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SportsHorseracingBelmont Stakes

2020 Belmont Stakes horse-by-horse analysis

Tiz The Law ridden by exercise rider Robin

Tiz The Law ridden by exercise rider Robin Smullen during his moring workout at Belmont Park in Elmont on Thursday June 18, 2020.  Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Saturday’s 152nd running of the Belmont Stakes is already one for the history books given the myriad differences the COVID-19 pandemic has forced upon the Triple Crown classic.

It’ll be run at 11/8 miles and one turn, rather than a full lap around Belmont Park’s sweeping 11/2-mile main track. It’s the first leg, not the last, of the Triple Crown series and it’ll be another 11 weeks until the pushed-back Kentucky Derby. The purse is down a third to $1 million. No fans – or owners – will fill the giant grandstand.

As for the field, it’s New York-bred Tiz the Law’s race to lose against nine other horses of widely varying talent.

Here’s a look at each horse:

1. Tap It to Win

Trainer: Mark Casse

Jockey: John Velazquez

Record: 6-3-1-0

Last 3: 1-1-10

Post: 1

Odds: 6-1

The son of Tapit prefers to set an early pace and jockey John Velazquez, breaking on the rail, has no option but to sprint ahead to avoid trouble. Tap It to Win has finished first in both his 2020 starts, including a wire-to-wire, five-length victory in a 11/6-mile allowance race at Belmont on June 4. But he struggled in his only other Grade 1 start, finishing a distant 10th in the Breeders Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 5. Still, not a bad bet to use underneath with trainer Mark Casse going for his personal triple crown, having won the Preakness with War of Will and the Belmont with Sir Winston in 2019. Plus, Velazquez has won the Belmont Stakes and Kentucky Derby two times apiece.

2. Sole Volante

Trainer: Patrick Biancone

Jockey: Luca Panici

Record: 6-4-1-1

Last 3: 1-2-1

Post: 2

Odds: 9-2

Maybe the most interesting entry after rallying from nine lengths back to win a one-mile allowance race at Gulfstream on June 10 and not arriving at Belmont from Florida until Tuesday. But the connections strongly believe the horse is fresh after his previous race was a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Tampa Derby on March 7. Sole Volante has not finished out of the money in six career starts, with four wins but this is his first crack at a Grade 1 stakes. Sole Volante won’t set the pace but has good speed to close. There’s a chance the late trip to New York will be too much but probably a decent play in exotics.

3. Max Player

Trainer: Linda Rice

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Record: 3-2-1-0

Last 3: 1-1-2

Post: 3

Odds: 15-1

Max Player won the Grade 3 11/8-mile Withers at Aqueduct on Feb. 1 by 31/4 lengths in just his third career start and has not raced since with the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 4 being cancelled and trainer Linda Rice opting not to ship the horse for the crowded Arkansas Derby. Max Player has maintained steady workouts at Belmont during the long layoff, going 1:12.1 over six furlongs this past Saturday and 1:00.3 over five furlongs on June 3. Breaking from the inside will not help the horse’s past issues with kickback and he’s likely not fast enough to keep up. Jockey Joel Rosario was aboard last year’s Belmont Stakes champion, Sir Winston, but spend money here at your own risk. Or, better yet, don’t.

4. Modernist

Trainer: Bill Mott

Jockey: Junior Alvarado

Record: 5-2-0-2

Last 3: 3-1-1

Post: 4

Odds: 15-1

Modernist possesses some speed but it’s questionable whether it will be enough to keep up. He finished third by 41/4 lengths in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby on March 21 and his only other stakes history is winning a division of the Grade 2 Risen Star in New Orleans on Feb. 15. He also led the way in a 11/8-mile win at Aqueduct on Jan. 25. The connections didn’t commit to running the Belmont Stakes until midweek. Not likely to be a factor.

5. Farmington Road

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Record: 6-1-2-0

Last 3: 4-2-4

Post: 5

Odds: 15-1

Has finished in the money just three times in six career starts – and never in two graded stakes – and was fourth by seven lengths in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on May 2. Broke his maiden at Tampa on Jan. 12 and his lone run at Belmont was a fifth-place finish by nine lengths at six furlongs in his debut on Oct. 23. Reducing the Belmont Stakes to one turn was attractive to the connections and Farmington Road does have some closing speed. But he seems out of his league in this race. Hard pass.

