It’s the Belmont Stakes, but like everything else, not as we know it. Usually, the third leg of the Triple Crown, Saturday’s race will be the first leg in 2020. The race is down to nine furlongs from a mile and a half, plus due to the absence of racing recently, the formbook is littered with bare patches and the field is not as strong as most years. Having said that, one of them is going to cross the line first so we’ll just have to find the clues.
The post-draw has yet to be made, but with a reduced field of around nine runners, there shouldn’t be any hard luck stories. There looks to be only one true speed horse in the race, Tap It to Win, which might make it tricky for the closers if they don’t go out too hard.
Tiz The Law, trained by Barclay Tagg, is the clear favorite at around 4/5. It’s not hard to see why. He is the only contender with a Grade 1 victory of any sort to his name, winning the Florida Derby bloodlessly over this trip. He looks very straightforward, and his last piece of work looked smooth. Jockey Manny Franco and the team are oozing confidence.
Tap It To Win (7/1) should get his own way up front, but this is his toughest assignment yet and I feel he’ll be mowed down.
Pneumatic (20/1) is another that should run handy, he’s on the upgrade but his day might come later in the year.
Dr Post (8/1) ran like a huge baby winning the Unbridled Stakes at Gulfstream. He found trouble everywhere, but showed a good attitude to put his head down in the stretch and win. He’ll need to take a step forward. Although, Todd Pletcher has trained the winner of this race three times so he’ll know how to get his horse ready.
Max Player (25/1) for Linda Rice and Joel Rosario took forever to get going when winning the Grade Three Withers Stakes, but that was his only start as a three-year-old and the way he finished made my ears prick up. If he’s learned from that and can get organized a bit quicker, I say he can get involved.
Sole Volante (9/1) is the one I don’t want. This consistent closer has been busy, with a race and travel schedule that may have taken the edge off him, and just too much needs to fall his way for me to recommend.
Trainer Bill Mott thinks that Modernist (25/1) wants further than nine furlongs, and that’s good enough for me to put a line through.
The well-travelled Farmington Road (25/1) will only get involved if the leaders cut each others throats, and he looks the clear second pick of the Pletcher team.
Jungle Runner (50/1) will just be happy to be out of the house.
This is a penalty kick for Tiz The Law, but at a best-priced 4/5, (I think he’ll go off much shorter) that is not a bet for a working man. Also, whilst this race hasn’t been a graveyard for favorites, there have been enough fancy-priced winners for us to look elsewhere.
The two I like are Max Player and Dr Post. Both have shown admirable qualities in winning their races, and undoubtedly have more to come. They’re big enough prices for you to bet them how you like, although for exotic fans it seems prudent to put Tiz The Law in just in case he proves to be a class above. Good Luck.