Experts handicap Saturday’s 153rd running of the Belmont Stakes. Post time is approximately 6:49 p.m.
The Post’s lead horse racing handicapper
1. Hot Rod Charlie: Why would jockey Flavien Prat take off Rombauer after he guided him to victory in the Preakness? Maybe because he believed Charlie should have won the Kentucky Derby. He was right there, denied a length by the “loose on the lead” Medina Spirit. Should stalk Rock Your World and leave him when given his cue. Can he get the distance and hold on? Yes.
2. Essential Quality: Fans are back and so is he. The Derby favorite skipped the Preakness to run at Belmont. Finished a compromised fourth, a photo back of Hot Rod Charlie at Churchill Downs. Five-for-five previously and should give Charlie all he can handle in the final 1/16th.
3. Rombauer: The Preakness winner finished full of run and figures to get the “Test of the Champions” distance. Trainer Mike McCarthy was wise to replace Prat with the veteran John Velazquez. Didn’t have top two to contend with at Pimlico, but he will be tough to hold off.
VSiN.com; host of the Ron Flatter Racing Pod
1. Known Agenda: He is bred to go the 1 ¹/₂ miles, he ran well in the Derby despite a horrible draw, and he is trained by three-time Belmont winner Todd Pletcher.
2. Essential Quality: Tapit babies like him love the Belmont distance. He very well may win, but his odds will be awfully short.
3. Overtook: As a $1 million purchase, he is the most expensive horse in the race. If any long shot is going to hit the board, it is this one who is also from the Pletcher barn.
VSiN.com senior reporter and handicapper
1. Bourbonic: The son of Bernardini won the Grade 2 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and never really got into the race in the Kentucky Derby. He’s being overlooked off that performance — plus the fact he’s a deep closer and those don’t tend to do well in the Belmont — but he has the pedigree and should be running fastest of all in the stretch if the front-runners back up. He’s the betting value on the morning line at 15-1.
2. Rock Your World: This California speedster is the expected pacesetter and could steal it if he’s able to slow down the pace and go the distance. I have to use him in case he does that or just gets passed by one of the closers (again, hoping that’s Bourbonic!).
3. Essential Quality: The son of Tapit, who is the sire of three of the past six Belmont winners, was considered to be the top 3-year-old in this class and went off as the Derby favorite. A return to his prior form, in which he started his career 5-0 before the Derby loss, puts him right in the mix. He needs to be included in exotics.