Horse racing newsletter: Jon White’s first look at the Belmont Stakes

Horses race on a track.
(Mark Humphrey / Associated Press)

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we notice three of the top four horses in the rankings are based in Southern California.

Let’s not waste any time and get right to the good stuff.

Jon White’s Belmont Stakes rankings

Here we are with the first rankings for the Belmont Stakes. Jon White does them for us. He’s one of the foremost historians on horse racing as well as being the morning-line maker at Santa Anita and Del Mar. He even has done stints as a steward. He does it all. So, let’s get right to it with the first word on the Belmont Stakes. It’s brought to you courtesy of Take it away, Jon.

“Now that the first two legs of the 2021 Triple Crown are in the books, attention turns to the final jewel in the series, the 153rd running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes.

“The Belmont this year is returning to its traditional spot of being the last of the Triple Crown events. It’s also back to its normal distance of 1 1/2 miles. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Belmont kicked off the series last year and was run at a later date (June 20) and shorter distance (1 1/8 miles) than usual, then was followed by the Kentucky Derby (Sept. 5) and Preakness Stakes (Oct. 3).


“Without a clear-cut favorite for this year’s Belmont, a large field is taking shape.

“Topping the Belmont rankings is Essential Quality, whose lone defeat in six career starts came when he finished fourth as the 5-2 favorite in the May 1 Kentucky Derby. He lost that race by one length, but traveled 68 feet (approximately seven to eight lengths) farther than the victorious Medina Spirit, according to Trakus.

Brad Cox trains Essential Quality. The first time Essential Quality had a workout for Cox when the colt was a 2-year-old, the trainer said to his assistant, ‘That’s my Belmont horse.’

“Tapit is the sire of Essential Quality. Tapit has sired three winners of the Belmont: Tonalist in 2014, Creator in 2016 and Tapwrit in 2017.

“Tiz the Law, whose sire is Constitution, won the 2020 Belmont. Constitution is by Tapit.

“Lexington holds the record for siring the most winners of the Belmont. Lexington’s four Belmont winners were General Duke in 1868, Kingfisher in 1970, Harry Basset in 1871 and Duke of Magenta in 1878.


“Mandaloun, also trained by Cox, will not be running in the Belmont after finishing second in the Kentucky Derby and skipping the Preakness. According to Cox, the next major goal for Mandaloun is the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on July 17, with a possible start before then.

“Rombauer, who won last Saturday’s 1 3/16-mile Preakness at Pimlico Race Course in come-from-behind fashion by 3 1/2 lengths, currently is at Belmont Park to run in the Belmont. Trained by Southern California’s Michael McCarthy, the Kentucky-bred Twirling Candy colt had not won a stakes race or a race on dirt prior to the Preakness.

“In Rombauer’s 2021 debut, he won the El Camino Real Derby on Golden Gate Fields’ synthetic surface. He then finished third on dirt in the April 3 Blue Grass Stakes. Essential Quality won the Blue Grass by a neck over Highly Motivated. Rombauer finished 5 3/4 lengths behind Essential Quality in the Blue Grass.

“Hot Rod Charlie, trained by Southern California’s Doug O’Neill, is headed to the Belmont after finishing third in the Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky-bred Oxbow colt won the March 20 Louisiana Derby prior to the Run for the Roses.

Flavien Prat rode Hot Rod Charlie in the Kentucky Derby before winning the Preakness aboard Rombauer. Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman reported Wednesday that there is ‘a strong likelihood’ Prat will be on Hot Rod Charlie if, as currently planned, both colts go in the Belmont.

“Rock Your World, winner of the April 3 Santa Anita Derby for trainer John Sadler, was sent off as the 9-2 second favorite in the Kentucky Derby. However, his race in Louisville was over about as quickly as you can say his name. Rock Your World was much farther back early than usual after a messy beginning and finished 17th, his first loss in four career starts. A line certainly can be drawn through Rock Your World’s race on the first Saturday in May.

