The Belmont Stakes is still three weeks away and the final field will probably be set a week earlier than that, so there is a lot of time to speculate on which three-year-olds will enter the starting gate for the mile-and-a-half race.
One of the most interesting developments is the possibility of undefeated Kentucky Oaks winner Malathaat entering the final jewel of the Triple Crown, which would make her the only filly to run in the series in 2021.
New entries in the Triple Crown
With no clear favourite for the Belmont Stakes, trainer Todd Pletcher's dominant filly could pose a serious challenge for the colts and add much-needed interest to the race that will not have the possibility of crowning a 14th Triple Crown champion. It would also be refreshing to be focusing on something other than Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit's prospects of getting disqualified and Mandaloun being declared the champion.
Another interesting entry would be Rebel's Romance, the 100-40-20-10 UAE Derby winner who would be making his United States racing debut in the Belmont Stakes. He qualified for the Kentucky Derby but has so far been idle since the win in the qualifying race at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai on March 27.
Promise Keeper was one of the favourites in the Tampa Bay Derby, but finished in last place in the 12 horse field after veteran jockey Luis Saez pulled him off the pace despite looking like he might challenge after the first six furlongs. He had a much better performance in his last outing, winning the mile-and-an-eighth Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont on May 8 by over two lengths over another Kentucky Derby prep race participant, Nova Rags.
Bob Baffert likely to be absent at Belmont Stakes
So far, it appears that trainer Bob Baffert will not be represented in the Belmont Stakes, probably because there isn't much to gain by pushing Medina Spirit into his third race in five weeks or to run Concert Tour with less rest than usual between races. It's been a tough couple of weeks for the Hall of Fame trainer after Medina Spirit tested positive for illegal levels of betamethasone.
Brad Cox's Belmont Stakes possibilities
Trainer Brad Cox wasn't represented at the Preakness Stakes after having Mandaloun finish second and pre-race favourite Essential Quality finish fourth in the Kentucky Derby, despite the prospect of Mandaloun being named the Derby winner in the event Medina Spirit is disqualified.
It appears that the most likely entry for Cox in the Belmont Stakes is Essential Quality, who had entered the Derby with an unblemished record in five career races.
The unique length of the Belmont, two furlongs longer than the mile-and-a-quarter of the Kentucky Derby, is definitely a factor in the trainers' and owners' decisions to enter their horses. Most of the three-year-olds have plenty of races left in their careers, so they'll need to demonstrate through workouts that they're in good enough shape to make the start.