There is never a sure thing in racing.
A horse could stumble out of the gate. Or lose a shoe. Or throw the jockey. Maybe the bucket of oats that served as breakfast wasn’t to the horse’s liking. One never knows, which is all part of the blessing and the curse of the sport of kings.
Still, there are times when a horseplayer can look at the entries for a race and say beyond the shadow of doubt that one horse absolutely looks better on paper than all the others.
Saturday’s Belmont Stakes is one of those times.
Tiz the Law is the best horse in the Belmont, period. And he’s the best story, too — a New York-bred, in New York’s Triple Crown race, with the same owner and same trainer that Funny Cide had when he went to the Belmont in 2003 on a cold, raw day and came up short in his bid for the Triple Crown.
So now Jack Knowlton and the Sackatoga Stables group is back, along with trainer Barclay Tagg, looking for the Belmont that got away 17 years ago.
Their horse looks made for this.
Tiz the Law is undefeated in four races on fast tracks; the only blemish on his record is a third-place showing on a sloppy Churchill Downs surface in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes back in November. He was much the best in two starts this year, both at Gulfstream Park, winning the Holy Bull and the Florida Derby.
The way he won the Florida Derby is probably the way he’ll win the Belmont. He won’t be on the lead early, but jockey Manuel Franco will get him to the front when it’s time to take off, probably with about three furlongs or so left to run.
Much has been said in recent days about how the No. 8 post isn’t good at Belmont, but throw all that out considering this is a Belmont being run at 1-1/8 miles — not the usual 1-1/2 mile test that comes at the end of a three-races-in-five-weeks grueling Triple Crown season.
Handicappers will look at this race and try to find a way to beat Tiz the Law. There are contenders.
Tap It to Win was impressive in an allowance race at Belmont this month. Sole Volante was a monster on June 10 at Gulfstream, coming from last in a seven-horse field before running away from everybody down the center of the track to prevail. Max Player won at this nine-furlong distance in February, his last start. Modernist is a graded stakes winner. Pneumatic has gotten better every time out but needs to make a big jump if he’s going to win this one.
If this race was going to be a typical Belmont and run at a mile and a half, Tap It to Win would probably be the call — his sire, Tapit, has already seen three of his progenies win the Belmont. And the short turnaround from his last start makes it tough to see Sole Volante finding a way to win this one.
But at this distance, Tiz the Law will get the job done. And Knowlton and Tagg will get the Belmont they wanted together 17 years ago.
The picks: Tiz the Law first, Tap It to Win second, Sole Volante third, Modernist fourth.