Belmont Park: The Grade I, $1 million Belmont at 1 1/8 miles (Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 150-60-30-15)
Brian handicaps at Capital OTB and Horseplayer Now, and he’ll offer analysis and selections of Derby points races, hoping to make us all a little money as we head to the Belmont Stakes. Follow him on Twitter here.
#1 Tap It to Win (6-1): Impressive local N1X winner wired a highly rated group of up-and-comers just 16 days ago and was the early buzz horse for this, though his mojo got tempered a bit the other day when giant longshot Fore Left was entered, as he’s likely going to keep this son of Tapit from getting loose on the lead. And that will really complicate matters, so while there’s little doubt that he’ll still make the point, and Casse won this race last year, getting hounded from the outside down the long backstretch run, on a ginormous class rise, on short rest, isn’t really an ideal set of circumstances to net a classic; comfortable playing against.
#2 Sole Volante (9-2): Underrated deep closer picked up the pieces in a salty one-turn Gulfstream Park AOC just 10 days ago after stakes winner Ete Indien and Shivaree went ballistic early and caved late, though have a look at his GIII Sam F. Davis win at Tampa Bay Downs in February and you knows there’s quality here. The pace in the Belmont looks honest, and this is a quirky trip none of these will have ever encountered before, so things could get even more heated up front if someone runs off with all the daylight ahead of them on the backstretch, which would play right into this son of Karakontie’s (JPN) hands. It’s also a confident sign that Biancone shipped him up I-95 off such short rest, which gives no reason to think that he doesn’t fire his shot, like always; should pass a bunch in the lane.
#3 Max Player (15-1): Son of Honor Code exits a win in Aqueduct’s two-turn GIII Withers at this distance when last seen in February and is another who should benefit from the pace, as he’s looked good settling and kicking clear late in two straight wins. There are several worries, though, as Rice is ice-cold dating back to early March; this one has never run remotely fast enough to win a race like this, let alone make a big dent; and he enters off a sizable layoff in what is by far the toughest test of his career, none of which will help his chances; tough to endorse.
#4 Modernist (15-1): Price player acquitted himself nicely in a pair of runs at Fair Grounds, as he won the second division of their GII Risen Star in February and was a wide third from an impossible post in their GII Louisiana Derby when last seen in March, in a race that was actually a half-furlong farther than this one. Mott brings this son of Uncle Mo in off a recent trio of very sharp drills, and that last run was a lot better than it looks, too, as the top-2 ran around the track together, which hurts this one’s chances. His stalking style works, too, as he can set up shop a bit off the speed, which will put him in the right spot off the far turn and in theory give him a puncher’s chance against the odds-on favorite; expecting a big run.
#5 Farmington Road (15-1): Deep closer has long looked like a Belmont horse for Pletcher, who has won this race three times, though the problem is that this long-striding son of Quality Road wanted the other three furlongs that everyone lost when the race was shortened from the usual 1 1/2 miles. Clearly you have to respect this barn, and the race flow says that he can make a late run, but none of those minor awards at FG or Oaklawn Park this year are going to have the top contenders looking behind them in the stretch; minor award appears his ceiling.
#6 Fore Left (30-1): Aforementioned son of Twirling Candy was a last minute addition from O’Neill, and while he has no chance to win this, one could argue that he’s the most important horse in the race, as not only will he keep ‘Tap It honest early, but he could set it up for the others, too; adds some very important fuel to the early fire.
#7 Jungle Runner (50-1): The first of two from Asmussen has to be one of the oddest entries in a Triple Crown race, as he’s beaten a total of two horses in his last three races and was beaten a combined 63 1/4 lengths, so, needless to say, this son of Candy Ride (ARG) is odds-on to bring up the rear; get home safely.
#8 Tiz the Law (6-5): Deserving heavy favorite is undefeated in four starts on a fast track and easily won both the GIII Holy Bull and GI Florida Derby at GP earlier this year for Tagg and Sackatoga, who know what it’s like to embark on a wild ride on the Triple Crown trail, as their New York-bred Funny Cide almost made history winning both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 2003 before coming up short and running third in this. This NYB son of Constitution seemingly has it all, as he can be placed anywhere, owns a GI Champagne win over the track last year, and has long been aimed at this, which is more than a lot of others here can say, and judging by those snappy AM drills, he’s given the impression that he’s better than ever. Clearly it’s already been a very quirky year so far, and stranger things have happened in this race, too, but the stark reality is that this would-be superstar has a 1-5 chance at embarking on his own path to immortality, albeit from the back to the front; way, way, way, way, way, way too good for these.
#9 Dr Post (5-1): The second from Pletcher wasn’t visually impressive winning his stakes debut in the minor Unbridled going two turns at GP in April, but he did pull clear late and won with something to spare, and if nothing else, he looks to be improving after just three starts. Tactical son of Quality Road should trip out, and he’ll be able to keep the favorite in his sights the entire way, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be able to run with him when the real race begins; minor exotics appeal.
#10 Pneumatic (8-1): The much more fancied of the Asmussen duo ran well when third to the since-injured heavyweight Maxfield in Churchill Downs’ GIII Matt Winn last month, and he got nothing easy that day, either, as he was forced to duel until deep stretch. Beautifully bred son of Uncle Mo has a world of upside, too, as not only has he started just three times, but that was his stakes debut in Louisville, too, so there’s no reason he can’t build on that here. This wide draw isn’t ideal, but again, he’s got plenty of speed at his disposal and there’s ample time to get tucked in and get a spot before they hit the far turn, so off three very solid runs to begin his career, he’s got every chance to get a big check here; logical EX partner.
#8 Tiz the Law
#2 Sole Volante