Nothing this year has been “normal”, the Belmont Stakes included. This race is usually the final jewel of the coveted Triple Crown, run after the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes at the beginning of June. It is also usually run at a distance of 1 ½ miles, making it the longest of the classics. This year however, the Belmont Stakes is the first of the three jewels of the Triple Crown and is being run at just 1 ⅛ miles, making it the shortest of the classics.
Nevertheless, the Belmont Stakes is a prestigious race and some of the best three-year olds in the country will be loading into the starting gates on Saturday. Here is a look at the 2020 Belmont Stakes contenders in order of post position:
1. Tap it to Win (Tapit - OnePointThreeKarats, Medaglia d’Oro) Trainer: Mark Casse Jockey: John Velasquez Owner: Live Oak Plantation Breeder: Live Oak Stud Tap it to Win tried to make a name for himself on the Kentucky Derby trail in 2019, but failed to earn points for the race after finishing 10th in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1). After another 10th place finish in that same month, Tap it to Win was taken out of the races until May 2020 when he easily won an Allowance at Gulfstream Park. He followed that up with an amazing victory in an Allowance at Belmont Park, leading from wire to wire to defeat his foes with ease. If Tap it to Win can get an easy lead in the Belmont Stakes, he might just be able to hold on for the win!
2. Sole Volante (Karakontie - Light Blow, Kingmambo) Trainer: Patrick Biancone Jockey: Luca Panici Owner: Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Andie Biancone Breeder: Flaxman Holdings Limited Sole Volante is known for his exciting late running style. This gelding made his first two career starts on the turf, the surface his pedigree suggests he would excel on, and won both of them easily. He then switched to the dirt, running third in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream Park before winning the Sam F. Davis (G3) and finishing second in the South Tampa Bay Derby (G2). He most recently closed up the middle of the track to win an Allowance at Gulfstream Park. Be watching for this pretty boy to come charging down Belmont’s track late!
3. Max Player (Honor Code - Fools In Love, Not For Love) Trainer: Linda Rice Jockey: Joel Rosario Owner: George E. Hall and SportBLX Thoroughbred Corp. Breeder: K & G Stables Max Player hasn’t raced since he won the Withers Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct in February, however he showed a lot of heart and talent by overtaking his foes in the final furlong to win by about three lengths. This son of Honor Code has been training exceptionally well at Belmont Park. If he wins the Belmont Stakes, he will make his trainer Linda Rice the first female trainer to win any of the Triple Crown races. There’s a lot to root for with this boy!
4. Modernist (Uncle Mo - Symbolic Gesture, Bernardini) Trainer: William Mott Jockey: Junior Alvarado Owner: Pam and Martin Wygod Breeder: Wygod Family Modernist made a name for himself when he captured the second division of the Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds. He followed up that victory with a third place finish in the Louisiana Derby (G2) behind Wells Bayou and Ny Traffic. Nevertheless, this son of Uncle Mo has been training well since that loss. William Mott won the Belmont in 2010 with Drosselmeyer - could he win it again exactly ten years later?
5. Farmington Road (Quality Road - Silver La Belle, Langfuhr) Trainer: Todd Pletcher Jockey: Javier Castellano Owner: Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Chrysalis Stables LLC, and Robert LaPenta Breeder: Chrysalis Stables Farmington Road ran fourth in two important Kentucky Derby preps, the Risen Star Stakes (G2) and Arkansas Derby (G1). Nevertheless, trainer Todd Pletcher has conditioned three horses to victory in the Belmont Stakes (Rags to Riches, Palace Malice, and Tapwrit). With that experience, Farmington Road may have a shot to hit the board in the Belmont.
6. Fore Left (Twirling Candy - Simply Sunny, Unbridled’s Song) Trainer: Doug F. O’Neil Jockey: Jose Ortiz Owner: Reddam Racing Breeder: Machmer Hall Fore Left has done most of his racing at California tracks like Del Mar and Santa Anita, even winning the Sunny Slope Stakes at Santa Anita in October 2019. He has won four races in his nine race career, including the Tremont Stakes at Belmont Park and the UAE Two Thousand Guineas at Meydan Racecourse. He has been training at Belmont Park since May and has won at that track before, so be on the lookout for this son of Twirling Candy!
7. Jungle Runner (Candy Ride - Minx, Tapit) Trainer: Steven Asmussen Jockey: Reylu Gutierrez Owner & Breeder: Calumet Farm Jungle Runner is the longest shot in the Belmont Stakes and it’s for an understandable reason. The colt hasn’t hit the board in his last five starts and this race would be a particularly tough one for him to break that streak. Still, he was a stakes winner as a two-year old and has the benefit of being trained by someone who won the Belmont Stakes just four years ago. Nothing’s guaranteed in horse racing so if you’re trying to make big money on a bet, Jungle Runner would have a very lucrative payout.
8. Tiz the Law (Constitution - Tizfiz, Tiznow) Trainer: Barclay Tagg Jockey: Manuel Franco Owner: Sackatoga Stables Breeder: Twin Creeks Farm Breaking alongside the longest shot on the board is the heavy favorite, Tiz the Law. This New-York bred won three Kentucky Derby preps this year: Champagne Stakes (G1), Holly Bull Stakes (G3), and Florida Derby (G1). Between some of those victories was a third place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club Gold Cup (G2), though that was as far back as November 2019. Tiz the Law hails from the same connections of Funny Cide, “the gutsy gelding” that won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2003 but failed to win the Belmont Stakes. Tiz the Law is on track to give them some redemption!
9. Dr. Post (Quality Road - Mary Delaney, Hennessy) Trainer: Todd Pletcher Jockey: Irad Ortiz Owner: St. Elias Stable Breeder: Cloyce C. Clark Dr. Post is another Pletcher trainee running the Belmont Stakes. He made his debut at Belmont Park and finished fourth. He went on to break his maiden at Gulfstream Park and then had the toughness to win the Unbridled Stakes, in which he struggled to find clear running room. This colt has a lot of heart and with a good trip and pace scenario, could get up there to hit the board.
10. Pneumatic (Uncle Mo - Teardrop, Tapit) Trainer: Steven Asmussen Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr. Owner & Breeder: Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC. Pneumatic has hit the board in each one of his three starts. He began his career with two wins at Oaklawn Park before shipping to Churchill Downs for the Matt Winn Stakes (G2). There he was run down by Ny Traffic and Maxfield, though it was just a narrow loss after a tight trip. This colt has been training well at Churchill Downs and will have to ship to Belmont well, but many handicappers are confident he will perform well in the Belmont Stakes.
All in all, the 2020 Belmont Stakes is going to be quite a bit different than it has been in years past. Though many top Kentucky Derby prospects are heading to other races instead of the Belmont, this is still going to be a fun race to bet and watch. While Tiz the Law is the heavy win favorite, there are many horses in here who could give him a run for his money.
Make sure you tune in to NBC or Fox Sports this Saturday so you don’t miss this exciting horse racing action!!