6. Fore Left

Trainer: Doug O’Neill

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Record: 9-4-0-2

Last 3: 1-10-3

Post: 6

Odds: 30-1

Another late, midweek entry. He was in Dubai for the winter and won the Grade 3 UAE 2000 at Meydan on Feb. 6 before the pandemic altered his connections’ plans and he was shipped back to the U.S. Trainer Doug O’Neill originally had him pointed to the Grade 1 Woody Stephens on the Belmont Stakes’ undercard before opting for the main event. He won his lone race at Belmont at 51/2 furlongs on June 7, 2019. He likely will be among the early speed but it would be surprising to see Fore Left keep up with the pack. Not a contender.

7. Jungle Runner

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Jockey: Reylu Gutierrez

Record: 8-2-0-0

Last 3: 8-5-8

Post: 7

Odds: 50-1

Seemingly a horse that’s just taking up space in the field. Two wins among eight career starts but he was a distant eighth in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on May 2. He did finish first in the $100,000 Clever Trevor on Nov. 1, his second straight win at Remington Park in Oklahoma City. But Jungle Runner has not been in the money other than those two wins. His jockey has a good story, though. Reylu Gutierrez, 23, was born in Rochester, worked with his father, a trainer, at Finger Lakes and graduated from SUNY-Cortland. Tempting to throw down a couple of dollars at these odds, just in case. But that’s, well, a real longshot.

8. Tiz the Law

Trainer: Barclay Tagg

Jockey: Manny Franco

Record: 5-4-0-1

Last 3: 1-1-3

Post: 8

Odds: 6-5

The only entry among the 10 horses with a Grade 1 stakes win. Two, in fact. That, plus his speed, makes him the class of the field. Tiz the Law is coming off a 41/4-length win in the Grade 1 11/8-mile Florida Derby on March 28 and he started his three-year-old campaign with a three-length win in the Grade 3 11/16-mile Holy Bull at Gulfstream. Tiz the Law served notice he would be a contender in the Triple Crown series with a four-length win in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes over one mile at Belmont on Oct. 5. Trainer Barclay Tagg nearly had a Triple crown with another New York-bred horse owned by Sackatoga Stable in Funny Cide in 2003, before finishing third to Empire Maker at a rain-soaked Belmont. Tiz the Law is very versatile but almost certainly will stalk the early lead before using his speed to pass and pull away. Will be such a heavy a favorite come post time the only way to make money will be in exotics.

9. Dr Post

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

Record: 3-2-0-0

Last 3: 1-1-4

Post: 9

Odds: 5-1

With just three career starts and no graded stakes entries going into the Belmont Stakes, the connections are hoping Dr Post continues his rapid improvement. He’s two-for-two in 2020 with both wins at Gulfstream, including the 11/16-mile Unbridled on April 25. Before that, he had not run farther than seven furlongs but Belmont’s nine furlongs shouldn’t be an issue. Certainly should get a clean trip heading into the lone turn from so far outside and should use that to his advantage. Having Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard – he rode Creator to an upset win in the 2016 Belmont Stakes – is a plus. Likely to stick around to the end so a good play in trifectas or superfectas.

10. Pneumatic

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.

Record: 3-2-0-1

Last 3: 3-1-1

Post: 10

Odds: 8-1

Another lightly-raced horse without Grade 1 experience. Pneumatic is coming off a third-place finish, though by just 13/4 lengths, in the Grade 3 11/16-mile Matt Winn at Churchill Downs on May 23. Pneumatic likes going to the lead and likely wouldn’t be in the Belmont Stakes without the forced change in distance. Can be used in exotics.


Andrew Gross

1. Tiz the Law

2. Dr Post

3. Tap It to Win

4. Sole Volante

Steve Matthews

1. Tap It to Win

2. Sole Volante

3. Tiz the Law

4. Dr Post

Todd Sommers

1. Tiz the Law

2. Sole Volante

3. Max Player

4. Dr Post

Craig Bustin

1. Sole Volante

2. Tap It to Win

3. Pneumatic

4. Fore Left

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