort on Belmont Stakes Day.

Wagering on the Belmont Stakes

With a smaller field of just eight and no big prices among my top three selections, I’ll skip a trifecta and superfecta wager and stick with a win and exacta wager when looking at my Belmont Stakes best bets.

Win

Rock Your World will get a win wager if we get fair odds of 7-2 (+350), which seems likely. Essential Quality is a legitimate threat but his current price of +225 at Bovada just seems too short for a win wager.

Exacta

Rock Your World will be my key horse and I will use him on top of Essential Quality, Hot Rod Charlie and Rombauer on my main ticket. I may use Known Agenda as well in the second spot if he ends up going off at decent odds.

My secondary exacta ticket will be Rock Your World and Essential Quality on top with the addition of Hot Rod Charlie in the second spot.

When is the Belmont Stakes?

The Belmont Stakes is Saturday with a post time of 6:49 p.m. ET and will be televised on NBC. Belmont Stakes Day will feature eight Grade 1 races, including three Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” races.