Why would the 2020 Triple Crown be any different than anything else in this crazy year? Last is first for this year’s Triple Crown series with the Belmont Stakes moving from the back of the line to the front.
Belmont Stakes Day Preview
Race 2 - Woody Stephens Stakes
While the Belmont Stakes is the second last of six Stakes races on Belmont’s Saturday card, the Woody Stephens Stakes starts the big money runs in race number two.
A short field of five will battle it out over 7 furlongs on the main track. We think the top four are evenly matched.
The slight edge goes to ECHO TOWN (PP: 4 ML 9/5). He’s a head away from the three-race win streak and has visited the winners’ circle for a photo session in three of his five outings. He gets the nod because he’s not married to one running style. He’s won on the lead, as a stalker and from the back of the pack. Whereas, the other main threats needed a certain race style to win.
NO PAROLE (PP: 1 ML 3-1) and MISHEVIOUS ALEX’s (PP: 3 ML 5/2) histories say they need to be on the lead or within a head bob of the front all the way around the track to win. They are likely to run 1 -2 out of the gate and will try to stay that way from start to finish. The danger is they duel at a fast of pace and tire out. Whichever has the lead coming out of the turn has the best shot of winning between them; controlling the pace will tell the story for both.
MERU (PP: 2 ML 5/2) finished third behind ECHO TOWN in his last race, which was at 6 furlongs. He passed one horse and made up 1 ¼ lengths on ECHO TOWN in the final steps of the Optional Claiming $100k race at Churchill Downs. The extra furlong could work to his benefit; however, this is his second race after a long rest. His form stumbled noticeably in the second race compared to his first the last and only time he ran the same cycle.
WIN: #4 ECHO TOWN
TRIFECTA: #1 NO PAROLE or #4 ECHO TOWN for the win with #1 NO PAROLE, #2 MERU, #3 MISHEVIOUS ALEX, and #4 ECHO TOWN to finish second and third. The ticket looks like this: 1,4 with 1,2,3,4 with 1,2,3,4.
Race 6 - Wonder Again Stakes
In the fighting game, boxing and mixed martial arts, they say styles make fights. While the axiom doesn’t get the same attention in horseracing, it’s equally true. Sometimes, a horse appears to have a distinct advantage over the others, not because of the horse is necessarily that much better than the rest, but because they run one way while every other runs a different way.
That looks to be the case in the $150,000 Grade III, Wonder Again Stakes, Belmont’s sixth race on the card. Once again, the field is limited with only a handful of starters racing 1 mile on the Widener Turf course.
Four of the five contestants prefer to chase down the frontrunners rather than be pacesetters. Morning line favorite, SWEET MELANIA (PP: 2 ML 7/5) is the lone exception. The daughter of Triple Crown winner AMERICAN PHAROAH enjoys the view from the front. Jockey Jose Ortiz should not have any problem getting the lead from the gun and setting the tone from A to Z.
If SWEET MELANIA can run the first half-mile in more than 47 seconds, it will be hard for any of the other four to pass her.
If any of the off the pace types are to topple the chalk, the most likely candidate is SELFLESSLY (PP: 5 ML 5/2). She’ll have to improve a lot to get the job done because she finished 2 lengths behind SWEET MELANIA when the two competed in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf Stakes on November 1, 2019.
In our opinion, these two are the class of the Wonder Again Stakes with the rest battling for third.
WIN: #2 SWEET MELANIA
Trifecta: #2 SWEET MELANIA to win with #5 SELFLESSLY second and any of #1 SPEAKTOMEOFSUMMER (ML 8-1), #3 HIGHLAND GLORY (ML 2-1) or #4 ANTOINETTE to finish third. As a backup, you could keep #2 in the win spot, numbers 1, 3 or 4 to finish second and #5 to finish third.
Race 10 - Belmont Stakes
Normally, the Belmont Stakes is the most grueling of the three, 1 ½ miles on the New York track, one lap, two turns. That’s why it’s called The Test of Champions. The test for the carnations won’t be as difficult this year. The field of 10 will run 1 1/8 miles, leaving from a chute onto the backstretch, with just one turn.
It’s an uncommon distance, with just three races since Belmont’s delayed, COVID 19 re-opening. Our historical records are nearly as thin. That being said, all winners at the distance and surface raced in the top four at the first call in the last dozen, 1 1/8 miles Belmont runs.
TIZ THE LAW (PP: 8 ML 6/5) is the oddsmaker’s prohibitive choice and it’s easy to see why. The son of CONSTITUTION is undefeated on a fast, dirt track with four wins. No other horse was close to TIZ THE LAW at the finish line in the four Ws, scoring by at least three lengths. The lone miss was on a sloppy, Churchill Downs track where he finished third by 3/4s of a horse.
TAP IT TO WIN (PP: 1 ML 6-1) tried Belmont Park for the first time in his last race, and it went well. He took charge right away, jumping to the lead form the get-go. The three-year-old blasted to a 7 ½ length lead into the stretch. Jockey John Velazquez took his foot off the gas late and still won by 5 lengths. The result was his top race figure. The thing is, he could be even better today in the classic third start after a layoff, an 18% winner for trainer Mark Casse.
SOLE VOLANTE (PP: 2 ML 9/2) has never failed to cash a top three check in his six career starts, mostly the oversized winner’s type. He has four wins, a second and third in his half-dozen efforts. His running style isn’t the perfect fit for the distance and surface; however, he will likely be the fastest moving horse late as he’s gained ground in the last 1/16 mile of all of his races.
DR POST (PP: 9 ML 5-1) is lightly raced with just three starts, winning the last two. His lack of experience can be a plus because we might not have seen his best, and it could be a negative, because he hasn’t faced this level of competition. One tell of his potential is top jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the irons. The jock is hitting at 30% and at an ever better 36% with trainer Todd Pletcher.
WIN: #8 TIZ THE LAW
Exacta: #8 TIZ THE LAW to win and #1 TAP IT TO WIN, #2 SOLE VOLANTE or #9 DR POST to finish second. As an insurance policy, horseplayers might consider reversing the order with #1, #2 or #9 for the win and #8 finishing second.