“Godolphin owns Essential Quality. Godolphin has another Belmont contender in Rebel’s Romance, who is in New York after winning the UAE Derby by 5 1/2 lengths on March 27. The Irish-bred Dubawi gelding has won four of five lifetime starts.

“The undefeated filly Malathaat will not be competing in the Belmont. She won the Kentucky Oaks on April 30. The plan is for Malathaat to run in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga on July 24, the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 21, then the Breeders’ Cup Distaff or perhaps the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar in early November.

“Here are this week’s Belmont Stakes rankings, courtesy of Xpressbet:

1. Essential Quality

2. Hot Rod Charlie

3. Rombauer

4. Rock Your World

5. Rebel’s Romance

6. Midnight Bourbon

7. Known Agenda

8. Keepmeinmind

9. Bourbonic

10. Overtook”

Santa Anita preview

The opening card of the week is eight races starting at 1 p.m. There are three races on the turf and five are of the claiming variety. The feature is a six-furlong allowance/optional claimer turf race for Cal-breds going for a $63,000 purse. The favorite, at 9-5, is Letsgetlucky for Brian Koriner and Umberto Rispoli. He’s run two races, winning his maiden and then finishing third in the Echo Eddie. Rocktillyoudrop is the 7-2 second choice for Peter Miller and Flavien Prat. He has won one of four but has never graduated to stakes company.

Her are the field sizes, in order: 7, 7, 8, 9, 7, 6, 8, 10.

Ciaran Thornton’s SA pick of the day

THIRD RACE: No. 5 Best of Show (12-1)

Best of Show moves up in class for trainer Steve Miyadi off a win going a mile on dirt last out. This trainer is 32% maiden winner last race and is having a great meet. He puts big boy Cesar Ortega on board and this tandem has won 29%. This is the first try on turf but there is turf in the bloodlines with the dam having three turf winners from seven starters. The 12-1 morning line price is attractive.

Sunday’s result: Del Mar Drama sat off the pace and made a late move to finish fourth and then cruised on the gallop out. Next out I would make a note of this horse especially if they send this horse routing.

Ciaran Thornton is the handicapper for, which offers daily full card picks, longshots of the day, best bets of the day.

Los Alamitos weekend preview

Los Alamitos is the only game in town at night. So, let’s turn things over to marketing and media guru Orlando Gutierrez. Orlando, the floor is yours.

“Los Alamitos goes into Friday’s eight-race card with a Pick 6 carryover of $32,143. Fire Fast Honey’s upset at 14-1 in the Grade 2 Robert Adair Kindergarten Futurity was one of the keys on Sunday that led to the carryover. Racing starts at 6 p.m. with the Pick 6 sequence starting about 6:55 p.m.

“The total pool for the Pick 6 could be more than $125,000. Los Alamitos has the traditional $2 Pick 6 with a 70/30 split and there is no jackpot provision.

“The opening leg of the Pick 6 will be headed by Cryin’ Chuck, who has finished third or higher in six consecutive starts moving up and down the claiming ladder. He was second on May 14 and returns to face recent runner-up Shanghai Curly from the barn of 2020 leading thoroughbred trainer Sergio Morfin. The second leg, the fourth race, is for maidens at 1,000 yards with the favorite being Silverwind after a pair of runner-up efforts in his two career starts. CC Perkinson, who recently picked up her first win of the meet, will saddle Charming Danza. The 4-year-old gelding just missed winning on May 2 when coming up short in a photo finish to Dancing In Paris.

“Quarter horses will spotlight the fifth through seventh followed by a $16,000 allowance at 1,000 yards to close out the program.

“Saturday night, Coronas Invader and All Ways were two of the most surprising winners in the Robert Adair Kindergarten Futurity trials on April 25. Coronas Invader won at 28-1while All Ways hit the wire first at 17-1. The two will now face a compact group of winning juveniles in the $12,600 allowance feature at 300 yards.

