The field was drawn for the US$1 million Belmont Stakes and the newly minted Triple Crown will finally kick off on Saturday at Belmont Park. It’s time to set aside the discussion about the new distance and the altered sequence caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and start handicapping the field of 10.
For the first time, the Belmont Stakes kicks off the Triple Crown series this year, and it also serves as an official Kentucky Derby prep race with the most qualifying points [150-60-30-15].
Here is the analysis of the only 10 horses who have a chance to win the Triple Crown, with the official track odds provided by the NYRA line-maker David Aragona. The Belmont Stakes, which is one of six graded stakes on the card, has a scheduled post time of 5:42 p.m. ET.
Tap It to Win [ML 6-1 – Tapit – M. Casse/J. Velazquez – 5: 2-1-0 – US$124,672 – 0 Derby points] Newly elected Hall of Fame inductee Mark Casse made this colt a more recent addition to the Belmont Stakes field after he overwhelmed an allowance field going a mile and a sixteenth in New York. He took the race on the front end with a lead of more than seven lengths at the stretch call and was geared down late to win by five at the wire. The race was fast and earned the winner a 97 Beyer Speed Figure. So, he will wheel right back in 16 days in a race that is just 110 yards longer and stays in the one-turn configuration. Casse goes for his third straight victory in Triple Crown races after winning last year’s Preakness with War of Will and then the Belmont Stakes with Sir Winston. Live longshot
Sole Volante [ML 9-2 – Karakontie – P. Biancone/L. Panici – 6: 4-1-1 – US$266,310 – 30 Derby points (#16)] Instead of another typical morning workout, trainer Patrick Biancone opted to run Sole Volante in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park for his final preparation for the big race at Belmont. It turned out to be a very good field of six including the stakes winners Ete Indien and Shivaree. Sole Volante rallied from last almost nine lengths behind to win the one-turn mile by nearly a length. Remember that he won the Sam F. Davis (G3) and was second in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2).
Max Player [ML 15-1 – Honor Code – L. Rice/J. Rosario – 3: 2-1-0 – US$173,500 – 10 Derby points (#34)] Since his off the pace victory in the Withers (G3) in March, trainer Linda Rice changed plans with this son of Honor Code a couple times. The Wood Memorial got cancelled and when the date was announced for the Belmont Stakes, Rice decided to skip the Matt Winn (G3) at Churchill Downs and stay home. What that means is that Max Player will try the first leg of the Triple Crown coming off a more than three-month layoff. On the positive side, he has not missed a beat in training for Rice. Ultimately, this is a tough task for a horse that was not fast enough for this field the last time we saw him run.
Modernist [ML 15-1 – Uncle Mo – B. Mott/J. Alvarado – 5: 2-0-2 – US$388,800 – 70 Derby points (#7)] Following his maiden breaker at Aqueduct in January, Modernist made a splash on the original Derby trail down at Fair Grounds. He pressed the pace and won the Risen Star (G2) and then was third in the Louisiana Derby (G2) for Hall of Famer Bill Mott. The level of competition of those New Orleans prep races is frequently called into question and this son of Uncle Mo will have trouble staying with the early runners from this field. The connections waited until the last minute to decide to try this Triple Crown race.
Farmington Road [ML 15-1 – Quality Road – Todd Pletcher/J. Castellano – 6: 1-2-0 – US$110,000 – 15 Derby points (#26)] One of two runners for trainer Todd Pletcher who was last seen finishing fourth in the Nadal division of the Arkansas Derby. The late running colt might prefer the big sweeping turn at Belmont Park because he can start his closing move early and may be able to sustain it given the pace set-up. Bottom line is that he only has a maiden victory to his credit.
Fore Left [ML 30-1 – Twirling Candy – D. O’Neill/J. Ortiz – 9: 4-0-2 –
US$355,902 – 0 Derby points] For Reddam Racing, he was part of the band that Doug O’ Neill sent to Dubai during the winter. The son of Twirling Candy was successful and won the 2,000 UAE Guineas (G3) in February. As a 2-year-old, he won his first two starts including the Tremont at Belmont Park. In California, he could not compete with the top juveniles in two Grade 1 races. He had been expected to run in the Woody Stephens (G1) on the Belmont undercard. We have seen horses win on the lead at Meydan and often were not able to transfer that form to America. Still, he may be a factor on the front end, though he is unlikely to remain in contention in the end.
Jungle Runner [ML 50-1 – Candy Ride – S. Asmussen/R. Gutierrez – 8: 2-0-0 – US$110,415 – 0 Derby points] Owner Calumet Farm is always willing to take a shot in the biggest races around the country. This guy’s best form goes back to last year at Remington Park where he broke his maiden and then followed it with a stakes victory. As a 3-year-old, Jungle Runner has not been able to duplicate those results. Two starts on the Derby trail at Oaklawn park in the Smarty Jones and the Arkansas Derby (G1) produced eighth place finishes.
Tiz the Law [ML 6-5 – Constitution – B. Tagg/M. Franco – 5: 4-0-1 – US$945,300 – 122 Derby points (#1)] Tiz the Law has been on top of most of the Kentucky Derby contender lists since he won the Holy Bull (G3) and the Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park by a combined 7 ¼ lengths. Tiz the Law will enter the Belmont after a layoff of almost three months. In that time, Kentucky Derby winning trainer Barclay Tagg sent him to the track for nine official breezes with all but the most recent two happening in Florida. He won his only start at Belmont last year in the Champagne (G1). The Sackatoga Stable runner is the only Grade 1 winner in the field. He figures to be an odds-on favorite. Top Choice
Dr Post [ML 5-1 – Quality Road – Todd Pletcher/I. Ortiz Jr. – 3: 2-0-0 -US $76,635 – 0 Derby points] Dr Post is one of the horses that has benefited from the delay of the Triple Crown series. Lightly raced with just three career starts, he returned to the races in March and won both of his starts impressively at Gulfstream Park. The $400,000 yearling purchase had to overcome a couple of trip challenges in his April victory in the Unbridled Stakes going a mile and a sixteenth. This is the kind of horse with the potential to make big improvement from race to race. Use in trifecta
Pneumatic [ML 8-1 – Uncle Mo – Steve Asmussen/R. Santana Jr. – 3: 2-0-1 – US$101,850 – 10 Derby points (#37)] This is a colt who prefers to be part of the early pace. He moved from an allowance victory at Oaklawn to a third-place finish in the Matt Winn and as a result his connections made him a late nominee to the Triple Crown series.