Thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Triple Crown has gone…a little topsy-turvy. The Belmont Stakes, usually the last race of the three, is the first this year. Usually the longest race of the series, it’s now the shortest: just a mile and an eighth.
The race drew a field of 10 to contest for a million dollar purse — and, for the first time in its history, the Belmont is also a Road to the Kentucky Derby points race, with 150-60-30-15 points allotted to the top four places.
Belmont Park – Saturday, June 20
Race 10: Belmont Stakes (G1), three-year-olds, one and one eighth miles on the dirt, post time 5.42pm EDT
#1 TAP IT TO WIN (6/1) – He has shown plenty of speed, and especially with the rail draw, he will be forced to use it. He won’t be alone on the lead: both MODERNIST and FORE LEFT outside him both have plenty of gas, and should ensure an honest pace. TAP IT TO WIN still has to prove is class, as he has finished up the track in both his stakes tries. But, on the positive side, both of those stakes tries were last year, he is unbeaten in two allowance tries this year, and his last-out allowance win at Belmont shows he can handle the footing at Big Sandy. There is also enough in his pedigree to suggest he could handle the stretch to nine furlongs: though his second dam being by Unreal Zeal raises questions, he is by Tapit out of a Medaglia d’Oro mare, and they put some stamina closer up in the pedigree.
#2 SOLE VOLANTE (9/2) – He won a top-shelf allowance at Gulfstream on June 10, something that qualifies for a last-minute prep nowadays. But, that race couldn’t have gone any better: he got a pace battle to attack, he came rolling in the lane, and he got to the wire first without being implored. He should get honest fractions to chase in the Belmont, which plays in his favour, though Belmont isn’t always the best track for a true deep closer. He also has to prove that he is up to the challenge of being TIZ THE LAW, who is both the divisional leader and a horse who should, if he sticks to his running style, get the jump. SOLE VOLANTE is one of the better horses in this year’s three-year-old class, and the mile and an eighth should suit him well. But, with the running style questions? He is a must-use in the exotics, though don’t take too short a price on the win end.
#3 MAX PLAYER (15/1) – He makes his first start since February. With only three starts underneath him, he cedes experience to most of his foes, though he is one of the only three entrants who already has a victory at a mile and an eighth. That came in the Withers (G3), in which he sat midfield early before rallying into a sharp pace. He doesn’t have to drop back quite as far as a deep closer like SOLE VOLANTE, which plays in his favour. The question is whether he can improve enough: he has to take a sharp step up from that Withers, which was already a career best, in his first start off a four-month layoff.
#4 MODERNIST (15/1) – He returns for his first start since a third-place finish in his division of the Louisiana Derby (G2) three months ago. He was rounding into good form as the Fair Grounds meet drew to a close; he won the weaker division of the Risen Star (G2), then held his own behind Wells Bayou and Ny Traffic. The mile and an eighth suits MODERNIST nicely; both his maiden win and his Risen Star win came at the trip. And, his score in the Risen Star showed that he doesn’t have to have it easy on the front end, something that should serve him well with both TAP IT TO WIN and FORE LEFT to deal with on the front end as well. He has the stamina and the tools — the question is whether he has matured enough in the last three months to run a race fast enough to contend with some of the best horses of his class.
#5 FARMINGTON ROAD (15/1) – This deep closer has been an underneath type in all his prep race tries. He ran late for fourth in the stronger division of the Risen Star, then second in the Oaklawn Stakes, then fourth in the Nadal division of the Arkansas Derby. He got torrid fractions to chase in both the Risen Star and the Oaklawn Stakes; the running in front of him should be honest, but a pace collapse in the Belmont seems unlikely. The scariest thing about FARMINGTON ROAD is his trainer; Todd Pletcher does well in the Belmont. Though, the timing and the distance make this an odd Belmont…and the “rally from the clouds” running style makes Farmington Road most usable for tickets that spread a bit on the lower fringes of trifectas or superfectas.
#6 FORE LEFT (30/1) – He makes just his second start of the year, and his first since his frontrunning score in the UAE 2000 Guineas (G3). It was a positive sign, especially after his two-year-old form had begun to suggest that other horses were catching up to him after his precocious start. But, this is a tougher assignment than a G3 dirt race in the UAE — and with TAP IT TO WIN and MODERNIST drawn in, FORE LEFT will have a tougher time on the lead than he did in any of his victories so far. There’s also the question of whether he will stay the mile and an eighth. Perhaps — he is by Twirling Candy out of a half-sister to Reveron, who ran second in the Florida Derby. But, in the balance, FORE LEFT will be a longshot for a reason.
#7 JUNGLE RUNNER (50/1) – He looked like he was going the right way in the late autumn at Remington, winning a maiden special and then the Clever Trevor Stakes. But, in each of four stakes starts since, he has been beaten double-digit lengths. Perhaps he will be a bit sharper in the Belmont than he was in the Arkansas Derby, since this marks his second start off a layoff of almost two and a half months. Even with that potential, though, he would have to make a monumental move forward to hold his own with even the mid-level contenders in the Belmont.
#8 TIZ THE LAW (6/5) – The price will be short on this Sackatoga Stable standardbearer, but he is also the best horse in his class. In five starts he his three quarters of a length shy of perfect; that loss came over a wet track at Churchill, and he should get dry footing this time. In both starts this year, in the Holy Bull (G2) and the Florida Derby (G1), he tracked the pace before taking complete control in the lane. That’s the sort of trip that should work out well in the Belmont. Even though both of his wins this year came at Gulfstream, TIZ THE LAW is no Gulfstream Park Horse: he is already a G1 winner over the Belmont dirt, as he dominated the Champagne last year. He has proven he runs well fresh, and he has been drilling like clockwork leading into the Belmont. There is every reason to think the real TIZ THE LAW will show up to the Belmont; if he does, the other horses are going to have to improve to keep up.
#9 DR POST (5/1) – The likely shorter price between the two Todd Pletcher entrants, DR POST makes his graded stakes debut in the Belmont. He has raced just three times, and looks like a horse who just needed a bit of time to blossom. He ran fourth in his only start at 2, a maiden special at Belmont, but returned this spring to win both a maiden special and the Unbridled Stakes at Gulfstream. His running style should suit the race, as he is a stalking to midpack type. He stretches to a mile and an eighth for the first time. Whether he stays it is a question; his dam’s progeny have tended to be sprinters, though the Quality Road on top helps his case. All told, DR POST has plenty of upside, though don’t take too short a price as he takes such a step up in class.
#10 PNEUMATIC (8/1) – The “A” entrant from the Steve Asmussen barn, he is lightly raced, with only three starts underneath him. After clearing his maiden and N1X conditions in short order, he did get a good test against tough horses in the Matt Winn (G3) a month ago, disputing the pace before flattening to third behind Maxfield and Ny Traffic. His two previous wins were enough to show that he does not need the lead; he is tactical enough to carve out a trip from this outside gate. He also has pedigree potential to get the mile and an eighth, being by Uncle Mo out of a Tapit half-sister to Pyro. All told, he has some price potential in the Belmont.
#8 TIZ THE LAW (6/5)
#10 PNEUMATIC (8/1)
#2 SOLE VOLANTE (9/2)
Longshot: #4 MODERNIST (15/1)
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