The field is set for the 152nd running of the Belmont Stakes. It sure seems like there is a lot less fanfare this time around, as the COVID-19 pandemic will leave Belmont park fan-less for what is traditionally the third and final leg of the Triple Crown.
Instead, the Belmont Stakes is the first leg of the 2020 Triple Crown and the race has been shortened from its traditional 1 1/2 miles to just 1 1/8 miles. The 12-furlong distance has been the standard since 1926, but desperate times call for desperate measures. The NYRA could have waited and tried to run the race in October or November after the other two Triple Crown events, but will run on June 20 instead.
We knew that the altered schedule was going to lead to something of a watered-down field, but this year’s field has also been ravaged by injuries. Nadal, Charlatan, and Maxfield, all potential contenders for this race, are out due to a variety of injuries. Nadal, in fact, will never race again due to his injury.
With three of the nation’s top three-year-olds sidelined, and some others choosing not to participate, we have an overwhelming favorite and what appears to be a race for place.
Here are the post positions, horses, trainers, jockeys, and the morning line odds for the 2020 Belmont Stakes:
|1||Tap It To Win||M. Casse||J. Velazquez||6/1|
|2||Sole Volante||L. Panici||P. Biancone||9/2|
|3||Max Player||L. Rice||J. Rosario||15/1|
|4||Modernist||B. Mott||J. Alvarado||15/1|
|5||Farmington Road||T. Pletcher||J. Castellano||15/1|
|6||Fore Left||D. O’Neill||J. Ortiz||30/1|
|7||Jungle Runner||S. Asmussen||R. Gutierrez||50/1|
|8||Tiz the Law||B. Tagg||M. Franco||6/5|
|9||Dr Post||T. Pletcher||I. Ortiz Jr.||5/1|
|10||Pneumatic||S. Asmussen||R. Santana Jr.||8/1|
Tiz the Law is the big 6/5 favorite, but the race for second place looks competitive as can be with Tap It To Win, Dr Post, Pneumatic, and Sole Volante all priced in single digits. Only three horses bred in New York have won the race dating back to 1868. Tiz the Law is hoping to be the fourth.
Let’s take a look through the 10 horses and put together a $20 Bet Slip for the 2020 Belmont Stakes:
- Tap It To Win (6/1) – Casse/Velazquez
Tap It To Win is 2-for-2 as a three-year, with one win for Tyler Gaffalione and another for Saturday’s rider, John Velazquez. The son of, you guessed it, Tapit has put together two big speed figures of 101 and 99 in the two races this year, the most recent an allowance optional claiming at Belmont on June 4. That was 1 1/16 miles and it was a wire-to-wire job for the 6/1 odds. It was a huge speed bomb for Tap It To Win and the best speed figure to date. The question now is whether or not that was the peak for the horse that draws the rail post or whether or not that was a sign of a maturing three-year-old.
- Sole Volante (9/2) – Biancone/Panici
Sole Volante has won four of his six starts, including two of four races this season. Florida-based rider Luca Panici draws the mount here fresh off of a nice win back on June 10. This is a very quick turnaround, particularly with the travel from Florida to New York for the three-year-old son of Karakontie, a Japanese sire.
Sole Volante was second in the Tampa Bay Derby back in March and won the Sam F. Davis Stakes on the same track over Independence Hall. The Tampa Bay Derby loss came at the hands of King Guillermo, the 49/1 shot that shocked the racing world. Sole Volante is a closer and maybe the extra distance would have helped a little more here.
- Max Player (15/1) – Rice/Rosario
Linda Rice is the trainer for Max Player, one of the sons of Honor Code. Joel Rosario will be a first-time rider on this house, which won the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct back in February with a rather pedestrian speed figure. This is an extremely long layoff for Max Player, having not raced in well over four months. Unlike Tap It To Win and Sole Volante, Max Player has run 1 1/8 and pulled away from the field in the Withers.
Still, this is a long layoff, a trainer that doesn’t have the same reputation as the others in the field, and a horse that has not produced a big enough speed figure in three races to be treated as a top contender.
- Modernist (15/1) – Mott/Alvarado
This sure does feel like a case of “what could have been”. The son of Uncle Mo won at 13/1 in the Risen Star Stakes, but came up third in the Louisiana Derby at a similar price. Modernist, like so many others in the race, just doesn’t have the top-end speed. The speed figures are not there, also Modernist has gone 1 1/8 twice and 1 3/16, so the distance will not be a hindrance at all.
