Category: Horse Racing

Belmont Stakes 2020 Analysis & Selections

In a year unlike any other, the Triple Crown has been turned on its head with our historically longest and final race now the shortest and first leg of the trio of classics. While not unprecedented in the history of the Belmont Stakes (having had five difference distances in its history, much more than the two distances the Kentucky Derby has been run at, though short of the seven different distances of the Preakness), the Test of the Champion feels a bit less at nine furlongs compared to the tradition twelve. Due to Belmont Park’s unusual size, what is usually a lap around the track at most North American venues, this 1 1/8 mi race will be an elongated sprint, coming out of the chute, down the backstretch, and then around just one turn before turning down the long homestretch. Yet, do not plan on speed winning out – last year’s fall meet at Belmont had it even across running styles.

Turning to this year’s card, a field of ten lines up for the first leg of this year’s Triple Crown. Though not the full field that many suspected, after many defects of the top three year-olds over the last few weeks changed the face of this series, we do have a good field, headlined by the Florida Derby winner and morning line favorite Tiz the Law. Seventeen years ago, these same connections tried their hands at the Belmont Stakes (and the Triple Crown) with Funny Cide; now they look to win the race that eluded them on that day. But his test will not be easy – as last out winners Tap It to Win, Sole Volente, Max Player, Fore Left, and Dr Post will all be trying to make it back-to-back. Speaking of Tap It to Win, his trainer Mark Casse came away with this race just a year ago with Sir Winston – he looks to make it two straight, and his third American Classic in three years.

And with that, let us take a look at the contenders.


(1) Tap It to Win – Mark Casse/John Velazquez – 6/1
Coming out of a 1 1/16 mi allowance over the Belmont one-turn course, this lightly raced Casse trainee is one that loves to take the lead and never look back. A sharp runner, he took his prep just gate to wire without even being tested. A no doubt winner last out, Tap It to Win has grown well since his two-year-old season. After two well beaten races in Kentucky to finish up his inaugural season, his first start of the year going sprinting was just what he needed. Now he tries to wheel a Belmont Stakes win off no stakes starts in 2020, which is quite a difficult task. Nonetheless, John Velazquez stays aboard and looks to capture his third Belmont. His pedigree screams a Classic winner – sired by Tapit out of a Medaglia d’Oro mare – which gives him a big push up here.

(2) Sole Volante – Patrick Biancone/Luca Panici – 9/2
It is not often we see top class horses come back on ten-days rest any more in the US, but here we are with this son of Karakontie. Last out at Gulfstream Park, Sole Volante came from way back to catch the leaders, including early Derby choice Ete Indian, and closed with class and purpose. Between his starts in the Tampa Bay Derby and Sam F. Davis, both times needing a lot of urging to get going, he cruised through this one turn mile as if he just wanted to run. His step up a furlong could matter, but as long as it is around one-turn, he is going to be a major threat. Sticking with Luca Panici seems to bee the best option, as he always gets the top work out of him. His current form cycle puts him peaking in this race. He will be a major player here.

(3) Max Player – Linda Rice/Joel Rosario – 15/1
Sporting the colors of one of my favorite Belmont Stakes winners of all time – Ruler On Ice – this George & Lori Hall runner is coming off a long layoff to try and contend here. Last time out, Max Player was coming from behind to sweep by and capture the Withers on what looked to be a very testing from behind. While not at all a strong field, his win showed a lot of grit and determination. His figures put him in a decent spot, and he has been training sensationally in the mornings. A win here by him would not surprise me at all, but I do think he needs a race before this.

(4) Modernist – William Mott/Junior Alvarado – 15/1
Coming out of Louisiana, the Risen Star winner and 3rd place finisher in the Louisiana Derby is Bill Mott’s chance to win here. Possibly targeting the Ohio Derby, Mott changed course and decided to try his hand at Belmont Park. But perhaps the Thistledown feature might have been a better choice. He struggled to get on in the Risen Star and took over the lead and cleared a tiring group late. Then in the Louisiana Derby he never moved an inch down the lane, looking exhausted late. I am just not sure this race sets up for him. He does have a very sharp workout in his belt coming in, but I am not sold.

(5) Farmington Road – Todd Pletcher/Javier Castellano – 15/1
Pletcher’s first of two in this one, Farmington Road comes out of a very flat Arkansas Derby attempt. He was well beaten by Nadal and King Guillermo, showing almost no move. His prep in the Oaklawn Stakes was lost at the start but did show some promise rallying from way back. Nothing in his form is showing that he is a contender for this one.

