2021 Belmont Stakes predictions, odds and best bet: Essential Quality ready to strut his stuff

Essential Quality has a strong chance in Saturday's Belmont Stakes
Photo of Tom Collins

Tom Collins

Horse Racing· 3 months ago

Show Bio

Journalist and UK/US horse racing handicapper.

A lack of quantity doesn’t naturally equate to quality — but that is certainly the case for the 153rd running of the Belmont Stakes today. Just eight runners will go to post for the final leg of the 2021 Triple Crown and this will be a real Test of the Champion.

Horseplayers have become accustomed to either siding with or opposing potential Triple Crown winners as they enter the final leg in New York, but this year is different. Kentucky Derby victor Medina Spirit isn’t in the field, nor is runner-up Mandaloun. But the Preakness winner Rombauer is. Will the Pimlico form be upheld at Belmont Park?

Rombauer out to double up after Preakness victory

Midnight Bourbon turned for home in the Preakness with a healthy advantage under an aggressive ride from Irad Ortiz. Just a few strides later he was overhauled by the Michael McCarthy-trained Rombauer, a three-year-old son of Twirling Candy who was looking for his first Grade 1 win. He achieved it in emphatic fashion, crossing the wire three-and-a-half lengths clear of his nearest pursuer under Flavien Prat.

That was a huge step up on his previous showing in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, when he finished a considerable margin behind Essential Quality, and he performed as if he would appreciate the increased distance in the Belmont. A similar stalking trip is likely to be played out under new rider John Velazquez, who takes over after Prat decided to partner Hot Rod Charlie.

Although he returns just three weeks after his Preakness romp, encounters different conditions and a tougher field, he remains relatively fresh after a light three-year-old campaign.

Rombauer wins the 2021 Preakness Stakes

© Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Essential looking to show his Quality under Saez

Essential Quality, a grey son of Tapit, went unbeaten through his first five career starts. He was awarded the Champion Two Year Old accolade last season after Grade 1 wins at Keeneland, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and looked the horse to beat in the Derby after an impressive finishing kick in the Blue Grass.

Little went right for the Brad Cox-trained colt. He was forced wide throughout the early turns behind quick but controlled early fractions, and continued his move four horses deep turning for home. Courage took over inside the final sixteenth but he could never get close enough to peg back Medina Spirit, Mandaloun or Hot Rod Charlie, all of whom endured better trips.

He has been kept quiet since with just three timed five-furlong works at Churchill and enters this race with something to prove for the first time. His draw in gate two will help him achieve a better trip and the distance may aid his chance too.

Hot Rod Charlie, Known Agenda, and Rock Your World out for revenge

Along with Essential Quality, Hot Rod Charlie (third), Known Agenda (ninth) and Rock Your World (17th) are looking to avenge Kentucky Derby defeats. Hot Rod Charlie made a bold bid under an aggressive ride at Churchill Downs but tired close home after sustaining his challenge for two furlongs. The mile-and-a-half trip may not help him as much as Known Agenda, who lacks the early speed of the protagonists and looked one-paced as he passed tired rivals last time.

Santa Anita Derby winner Rock Your World has more to prove than others. He was all the rage at Churchill Downs on just his second dirt start, but got squeezed out early and never ran a stride thereafter. He could be the controlling speed in this field.

The other Belmont Stakes contenders

Todd Pletcher has won this race three times and is represented by Wood Memorial winner Bourbonic and Peter Pan third Overtook, as well as Known Agenda. Both longshots will need to step up on their previous efforts from their bookend draws.

Japanese challenger France Go de Ina raced rank through the early stages in the Derby but fought on well for minor money in seventh. If he’s hard to handle after the break, he could challenge Rock Your World for the early advantage.

Belmont Stakes best bet and verdict

It is hard to overlook ESSENTIAL QUALITY given he suffered the worst trip of the protagonists in the Kentucky Derby and should be suited by the mile and half in the Belmont Stakes. A strong rally, as we saw in the Blue Grass Stakes, may be enough to outfox Hot Rod Charlie, who isn’t sure to stay the trip. Rombauer and Known Agenda should be passing tired foes late.

