And so it begins. Despite the Run for the Roses kicking off the Triple Crown I’m just ecstatic it’s transpiring. It also helps that I’m a New Yorker so although I adore Louisville and Maryland crab cakes, the Belmont has always been my favorite of the three. Plus, it has more history as the contest debuted prior to its colleagues and was named after man who was an institution in horse racing and bred Man o’ War. There is a reason it is the Test of Champions.
This year’s edition will be contested over 1-1/8 miles around one turn rather than the traditional journey of 1-1/2 around two. Ten 3-year-old colts will be lining up at the gate to not only take home the $1 million purse but place their names in Triple Crown history.
Of the 18 horses that have collected the most points to the Road to the Kentucky Derby, only three will break from the gate in Elmont on Saturday with No. 1 Tiz the Law in the field. With the retirement of Nadal and the injury Charlatan placing him on the sidelines, this horse becomes a heavy favorite to hit the winner’s circle on Saturday.
Post time: 5:42 p.m. EST
Belmont Stakes post positions and odds
Field analysis and predictions
No. 1 Tap It to Win (6-1 morning line)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: John Velazquez
This son of Tapit was extremely impressive in his last start and it appeared as if he could run away and hid. He, however, comes back on short rest and breaks from the rail. He has the services of fantastic connections, but does Velasquez have no choice other than to send him in a race without much pace? He faltered in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (Grade I) but had an excuse at the start. I don’t see one with his last place finish in the Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs where he also finished last of 10. But that was then and this is now. He is contender and worth a wager across the board.
No. 2 Sole Volante (9-2)
Trainer: Patrick Biancone
Jockey: Luca Panici
Purchased for $20,000 by his conditioner, Sole Volante is a Japanese-bred, French-trained horse by Karakontie (2014 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner), and has already banked $293,310, the most recent addition to that account came through a a last-to-first win, in a $27,000 optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park.
Sole Volante has two triple-digit Brisnet speed numbers as a sophomore. He scored a 102 in the Grade III Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs in February and a 100 in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream Park in January. Only Tiz the Law can come close to those figures.
No. 3 Max Player (15-1)
Trainer: Linda Rice
Jockey: Joel Rosario
Honor Code has been doing more than quite well in the breeding shed. In fact, the 2015 Eclipse Award winner is the sire of this horse. Although he has only stood in the gate on three occasions, this horse captured the Grade III Withers Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack in February with career-best figures. He is definitely a player around a one-turn mile with his speed.
No. 4 Modernist (15-1)
Trainer: Bill Mott
Jockey: Junior Alvarado
This son of Uncle Mo, who was a champion himself and the leading freshman sire in 2015, went to the winner’s circle at Fair Grounds when he hit the wire in front by a length in the Grade 2II Risen Star Stakes. Who else a Grade I or Grade II win as 3-year-old? And his Hall of Fame trainer would never place him in a spot where he cannot compete.
No. 5 Farmington Road (15-1)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Farmington Road has been a hype horse for a long time even before winning a race in his third try at Tampa Bay Downs in January. To his credit, he has collected checks in his sophomore appearances in graded stakes, but one has to question the competition. And his ability to finish. He seems to hang and not seal the deal.
No. 6 Fore Left (30-1)
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
It looks like O’Neill saw an opportunity and took advantage of it. Fore Left is entering this contest off a wire-to-wire win in the Group III UAE Two Thousand Guineas at Meydan Race Course in Dubai in February. Fore Left has also collected to other stakes victories and was pointed to the Woody Stevens. He has speed and it’s one turn, but how long can he carry it for?
No. 7 Jungle Runner (50-1)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Reylu Gutierrez
There really is not much to say about this colt. He hails from a powerful barn and is owned by the esteemed Calumet Farm from this guy has not won at all in his 3-year-old year. His only wins came at Remington Park and he only earned a 79 Brisnet figure as his best. Jungle Runner has been working well but it appears he is outclassed here.
No. 8 Tiz the Law (6-5)
Trainer: Barclay Tagg
Jockey: Manuel Franco
This horse is the picture of health and is truly deserving of the No. 1 ranking among 3-year-olds. He has been a bit green, but annexed the Grade I Champagne Stakes over this surface at 2 and has the highest speed figures of any horse in the field. By Tapit, who was the leading North American sire from 2014-2016, this horse won the Grade III Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park and
This son of Constitution who is turn a son of Tapit (leading sire in North America each year from 2014 to 2016) won the Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park in March by 4¼ lengths, earning a 100 Brisnet speed figure and a career-best 108 speed figure in the Grade 3 Holy Bull around the same oval in February. Tiz the Law also won a Grade 1 event as a 2-year-old (Champaign Stakes at Belmont). No other horse in the field has two Grade 1 wins in addition to two speed figures topping 100 or more. He has endured troubled trips and his connections would love to win the Belmont after losing that contest with Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, Funny Cide. Definitely the horse to beat.
No. 9 Dr. Post (5-1)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.
I’m very unclear on why this horse is 5-1 on the morning line. Is it potential? He was not a debut winner and had an impression maiden breaking effort in his second start in March at Gulfstream Park. He did win the Unbridled Stakes in April easily but placing him a Grade I and at 1-1/8 miles? It seems like the connections are taking a shot because it’s one turn.
No. 10 Pneumatic (8-1)
Trainer: Steve Asmussenz
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.
Asmussen knows how to classics and with horses at long odds such as 2016 Creator, but Pneumatic might be a bit a reach. He certainly has some pedigree and a Hall of Fame conditioner, but he couldn’t finish in the Grade III Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs and came home third. He saved ground around the oval while not really picking up a hoof. I cannot see where he will be a real factor here.
My best bet
I don’t usually do this, but I will the key the 8 (Tiz The Law) and go with boxing 1-2-3-4 underneath in a superfecta.