Because of the coronavirus pandemic, which forced organizers to move the Kentucky Derby from May 2 to Sept. 5 and the Preakness from May 16 to Oct. 3, the Belmont Stakes will kick off the Triple Crown series for the first time. The 152nd running of the race, originally scheduled for June 6, has been shortened from a mile and a half to a mile and an eighth. There will be no spectators or owners in attendance on Saturday.
The Belmont horses are listed in order of post position, with comments by Joe Drape and Melissa Hoppert of The New York Times. The morning-line odds were set by David Aragona of the New York Racing Association.
Purse: $1 million guaranteed Distance: 1⅛ miles
Track record: For a mile and a half, 2:24 (Secretariat, 1973); for a mile and an eighth, 1:45.40 (Secretariat, 1973)
Weight: 126 pounds
Post time: Saturday at 5:42 p.m. Eastern
How to watch: NBC, broadcasting from 2:45 to 6 p.m.
Coverage will also be streamed on NBC Sports Live.
Joe Drape’s win-place-show picks: Dr Post, Tiz the Law, Modernist
Melissa Hoppert’s picks: Tiz the Law, Tap It to Win, Modernist
Here’s how we see the field:
1. Tap It to Win
Trainer: Mark Casse Jockey: John Velazquez Odds: 6-1
Drape: A very speedy sort who likes running from the front. He’s coming off two victories, but not against the likes of some of these.
Hoppert: This late-blooming colt won an allowance race by five lengths at Belmont two weeks ago and will be ridden by a veteran who knows how to win on this track. A solid upset pick.
2. Sole Volante
Trainer: Patrick Biancone Jockey: Luca Panici Odds: 9-2
Drape: This late-running gelding is a rugged sort with four victories in six starts. He should have plenty of pace to chase.
Hoppert: He has won four of six starts, including an allowance race at Gulfstream only 10 days before the Belmont. How he responds is a bit of an unknown, but he has the talent and a strong finishing kick.
3. Max Player
Trainer: Linda Rice Jockey: Joel Rosario Odds: 15-1
Drape: This son of Honor Code has been patiently handled. This is only his fourth lifetime race. He needs to get a whole lot faster.
Hoppert: He has not raced since winning the Withers in February at Aqueduct, and while he has been training well, his running style seems better suited for the race’s traditional distance.
Trainer: Bill Mott Jockey: Junior Alvarado Odds: 15-1
Drape: He has been working outstandingly in the mornings and has one of Belmont’s hottest jockeys aboard. He’s a contender at a price.
Hoppert: The winner of the Risen Star had a troubled trip in the Louisiana Derby in March and finished third. But he has won two of his three starts this year, both at a mile and an eighth.
5. Farmington Road
Trainer: Todd Pletcher Jockey: Javier Castellano Odds: 15-1
Drape: Another with a late kick who is going to need the pace to collapse to secure his second lifetime victory. Looking elsewhere for my trifecta.
Hoppert: He was second in the Oaklawn Stakes in April and most recently was fourth in the second division of the Arkansas Derby in May. He has an experienced team, but will that be enough?
6. Fore Left
Trainer: Doug O’Neill Jockey: Jose Ortiz Odds: 30-1
Drape: More early speed here by way of California after a victory in Dubai at a mile. He’s hard to make a case for.
Hoppert: Winning is a lot to ask after that long a layoff. (He won the UAE 2000 Guineas in February.)
7. Jungle Runner
Trainer: Steve Asmussen Jockey: Reylu Gutierrez Odds: 50-1
Drape: He lost his last two races by a combined 40 lengths. Enough said.
Hoppert: He hasn’t won a race since November and finished eighth in the first division of the Arkansas Derby his last time out. Pass.
8. Tiz the Law
Trainer: Barclay Tagg Jockey: Manny Franco Odds: 6-5
Drape: He is the best horse here, and perhaps anywhere, and simply blew by his rivals in the Florida Derby and the Holy Bull Stakes. Can I get over my aversion to favorites? Nope.
Hoppert: Not only is this New York-bred, who won the Florida Derby by four and a quarter lengths in March, the most talented of the bunch, but he also has sentimentality on his side as his team, of Funny Cide fame, returns to the spotlight. My pick (sorry, Joe, he’s too tough to bet against).
9. Dr Post
Trainer: Todd Pletcher Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr. Odds: 5-1
Drape: This late-developing stalker will be moving with the favorite in the lane. I’m betting he gives him a run for his money.
Hoppert: He has won both of his starts this year and has Belmont Park’s leading jockey on his back, but is this distance an issue?
Trainer: Steve Asmussen Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr. Odds: 8-1
Drape: This Uncle Mo colt tired in the stretch in his last race. He will be out of it even earlier here.
Hoppert: He sustained his first loss in three races, finishing third in the Matt Winn in May, but he showed some promise against stiffer competition and seems to be improving.