By Noel Michaels
The 2020 running of the Belmont Stakes is in the books, and the winner was New York-bred Tiz the Law, ridden by Manny Franco, trained by Barclay Tagg, and owned by Sackatoga Stable, reuniting the trainer/ownership team that brought us Funny Cide, who won the 2003 Derby and Preakness.
Tiz the Law pressed a solid pace, took over at the top of the stretch, and powered clear to a 3 3/4-length win in 1:46.2 for the 1 1/8 miles in a field of 10. Tiz the Law paid $3.60 to win in the Belmont (4-5 odds), which actually was an overlay in a race where he really should have been 2-5 against a questionable field of competition.
Tiz the Law stands as the clear leader of the 3-year-old division now with some other key horses injured, and based on his nearly flawless record that also includes a win the Holy Bull (G3) followed by a tour de force victory in the Florida Derby on March 28 when he effortlessly crushed the field. He is now a multiple Grade 1 winner at Belmont, including last fall’s Champagne, where he also demolished the field.
Not to take anything away from Tiz the Law, but all of his best competition up until this point – Nadal, Charlatan, Maxfield, Wells Bayou – are all sidelined, leaving Tiz the Law to stand alone, head and shoulders above the rest of the current 3-year-old crop.
Dr Post, a lightly-raced up-and-comer from the Todd Pletcher barn, finished best of the rest in second in the Belmont, and it was another 1 ½ lengths back to Max Player, who closed late for third for trainer Linda Rice. There’s no reason that duo will not continue on the Triple Crown trail. Meanwhile, the likes of the plodding Farmington Road, Bill Mott’s Risen Star winner Modernist, Patrick Biancone’s Sam F. Davis winner Sole Volante, and Mark Casse’s fast Belmont allowance winner Tap It To Win, all disappointed.
Next up on the Triple Crown series is the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5, followed by the Preakness on Oct. 3. There’s no reason to think Tiz the Law won’t be there going for it all the way.
The next races on the road to the Derby includes the Blue Grass at Keeneland on July 11, followed by the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth on July 18, and Del Mar’s new Derby prep, the Shared Belief on Aug. 1.
Saratoga’s stakes schedule was released last week, and the Travers was moved to Aug. 8 to place it four weeks before the Derby.
Here’s the schedule of major 3-year-old stakes:
July 11 Blue Grass Stakes Keeneland
July 18 Haskell Invitational Monmouth
Aug. 1 Shared Belief Stakes Del Mar
Aug. 8 Travers Stakes Saratoga
Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby Churchill Downs
Oct. 3 Preakness Stakes Pimlico
Kentucky Derby hopefuls will also have chances to earn points toward qualifying for the Derby in lesser races: the Ohio Derby on June 27 at Thistledown, the Los Alamitos Derby on July 4, and the Indiana Derby on July 8.
Who is likely to be Tiz the Law’s top challengers the rest of the season?
The clear No. 2 looks like Santa Anita Derby winner Honor A.P. – trained by John Shirreffs — who looked good at Santa Anita and should only get better at 1 ¼ miles in the Derby. His next race is the Shared Belief at Del Mar.
Bob Baffert lost major contenders Nadal and Charlatan, but he’s still in the Derby mix with the likes of Santa Anita Derby runner-up Authentic, whose next start will be in the Haskell. Baffert also trains a pair of promising recent maiden winners, Uncle Chuck and Cezanne.
Tampa Bay Derby winner and Arkansas Derby runner-up King Guillermo, trained by Juan Carlos Avila, is likely to train up to the Kentucky Derby. The Blue Grass Stakes is expected to draw a deep and competitive field that includes Derby hopefuls like the Steve Asmussen-trained Hopeful (G1) winner Basin, Todd Pletcher’s Arkansas Derby third-place finisher Gouverneur Morris, the Saffie Joseph-trained Matt Winn third-place finisher Ny Traffic, the Mark Casse-trained Louisiana Derby fifth-place finish Enforceable, and the Tom Drury-trained impressive Churchill allowance winner Art Collector.
Noel Michaels has been involved in many aspects of thoroughbred racing for more than two decades, as a Breeders’ Cup-winning owner and as a writer, author, handicapper, editor, manager and promoter of the sport for a wide range of companies including Daily Racing Form and Nassau County Off-Track Betting.
He also is regarded as the leading source of news and information for handicapping tournaments and the author of the “Handicapping Contest Handbook: A Horseplayer’s Guide to Handicapping Tournaments”, which made his name virtually synonymous with the increasingly-popular tournament scene.
In addition to contributing to US Racing, he is also an analyst on the Arlington Park broadcast team.