Finding the Belmont Stakes Horse for the Course

Profile Picture: John Mucciolo

June 17th, 2020

An field of 10 3-year-olds, led by two-time Grade 1 hero Tiz the Law, headlines the 152nd running of the $1 million Belmont Stakes (G1) on Saturday. Run as the first leg of the Triple Crown for the first time in history, with a distance that has been shortened from 1 1/2 miles to 1 1/8 miles, the “Test of the Champion” takes on an entirely new look this season.

The sure short-priced favorite from the Barclay Tagg barn was a smashing four-length winner of the Champagne (G1) as a juvenile in his lone run on the Belmont main surface, but Tiz the Law is not the only contender who has run huge over "Big Sandy."

The Mark Casse-trained Tap it to Win made his local debut on June 4 and ran just about as well as a Thoroughbred can in his allowance tour-de-force. The bay son of Tapit went straight to the front under John Velazquez and never looked back, drawing off to a facile five-length win under moderate urging. The Florida-bred finished off 1 1/16 miles in a near track record of 1:39.76, and the 101 Brisnet Speed figure he earned was a lifetime best, as well.

While one prime effort over a surface doesn’t necessarily earn a Thoroughbred the title of "horse for the course," it would be foolish to ignore the fact that Tap It to Win ran a proverbial hole in the wind on the strip a little more than two weeks prior.

Tap It to Win flashed good potential early as a juvenile before a pair of unplaced stakes attempts concluded his 2019 season. The ridgling is unbeaten from two tries as a sophomore, and with his pedigree, he figures to continue to improve and develop with experience. And his first try at nine furlongs likely won’t pose a problem, either, after Tap It to Win galloped out with great energy going 1 1/16 miles.

Jumping from an allowance tilt to a classic race is a very ambitious task, without question. But if the Live Oak homebred is a true horse for the course, he has to be viewed as a viable contender for this most unique Belmont Stakes.