Modernist is more of a stalker than anything else, which seems like a bad strategy for this race. You either have to set the pace and get out front or be a closer and catch the rest of the pack. Modernist will likely be more of a factor in the middle of the race than at the beginning or the end.
- Farmington Road (15/1) – Pletcher/Castellano
Here is one of the closers, Farmington Road. The problem here is that Farmington Road waits too long to get going. Awful starts in the Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn Stakes,a nd the Risen Star Stakes looked a lot better at the end because the son of Quality Road was passing tired horses. The three speed figures over the last three races are fine, but this horse doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of burst, particularly early in the race.
Javier Castellano draws the mount and has ridden him three times to a second, fourth, and fourth. Farmington Road’s only win is in a $27,000 maiden after finishing fifth and second at a higher price. The story likely remains the same here off of a long layoff. Farmington Road will close strong and maybe be a factor in exotics, but would have to run a much different race to finish win or place.
- Fore Left (30/1) – O’Neill/Ortiz
The son or Twirling Candy actually left the United States to go over to Dubai and run in a $250,000 stakes race at Meydan. He won that race by nearly two lengths for his fourth career win, but it wasn’t the most impressive of fields or speeds.
This is a horse that went 1 1/16 in the American Pharoah Stakes last year and finished seventh, 31 lengths back of Eight Rings. Based on the speed figures, he will be a non-factor.
- Jungle Runner (50/1) – Asmussen/Gutierrez
The bloodline is good here with Candy Ride and Minx as the sire and dam, but not much else stands out. Jungle Runner was 22 lengths behind Charlatan in the Arkansas Derby back on May 2. Steve Asmussen is definitely a high-percentage trainer, but both the rider and the horse leave something to be desired.
- Tiz the Law (6/5) – Tagg/Franco
The highest speed figure in this race belongs to Tiz the Law, who popped a 108 en route to winning the Holy Bull Stakes over Ete Indien by three lengths. Tiz the Law followed it up with a 100 in the Florida Derby. That was Tiz the Law’s last race, so we’re sitting on just under three months without a race for the son of Constitution.
Tiz the Law already won at Belmont in the Champagne Stakes, which was a fairly weak field, but he won by four with one of his lowest speed figures. It would be a surprise to see him come up in this one. He was third in the Kentucky Jockey Club last November with his worst performance and finished just behind Silver Prospector and Finnick The Fierce. If we get anything resembling a median effort from Tiz the Law, he likely wins here.
- Dr Post (5/1) – Pletcher/Ortiz Jr.
There are maybe three horses that look capable of spoiling the party and this is one of them. The son of Quality Road is trained by three-time Belmont Stakes winner Todd Pletcher. Dr Post is going some extra distance here, so we’ll have to see how that goes after winning the 1 1/16 mile Unbridled at Gulfstream Park in late April. His 104 speed figure on a seven-month layoff to break his maiden was a sign of what this horse is capable of, even with some downtime.
He also came from a far outside post at Gulfstream to win that seven-furlong race with a big speed showing. The question is whether or not he has a better run than the Unbridled in him. A 94 speed figure won’t do it here.
- Pneumatic (8/1) – Asmussen/Santana Jr.
Pneumatic is a really interesting horse for Saturday. The son of Uncle Mo was 2-for-2 before coming in third to Maxfield and Ny Traffic in the Matt Winn Stakes last month. It was his first race at distance and he did fade a little bit at the end. For his first showing beyond a mile, it was a pretty good looking race all things considered. Santana backed up a little bit at the end, knowing he could not outduel Maxfield.
The far outside post isn’t a bad draw for Pneumatic, who likes to stalk in the middle of the pack and go for a big speed burst. It will be up to Santana to know when to kick it into high gear. He may have mistimed his move at the Matt Winn just a little bit. He’ll get another chance here in a similar spot, where his horse isn’t as good as the fastest horses, but a tactical ride just might be good enough to get on the board.
Tiz the Law should win here. Only Tiz the Law and Sole Volante have more than one triple-digit speed number. Dr Post and Tap It To Win each have one.
It is interesting that Casse goes away from Gaffalione here to stick with Velazquez on Tap It To Win. He must have liked his ride more in that allowance race at Belmont earlier this month.
With that in mind, we’ll keep this one pretty simple.
$8 Win – 8 Tiz the Law
$2 Exacta Box – 1/8/9
Post time is 5:42 p.m. ET.