Check out the trends to look out for when picking your horse for the Belmont Stakes from our Pickswise horse racing experts, as well as our picks and predictions for the undercard at Belmont Park.

Pickswise offers free daily Horse Racing Picks from across America. Get expert Horse Racing Picks from expert handicappers today.

Virginia Bonuses

See All


Bet $1 On Any NFL Football Game & Get $200 In Free Bets Instantly!

Register for a new DraftKings Sportsbook account

Bet $1 on any Pro Football game

Instantly get $200 in free bets



Bet $10, Get $200 If Your Team Scores A Touchdown!

Register for a new BetMGM account & deposit $20+

Bet $10 on your team to win Money Line

Win $200 in free bets if your team scores a touchdown

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

FanDuel Sportsbook


Bet $5, Win $150 if the Giants or Football Team win!

Make a new account with FanDuel Sportsbook

Bet $5 on either the Giants or the Football Team to win their Week 2 matchup on Thursday Night Football

If your team wins, you win $150 cash!

New players only. Max bet $5. Must be 21+ to play. Full terms available at FanDuel Sportsbook.



Bet $20, Get $200 If Your Team Scores A Touchdown!

Register for a new PointsBet account & deposit $20+

Bet $20 on your team to win Money Line (NFL or NCAAF)

Win $200 in free bets if your team scores a touchdown

Caesars Sportsbook


Get a $5,000 Risk Free Bet + a free NFL Jersey!

Register for a new Caesars Sportsbook account & make a deposit

Place your first bet up to $5,000 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $5,000 + a free NFL Jersey

21+. Terms & conditions apply.



Get a $250 Deposit Bonus!

Sign up for a new BetRivers account using promo code PICKSWISE

Make a deposit & get it doubled up to $250 total

To get a $100 bonus, deposit $100

Must be 21+. Play in IA Only. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-BETS OFF



Get a $1,000 Risk Free Bet!

Register for a new BetMGM & deposit

Place your first bet up to $1,000 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $1,000

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

FanDuel Sportsbook


Get a $1,000 Risk Free Bet!

Register for a new FanDuel Sportsbook account & deposit

Place your first bet up to $1,000 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $1,000

21+. Terms & conditions apply.



Get a $1,000 Deposit Bonus!

Register for a new DraftKings Sportsbook account & deposit

DraftKings will match 20% of your deposit up to $1,000 total

To get a $100 bonus, deposit $500

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

Monkey Knife Fight


Claim 100% Instant Deposit Match up to $100!

Register for a Monkey Knife Fight account & deposit using promo code PICKSWISE100

Monkey Knife Fight will match your first deposit up to $100

Deposit $100 and you'll get $100 bonus + a free $5 game

18+. Terms and conditions apply. You must live in one of the states where real money DFS is legal.



Get a $300 Risk-Free Bet with TVG Racebook!

Register for a new TVG account and make a deposit

Place your first single horse win-type bet up to $300

If your horse doesn't win you'll get a refund up to $300

21+. T&C's apply. Please gamble responsibly.

BetAmerica Racing


$200 Sign Up Bonus!

Fast, reliable and fast payouts - you'll have your money in 72 hours, if not sooner!

Proud history of providing safe, secure, and fun betting to American patrons

BetAmerica is owned by the iconic Churchill Downs Incorporated, home of 150 years of wagering history and the world-famous Kentucky Derby

Players who sign up using ‘BET200’ code will get a $200 sign up bonus. Offer valid for 7 days after registering on BetAmerica Racing product only. 21+. T&C's apply. Please gamble responsibly.



Get a $200 Sign Up Bonus with TwinSpires Racebook!

Register for a new Twinspires account using offer code BET200

Make a deposit and start wagering on horse racing

Earn $100 in bonus cash for every $400 wagered!

21+. T&C's apply. Please gamble responsibly.