No. 1 Bourbonic (Kendrick Carmouche, Todd Pletcher) 15-1
Trainer Todd Pletcher sends three eighths of the field on Saturday for a race he has won three times before, most recently in 2017 with Tapwrit. Of his trio, Bourbonic is the least considered based on the odds, but there is some feeling that he could fit in very well in this race. That’s because this colt is the closest, which means the extra distance he’ll go might suit him better than other contenders.
Bourbonic jumped into the Kentucky Derby after his impressive victory in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct at odds of 72-1. Considering his previous start was in an optional claiming at Parx Racing in Pennsylvania, there was little to suggest he was ready for the big time.
No. 2 Essential Quality (Luis Saez, Brad Cox) 2-1
This colt has a second chance to be a Triple Crown favorite after finishing fourth as a 5-1 favorite. He finished fourth in the Derby, and what that means depends on how you view the race. On the one hand, Essential Quality suffered from a tricky trip, being run over at the start and then forced to pull away on the turns.
In each of his wins, Essential Quality was either overtaking horses or extending his lead down the stretch. That would seem to bode well for his chances of going the extra distance at Belmont. Look for Essential Quality to be one of the horses fighting for the win, although the fact he is the favourite means there won’t be as much value as you can get for some of the other contenders.
No. 3 Rombauer (Jo3 Rombauer (John Velazquez, Michael McCarthy) 3-1
At 11-1 in the Preakness, Rombauer wasn’t even a horse that was getting much buzz as a potential sleeper. But he was the best at Pimlico, improving at the right pace throughout the field to beat him by a comfortable margin of three lengths. Now the question will be whether that was just some kind of race in the dark or whether it is something that can be repeated.
Remember that Rombauer had not won anywhere near that level before this, with an ungraded bet at Golden Gate his most memorable effort. He had finished well beyond Essential Quality in a couple of stakes this year, although his third in the Bluegrass came after a rough trip.
Plus, he also had the advantage of being a new shooter in the Preakness, although there were several other horses in that field who were in the same boat.
No. 4 Hot Rod Charlie (Flavien Prat, Doug O’Neill) 7-2
As mentioned above, Flavien Prat, who won the Preakness with Rombauer, will hang up to keep his riding aboard this colt, which gives him the chance to win two Triple Crown races in the same year with different horses. And Hot Rod Charlie is probably the wise choice here, with Rombauer looking perhaps a one-race wonder. This colt went off at 5-1 in the Derby and finished third.
It will be interesting to see if Prat goes after the front end with this horse, whose big win in the Louisiana Derby came when he rushed to the lead. In a race where there isn’t much starting speed (with the exception of Rock Your World), this may be the best chance for Hot Rod Charlie. But even in that scenario, it’s concerning whether or not he’ll have the stamina to sustain the win.