As my good friend Mike “Saratoga Slim” Spector said earlier this week, this truly is a Belmont Stakes (G1) like no other. Frankly, let’s hope we never see one like it again.
NYRA has done a good job of putting together the best racing product possible, but this just does not feel like a normal Belmont Stakes – the contest was shortened to 1 1/8 miles and will serve as the the first leg of the Triple Crown. Just writing that sentence is awkward. Still, the show goes on, and we are happy to have a Belmont Stakes at all after the complete chaos earlier this year.
Leading the way in this year’s event is Tiz the Law, who has been a top 3-year-old for much of the season. Many believe that he would have been the Kentucky Derby (G1) winner if it had been held on its original date, and that is hard to argue. He comes into this race off of an ultra-impressive win in the Florida Derby (G1), where he dominated foes under a hand ride. Manny Franco will have the mount once again when he breaks from post 8 as the likely heavy favorite.
The front-running Tap It to Win looks like his toughest challenger. After a lackluster 2-year-old season, he has been perfect in both 2020 starts. His last win was the most impressive of his career; he dominated allowance company over this track by 5 lengths. John Velazquez will be aboard when he breaks from the rail.
The Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) winner and Tampa Bay Derby (G2) runner-up Sole Volante is also a major player. He enters the race off of just 10 days’ rest and was last seen dominating allowance foes at Gulfstream Park under a hand ride. He will break from post 2 with Luca Panici along for the ride.
The full field from the rail out: Tap It to Win, Sole Volante, Max Player, Modernist, Farmington Road, Fore Left, Jungle Runner, Tiz the Law, Dr Post, and Pneumatic.
#8 Tiz the Law – No matter how you slice it, this is Tiz the Law’s race to lose. He is the classiest and fastest horse in this race, and his Florida Derby (G1) effort was simply breathtaking. The biggest question mark could be the time off between races; after the Florida Derby, there wasn’t anywhere for him to run. However, each of his two wins this year came after two-month breaks, and his workouts suggest that he’s ready to roll, which is exactly what he should do if he shows up with his top effort.
Horses to Use in Multi-Race Wagers
#2 Sole Volante – If you’re looking to upset the heavy favorite, then this could be your horse. He comes into the event razor-sharp, winning a tough allowance race at Gulfstream Park just 10 days ago under a hand ride and has a fitness edge over the big favorite, which could come into play if the race gets tight. Sole Volante’s biggest problem is that he is pace-dependent, which means he will need fast fractions from the front-runners in order for him to have a chance. With the right setup, he can pull off the upset.
#1 Tap It to Win – This up-and-comer put on a show last time out at Belmont Park, dominating what looked like a solid allowance field by 5 lengths. His early speed is his most dangerous weapon here, especially since the other serious win threats come from off the pace. They will all have to run him down in the stretch, so it will be ultra-important to watch the early fractions. If he gets out to an easy lead, they may not be able to catch him.
#10 Pneumatic – We’ll see if this Steve Asmussen trainee can continue progressing after finishing third in the Matt Winn Stakes (G3) last time out. That was his first race against stakes company, so it was good to see that he was competitive against a few nice horses. He still needs to show improvement here in order to have any chance at winning, though, which is why we put him in the exotic plays category. Another third place-type of performance would be a solid step in the right direction.
#4 Modernist – This colt is never going to be described as flashy, but he seems to be steadily improving with each start. His biggest win came in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) two starts back, where he won in front-running fashion. He then came back to run a solid third in the Louisiana Derby (G2), which was a nice way to back up his Risen Star upset. His chances of winning here seem slim, but he could stay around for a minor award with the right trip.
For Our Full Card Belmont Day Picks, Check Out the Inside Track to the Belmont Stakes Wagering Guide
#9 Dr Post – This Todd Pletcher trainee showed a ton of class in his last race, winning the Unbridled Stakes at Gulfstream Park despite a horrendous trip. That kind of trip cannot happen again here if he wants to have success, but it was nice to see him fight through adversity. He has every right to keep improving, but will it be enough to make some noise at big odds in this spot? Perhaps not, but he is the most logical double-digit upsetter.
#5 Farmington Road – He seems to be the ultimate underneath type of horse who clunks up late for third or fourth. Until we see something a bit more flashy from him, that looks like his ceiling. It will be tough for him to even hit the board here while facing several other solid closers.
#3 Max Player – He comes into race after not running since February 1, when he won the Withers Stakes (G3) in impressive fashion. Still, we need to see a little more before we support him in this much tougher spot, especially as he returns from a long layoff.
#6 Fore Left – A very late addition to the race that was announced the day before the draw, his most recent start saw him win a prep in Dubai for the UAE Derby (G2). He was originally aiming for the 7-furlong Woody Stephens Stakes (G1) on the undercard before changing at the last second. His early speed could play a factor in the outcome.
#7 Jungle Runner – He will easily be the longest shot on the board after several poor efforts this season. If he makes any positive impact in this race, it would be the ultimate surprise.