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Randy Brungard on horse racing: A look at the horses at the Belmont Stakes

Horse racing has returned to New York and one of its most recognizable races, the Belmont Stakes, will be run at approximately 5:42 p.m. on NBC today.

This will be the first time Belmont will be the first leg of the Triple Crown instead of the third thanks to this year’s COVID-19 pandemic. Typically, the Triple Crown consists of the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May, the Preakness Stakes two weeks later and then Belmont in early June.

In addition, Belmont is typically a grueling, 1 1/2 mile test around two turns. This year it has been shortened to 1 1/8 miles and will only be around one turn of the 1 1/2 mile Belmont Park oval race track.

This year’s Kentucky Derby is slated for the first Saturday in September and the Preakness is scheduled for the first Saturday in October. Instead of only five weeks between races, the Triple Crown is now spread out over a 15 week span.

One thing that has not changed is that the Triple Crown races are still restricted to 3-year-old thoroughbreds. Ten horses have been entered at the Belmont Stakes with Tiz The Law the deserved favorite. He has won five of six career starts, currently has the highest speed figure of all the contestants, has tactical speed that will allow him to stalk the early pace setters and has the pedigree to get the job done.

Tiz The Law will break from the eighth post.

Looking at the rest of the field from post Nos. 1-10, we start with the inside horse, Tap It To Win.

With three wins in six starts and a high speed figure (108), he will need to use his pacesetter running style to avoid getting trapped down on the rail. However, given that this is only a run turn race on the large Belmont track, that should not be as important as in a two-turn race. He also has a strong pedigree for this distance, as well as a recent win over this race track June 4. He will be facing much tougher competition than in the past, but is definitely one to consider finishing in the top 3.

Sol Volente is another serious contender with four wins and a second- and third-place finish in six career starts. He has the second highest Equibase speed figure (109) earned to date. He ran just nine days ago in Florida and had to ship to New York earlier this week. His closing style may get him in the top 3 while breaking from post No. 2, but my concern is the quick turn around between races and his having to recently ship in from southern Florida to just outside New York City.

On the other end of the recent racing spectrum is Max Player, who last raced in February and will come out of post No. 3.

He has two wins and a second-place finish in just three starts, a respectable Equibase number, and should look to keep getting better as the summer progresses. He has a homefield advantage of being trained in New York, and should come running from near the back at the end. If he does not do well in Belmont, look for him to be in the mix later this year.

Modernist comes out of post No. 4, and has won twice along with two third-place finishes in five races. Both of those wins came at this year’s 1 1/8th mile distance and he should be pressing or possibly setting the early pace. His pedigree and recent performances should allow him to handle the distance again.

The strike against Modernist is his Equibase number is only 94, compared to all the others mentioned thus far that vary from Max Player’s 103 all the way up to Tiz The Law’s 117.

Of course, every time a horse runs he gets an Equibase figure assigned to that particular race’s result and these are still maturing 3 year olds.

Farmington Road has only one win and two second-place finishes from six starts, and his top Equibase number thus far is 100. Breaking from the five-hole, look for him to try and close from the back late.

I do not think he is a serious threat, but that is why they race.

Fore Left exists post No. 6 with four wins and two third-place finishes in nine career starts. He also has earned a 100 speed figure and should be vying for the early lead. His best race was across the pond at Meydan race track when he last raced in February. Although he may be prominent early, the gap since he last raced may cause him to fade before they cross the finish line.

Breaking from post No. 7 is Jungle Runner. He has won only two of eight races, and has the lowest speed figure of the entire field with an 85. He has not won since the fall of 2019 and would be a huge surprise if he was victorious at Belmont. He does have an excellent pedigree for the distance, but will have to step up his game significantly. If he does, it should be from the back of the field.

As mentioned earlier, Tiz The Law comes out of post No. 8 and deserves to be the favorite.

To his outside in gate No. 9 is Dr Post, who already has two wins from only three starts. He has already earned a 101 Equibase number, but has yet to compete against this higher class of horses. He has a versatile, stalker-type running style and his pedigree should allow him to get the 1 1/8th mile distance. He is definitely a horse to consider.

The far outside post, No. 10, is Pneumatic. He also has two wins as well as a third-place finish in just three career starts. He has earned a 98 Equibase number and may also be vying for the early lead.

At this point, it is Tiz The Law’s race to lose on paper. Thankfully horse racing is often filled with upsets, as favorites typically only win about 33% of the time.

NBC will start its coverage at 2:45 p.m. and finish shortly after the anticipated 5:42 p.m. post time.

“And down the stretch they come!”

Randy Brungard is a local attorney who breeds and raises thoroughbred race horses.

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