“The Felix Gonzalez-trained Coronas Invader beat well-regarded Woman Secrets, who also returns for this race. Meanwhile, the Juan Aleman-trained All Ways could avenge his loss to Hitters Count on April 2, as that talented filly is also running. Hitters Count is also the only one in this group with just one career start. Stablemate Budget Buster will complete this solid field.

“The main event on Sunday will feature Ilushion Eagle in the Los Alamitos Adequan Derby Challenge at 400 yards. The gelding by One Fabulous Eagle won three consecutive starts in impressive fashion over a six-week span. He then scratched out of the $100,000 Los Alamitos Maiden Stakes after becoming fractious in the gate on Feb. 21 before returning to finish third to multiple stakes winner Black Fryday on May 2. He will be tough to beat in his second start off the layoff on Sunday night.

“Earlier, I mentioned Fire Fast Honey and her surprise win in the Kindergarten. The Walk Thru Fire filly was amazing, as she flew out of the gate on the way to a much easier than looked two-length victory in the Grade 2 $297,900 race at 300 yards. Fire Fast Honey’s win gave owners Dennis Jensen and Randy Young their biggest win as quarter-horse owners.

“Breaking from the eight at 14-1, Fire Fast Honey was on the lead from the start and there was no catching her from there. She was on the clear about 100 yards into the race and shortly after she had an insurmountable daylight advantage. With jockey Armando Cervantes aboard for trainer Monty Arrossa, she is the eighth filly since 2011 to win the Kindergarten final.

“’This couldn’t happen to better guys,’ said Arrossa about the winning owners. ‘This is the heart and soul of quarter-horse racing right here. These guys go to the sales every year. They support the sales, support our industry, buy babies every year. I felt good about her after the trials. She got bumped around, did not leave very good. We’ve taken her back to the gates the last couple of weeks and she’s just been on it. She needed the experience.’”

Chris Wade’s LA pick of the day

FIRST RACE: No. 6 Sarah’s Smirk (8-1)

She exits two speed sharpening 2 ½ furlong efforts down the straightaway and both with some trouble along the way while earning decent figures on my charts. I strongly believe she’ll be on the front end as she features one of my favorite angles, the quick turnaround, while also stretching out Friday. I’ll push this speedster steadily to be on the front end and hopefully have enough run late to be a player for all the board’s placings at an expected big number for a shedrow that produces a good amount of longshots.

A final thought

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And now the star of the show, Friday’s entries.

Santa Anita Entries for Friday, May 21.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 64th day of a 81-day meet.


6½ Furlongs. Purse: $35,000. Maiden Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $50,000-$45,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1The Longest NightRicardo Gonzalez126Philip D'Amato8-5
2Union BlissJuan Hernandez126Hector O. Palma8-150,000
3TisquantumTiago Pereira124Rolando Quinonez8-145,000
4Silver Moon RoadFlavien Prat120Tim Yakteen9-550,000
5Gerlach'sKent Desormeaux120Vladimir Cerin4-150,000
6Sir Williams DreamHeriberto Figueroa120Ricardo Zamora20-150,000
7Abi GezuntEdwin Maldonado120J. Eric Kruljac4-150,000


4½ Furlongs. Purse: $61,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies. 2 year olds.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Royal O'HaigainAlexis Centeno117Luis Mendez3-1
2Infinite LoveTyler Baze122Walther Solis5-1
3Distorted DivaTiago Pereira122Walther Solis6-1
4Charlotte HarborKent Desormeaux122J. Keith Desormeaux6-1
5Ko OlinaEdwin Maldonado122Luis Mendez7-2
6Miss BellatrixAbel Cedillo122Doug F. O'Neill6-1
7HarddianeEmily Ellingwood115Ryan Hanson7-2


