The Brad Cox trained Essential Quality opened up as the 3-1 early favorite at BUSR for the Belmont Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park on June 5.
The colt was the beaten favorite in the Kentucky Derby (G1) on May 1 at 3-1, checking in fourth. It was the first career loss for the colt, who has won his first five starts including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) last fall at Keeneland.
He made two starts in 2021 before the first Saturday of May, winning the Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn Park and the Toyota Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland.
Cox has not confirmed he is pointing his colt to the third jewel of the Triple Crown. Cox has two other major players to consider for the Belmont Stakes—Mandaloun and Caddo River.
Mandaloun was the runner up in the Kentucky Derby at 26-1 and Caddo River, who is currently at 8-1 in early Belmont Stakes wagering at BUSR was the runner up in the Arkansas Derby (G2) in his last outing.
Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Rombauer is most likely heading to New York and is the second choice in early Belmont betting at BUSR at 4-1.
The colt came out of his Preakness win in good order according to his trainer Michael McCarthy.
“We will go ahead and go to Belmont,” McCarthy said. “We will get there and see how he is and where he is at and go from there.”
Rombauer was sent off at 11.80-1 in the Preakness after coming into the race off a third-place finish in the Toyota Blue Grass. The colt was a bit closer than expected and made a strong late rally to pass Midnight Bourbon and Medina Sprit in the stretch to win by 3 ½ lengths. He earned a career top Beyer Speed Figure of 102.
Rombauer Wins Preakness Stakes
“It’s one of those things where you like to say it would be pleasant surprise, but I thought the horse would run well,” McCarthy said. “I kept telling everyone that he would definitely run a mile and three-sixteenths. I just hoped he would do it as fast as everyone else. He did that and a little more.”
Preakness runner up Midnight Bourbon shipped back to Churchill Downs on Sunday and seems likely to compete in the Belmont Stakes.
“All major 3-year-old races are under consideration for the rest of the year,” his trainer Steve Asmussen said. “Let’s get him back to normal circumstances just to see where we’re at with him. That also gives us time to see everything that’s out there and knock out a plan for him for the second half of the year.”
Midnight Bourbon prompted the early pace set by Medina Spirit and spurted clear at the 3/16’s but could not hold off the winner late.
“Proud of his effort,” added Asmussen, “Irad gave him a great chance, and the horse ran hard and ended up second. But I don’t think everybody is that far off. He’s a quality horse, continuously running better. He had every chance yesterday and he ran second.”
An intriguing possibly for the Belmont Stakes would be the undefeated filly Malathaat from the Todd Pletcher barn. The filly won the Kentucky Oaks (G1) in his last outing and her connections have said they would like her to take on the boys at some point this year.
She has a beautiful pedigree, by Curlin out of the multiple stakes winner Dreaming of Julia, who won four of her eight career starts including the Frizette (G1) over the Belmont Park main track. She is listed as the 6-1 fourth choice in early Belmont Stakes betting at BUSR.
Malathaat Wins Kentucky Oaks
The Bob Baffert duo of Medina Spirit and Concert Tour headed back to Churchill Downs after a third and 10th place finish respectively.
“We will evaluate everything and Bob will see what direction he wants to go with them,” said Baffert’s assistant Jimmy Barnes. It seems unlikely either will head back to New York for the Belmont Stakes.
(Update: The NYRA has suspended trainer Bob Baffert from entering horses at Belmont Park).
The Belmont Stakes is set for Saturday June 5, one of eight Grade 1 races on the card. The field for the Belmont figures to change quite a bit over the next couple of weeks.
Early Preakness Stakes Betting Odds via BUSR:
|Hot Rod Charlie||5/1|
|Rock Your World||10/1|
|France Go De Ina||33/1|