(6) Fore Left – Doug O’Neill/Jose Ortiz – 30/1
I am somewhat shocked by the 30/1 figure on the Doug O’Neill trainee, who looked excellent in winning the UAE 2,000 Guineas. While we have no idea what he would have done in the UAE Derby, which looked to be his next target, he cruised on gate to wire in the one-turn mile affair. I was extremely impressed by his gate speed and his late cruising speed was one to remember. While he did get distracted down the stretch, I would not worry too much about that here. While the layoff may be too much to overcome, he is still worth a long look, at the very least for the exotics.

(7) Jungle Runner – Steven Asmussen/Reylu Gutierrez – 50/1
This is an intriguing starter for Asmussen. He has not shown much at all racing against lesser in most of his starts, outside of his maiden breaking Remington Park score and the Clever Trevor –  though neither race was overly impressive. Since stepping up, he has not been able to compete at the top level, beaten a combined 62 lengths in his last three. Pass.

(8) Tiz the Law – Barclay Tagg/Manuel Franco – 6/5
Now we get to the favorite – Tiz the Law. A son of Constitution, the Florida Derby winner comes in off great speed figures and back to back wins. His Florida Derby win was by far one of the best wins for a three-year-old this season. He can be a good breaker when he wants to and has the form cycle to take this. His worktab has been sub-optimal since that Florida Derby win, however, which does worry me. Nonetheless, the last time he was at Big Sandy, he took the one-turn Champagne Stakes with ease and looks to do so again. A deserving favorite off his last two efforts, he will be fighting down the stretch. One to watch the whole way around.

(9) Dr Post – Todd Pletcher/Irad Ortiz, Jr. – 5/1
Pletcher brings his second chance in off a big step up in company, coming out of the Unbridled Stakes at Gulfstream Park. A maiden breaker in his first start on the year, he poses a huge challenge for anyone in this group. Last out he sat patient the whole way around before fighting down the stretch, squeezing in between horses, and then finishing with a bump and run. Still young, he looks to have a lot of promise and is nothing to balk at. I do think he wants to go longer than this, but the long stretch at Belmont Park should aid him in the stretch out. Watch out!

(10) Pneumatic – Steven Asmussen/Ricardo Santana, Jr. – 8/1
The better of the two Asmussen runners, the third-place finisher in the Matt Winn looked to have the win down the stretch last out before coming up with just shorter strides than his foes Maxfield and Ny Traffic. Lucky for him, neither of them are here, but he still has nine others to contend with. For me, he seems better suited elsewhere, as his finishing ability is just a tad too short for this, but nonetheless one to watch. His current training cycle suits well for him, with a nice bullet workout earlier this month before a tuning just days before the race – the same thing Asmussen did prior to his last start.


Winner: (1) Tap It to Win
His last few have been building up to this race superbly. Casse waited till May to get a run under him on the year, which I thought was perfect for this. He came out of a live non-winners of one race down at Gulfstream Park before flashing early speed and never looking back last out at Belmont. Personally, I do not see another runner that can go with him early – and he is the type to grab the lead and not let go. I am ready for him to impress.

Hit The Board: (9) Dr Post
Maybe I am living too much on his last race, but his ability to battle and push away in the Unbridled Stakes last out showed me a toughness that I do not see in any other runner. He was able to catch an alright pace up front and push his way to the wire in a short stretch. He should relish the extra distance. He is progressing nicely in his last two and should be sitting on a big one.

Longshot: (3) Max Player
While probably needs another run before being a contender, that does not mean that he cannot be prominently finishing. He is primed to be gaining ground throughout and tracking the stalkers – positioning himself for a one run to the finish. While probably not on the pace of the winner, he should be able to pick off some horses to grab a spot.

Of course, I would not ignore Tiz the Law or Sole Volante in any bets – both pose a challenge in this field. But I am not quite on board with either as a win contender and I do think that Dr Post offers a bit more value and better chance of hitting the board behind Tap It to Win (or possibly even winning the race as well).

The Belmont Stakes is always a race where anything can happen, even when its shorter and much earlier than its other Classic counterparts. Even with the changes, it is still the Test of Champions and the start to the much awaited (and delayed) 2020 Triple Crown.

Belmont Stakes 2019 – Selections

As we turn the calendar to June, we find ourselves at the final leg of the Triple Crown – the Belmont Stakes.  A field of ten line up to show the world what they can do, here in the Test of Champions.  For these horses, they will do something they may never do again in their careers, race at a mile and a half on the dirt.  Both speed and stamina is tested as the field takes a trip around the famed New York oval, Big Sandy.

While most of the top horses that we saw on the Road to the Kentucky Derby will be sitting at home, we do get the Preakness winner, War of Will, to show up, competing in all three legs of the Triple Crown.  A good case can be made the he could have been the winner of the Kentucky Derby, had it not been for Maximum Security.  And yet, here we are – no Derby winner in the field (neither of them) and a race far from filled with star talent – but this may be one of the toughest Belmont Stakes in recent memory.  With favorites drawn wide and many with the pedigree to go long, its hard to land on just one horse to win here – there is no clear favorite, unlike many of the previous years, and rather a collection of talent that outlasted the spring grind.  With that, let’s go through the field.