6½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $28,000. Starter Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $25,000-$22,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1DynapowerTiago Pereira126Charles R. Stutts8-1
2Peace PipeJessica Pyfer121Richard Baltas4-125,000
3AcaiMario Gutierrez126Doug F. O'Neill2-1
4Listen to BlueGeovanni Franco126James M. Cassidy8-1
5Best of ShowCesar Ortega111Steven Miyadi12-122,500
6Gallantlystreaming Heriberto Figueroa124Samuel Nichols20-122,500
7Vegas PalmUmberto Rispoli126Gary Mandella5-2
8Bluegrass SkyFlavien Prat126Dan Blacker6-1


6 Furlongs. Purse: $31,000. Maiden Claiming. 3 year olds. Claiming Prices $30,000-$28,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Whiskey VisionJuan Espinoza113Val Brinkerhoff20-128,000
2Catfish CharlieEdwin Maldonado122Brian T. Cunningham12-130,000
3Call Nine One OneGeovanni Franco120Manuel Ortiz, Sr.15-128,000
4Careless KittenJessica Pyfer115Val Brinkerhoff5-228,000
5The Roan RangerCesar Ortega115David Bernstein4-130,000
6Stone's RiverJuan Hernandez120Craig Anthony Lewis8-128,000
7Marksman On TargetEswan Flores122Gary Stute2-130,000
8Pedro PerezTiago Pereira122Edwin Alvarez30-130,000
9WinhappyMario Gutierrez122Antonio Garcia5-130,000


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $36,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $35,000-$30,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Cover VersionJuan Hernandez124Reed Saldana5-135,000
2Colombian GoldTiago Pereira124William Spawr7-235,000
3Sophie AntoinetteVictor Espinoza120Doug F. O'Neill20-130,000
4True MischiefEmily Ellingwood117Richard Baltas10-135,000
5Wind Tartare Jose Valdivia, Jr.120Vann Belvoir5-130,000
6So Much HappyJessica Pyfer115George Papaprodromou2-130,000
7SherilindaTyler Baze120George Papaprodromou5-230,000


5½ Furlongs. Purse: $24,000. Claiming. 3 to u year olds. Claiming Prices $16,000-$12,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Mountain SpiritEmily Ellingwood119Jeff Mullins8-516,000
2Floyd MoneymakerJuan Espinoza119Val Brinkerhoff30-116,000
3Lovesick BluesAbel Cedillo120Steven Miyadi4-116,000
4Prince RickyAlexis Centeno119Craig Anthony Lewis10-112,500
5Calder ValeHeriberto Figueroa126Ricardo Zamora30-116,000
6Press BriefingFlavien Prat126Jeff Bonde4-516,000


6 Furlongs Turf. Purse: $63,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $50,000. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Big FlameAbel Cedillo123Tim Yakteen15-1
2CibertruckRicardo Gonzalez123Kristin Mulhall4-1
3Me LikeyAlexis Centeno118Milton G. Pineda20-1
4RocktillyoudropFlavien Prat123Peter Miller7-250,000
5My Man BagsJuan Hernandez123Paul G. Aguirre6-1
6Jazz HandsMario Gutierrez123Edward R. Freeman5-1
7LetsgetluckyUmberto Rispoli123Brian J. Koriner9-5
8Play ChickenTyler Baze123Steve Knapp8-150,000


5½ Furlongs. Purse: $31,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies. 3 year olds. Claiming Prices $30,000-$28,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Sweet SoulmateEdwin Maldonado122George Papaprodromou6-130,000
2Kind But She LiesKent Desormeaux122J. Eric Kruljac3-130,000
3AvisseTiago Pereira122Manuel Ortiz, Sr.6-130,000
4Princess SynskyDiego Herrera115Hector O. Palma12-130,000
5Brio Is AwesomeAbel Cedillo120Lorenzo Ruiz5-128,000
6NobuJessica Pyfer117Simon Callaghan4-130,000
7Perfectly JulieCesar Ortega115Marcia Stortz10-130,000
8Medusa's GazeGeovanni Franco122Steve Knapp5-130,000
9Twirly GirlJuan Espinoza113Val Brinkerhoff20-128,000
10Big Al's PrincessAlexis Centeno117Victor L. Garcia7-230,000