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Preakness 2019 – Selections

As the Black-Eyed Susans bloom and the racing world shifts to Baltimore, a different vibe comes upon this year’s Preakness Stakes. Horse racing has been in the public eye these past two weeks – just moments after a historic disqualification of Maximum Security in the Kentucky Derby the world has been abuzz about what will happen next. Controversy surrounded the sport, this time for good headlines, while everyone carried an opinion. No longer was horse racing talked about by its loyal fans – now everyone, from the paperboy to the janitor had something to say. As the sun sets on the Twin Spires and the mist rolls in at Old Hilltop, its time to move on to the Second Jewel of the Triple Crown, just without a Triple Crown.

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Kentucky Derby 2019 – Weekend Selections

When the sun comes up over Louisville on Saturday, shining down on the roses and through the twin spires, it will be time for the greatest two minutes in all of sports.  Few moments in sports can capture so much history.  Winners.  Champions.  Legends.  They all come together in the heart of racing.  It is neither the oldest, nor the longest Triple Crown race, yet it is the most important.  It was 1875 when Aristides was the first to come down the famed Churchill Downs stretch and be named the winner of the Kentucky Derby.  Yet it wasn’t until the 1890s when the race truly became what it is today, with the famed twin spires as the backdrop of a mile and a quarter test for the garland of roses.  Ben Brush, the first to taste the roses, became an instrumental part of the pedigree of 48 of the past 50 Derby winners.

Just a year removed from a Triple Crown, our second this decade after a long, and at many times seemingly endless, drought, we begin again with a new set of three year olds, all with a chance to cement themselves in history.  As the sun sets on Churchill Downs, a winner will be crowned, perhaps even a champion, and maybe, just like a year ago, a legend will be born.  Twenty horses.  Ten furlongs.  Two minutes.  One victor.  145 years of history – all down to 1.

Kentucky Derby weekend is unlike any other.  While the Breeders’ Cup may have the champions, Royal Ascot the pageantry, Saratoga the unchanged history, and Dubai the riches, nothing shares the same feeling that is felt come the First Saturday in May.  Moments after the Breeders’ Cup Classic wraps up, the focus of racing shifts away from the championship division and goes towards a bunch of then two year olds, all full of energy – and inexperience – that are gunning for one goal, be one of the twenty in the starting gate come 6:50pm on May 4th.  As the months tick by, the list slims and the cream of the crop rises to the occasion.  Races, in all corners of the world, name their representative to send to Kentucky.  From California to Florida, Ireland to Japan, horses across the world compete for much more than putting their name on a local trophy.  This weekend is another such occasion, when a culmination of months of work joins to one.

This weekend, champions of yesterday and today will arrive to the famed circle of Churchill Downs to compete for the ultimate prizes.  While we will watch many greats race on the undercards on Friday and Saturday, the features are for the three year olds in the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks.  With that, let’s get into my selections for the weekend.  I will note, these races were handicapped for a projected wet ground, as heavy rains are in the forecast for the weekend in Louisville.

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Kentucky Derby 2019 – Contenders & Pretenders

With the untimely scratch of our Kentucky Derby favorite Omaha Beach, this field takes a slightly different turn for home.  While the predicted pace doesn’t look to have been changed by much, although Maximum Security will look to have a bit more breathing room without Omaha Beach running right with him, the odds have, with the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Game Winner the new favorite.  If he stays as the favorite come post time, he will be the first Kentucky Derby favorite not to have won on the year since Timber Country in 1995.

Now, as we take a look at the field, we need to see who is a contender and who is a pretender.  With the scratch of Omaha Beach, this has shaken things up and moved some talented horses up.

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Kentucky Derby 2019 – Field Analysis

There is no better week of the year than Kentucky Derby Week. The Run for the Roses is just days away so its time to analyze the field as we search for who will come out on top under the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs.

All this week I will have analysis on the field, leading up to my selections for all the weekends big races on Friday morning. Today, we will look at the field now that the post positions have been drawn to find out a bit more about the field of 20.

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Horse Racing – Tagline Numbers – Meadowlands 3/15/2019

Back on my old site, Horse Racing Station, I had released my own Speed Figures for Harness Racing… Thought it was about time that I carried them over to Tagline Sports.

Previously named Pure Speed Figures, Tagline Numbers are harness racing speed figures that capture how fast a horse paced/trotted in respect to both the track, quality of race, and balance of speed between beginning of the race and the last quarter. Based on years of collected data from every track, Tagline Numbers allow for comparison between tracks and go beyond just the time.

With that, download my Tagline Numbers speed figures below and enjoy the races from The Meadowlands on Friday, March 15th! And if you see me at the track – come say hi!