If there was anything that 2020 has taught us, it would have to be that RULES DO NOT APPLY. In so many aspects and in so many ways it has been quite a Rule-less year. And so it goes and it finds its way into our cherished Belmont Stakes.
No Test of Champions. No Mile and a Half. Simply a 9f Derby Prep race. Yes, we were all discouraged at first. Disappointed that our Triple Crown turned into the Triple Upside Down. But a race is a race and anything that has to do with our Kentucky Derby must still be given respect and honor. So, instead of our normal cast of characters who were bred with perfectly balanced pedigrees and all of that mare stamina, we will now need to twist those rules to suit the times.
There are still some things that will not change. The bias will still dictate the advantaged. The optimum distances for our competitors will not change. Insight and common sense does not change. The puzzle pieces are still laid out. In some respects, the race offers us a much better glimpse into the future Churchill race and if we all keep an open mind, I am sure you will still get those goosebumps when the field enters the track with Frank Sinatra playing in the background. This is still the 2020 Belmont Stakes.
Higher Speed - 3.10 and over
7.00 - FORE LEFT
3-15-6-0-0 (24) Index = 7.00 CD = .88
Mare Profile = 2-5-7-10-5 Speed = 7 Stamina = 15
Index = 0.59 Triads = 14-22-22
WOW!! I could not wait to check on the mares numbers for this guy and they certainly did not disappoint.
These numbers are S-P-E-C-T-A-C-U-L-A-R! This guy may have just turned into my new best friend. Here sits a horse with 7 times the amount of speed running in his veins over his stamina coupled with an intense 8 point spread leaning all the way over to his inbred stamina. Holy smokes! Wickedly lethal. The set up and configurations are perfection, now we have to look into what those numbers produced in his performances.
There is a reason why this guy’s past performance sheet looks so bleak and why he did so well in Dubai. He has completely deceiving numbers on top and unless you consult with his mare numbers, you would think that this guy was bred to be a sprinter and one who could not connect in all of those short distances he was forced to run in. This guy is packing major stamina and he was forced to run against his grain, which is why he faltered in his short early races. He is so overwhelmingly balanced with serious speed on top and serious stamina on the bottom that the 6 races that he was forced to run completely and totally defeated the purpose of his true balance. This guy’s set-up, which falls at the very top of the spectrum as far as inbred speed - completely dominates the entire field, (with the exception of Sole Volante - highest stamina on the field). The configuration of those triads, low in the first slot and loaded in the stamina slots is unmatched underneath that 7.00 chef index.
The breeding and numbers show a horse who was gifted with severe champion speed on top of major stamina to sustain it. These numbers are the best on the field. But here comes the punch to the stomach that needs to be considered. The road that this guy has been on since his 4.5f debut all the way through to his plane ride to Dubai is serious blow. Being forced to run in those short races over and over and over again, against his true winning and optimum ways, coupled with a Dubai race knocks that excitement right in the teeth. He showed us in his 8f Dubai race that his stamina from his mares is stronger and it was drawn out on that bias. Most colts, even after putting forth a magnificent winning performance, who fly back and forth to Dubai generally come back with their tail between their legs. Very rare does a horse like Gun Runner come around. Most will withdraw. This is the concern which in turn leaves him with a 50-50 shot here. He either runs to that breeding which is absolutely the best set of numbers on this field and finally shows everyone what he is truly made of – or – the destructive Dubai curse leaves him at the back of the pack in the Belmont. O’Neil had a great colt here with serious potential back in the early months of 2019 and the course he took was not favorable to this horse. This guy is favoring his mares, it is so obvious by his resume and by that win on the Meydan Track. Now that he is sitting on a distance that is more conducive to his make-up, will that Dubai race translate to the bias at Belmont or will the curse strike him hard at the ¾ pole? Heartbreaking decision here. This is the type of speed horse that is so easy to fall in love with early on.
4.33 - TIZ THE LAW
1-4-3-0-0 (8) Index = 4.33 CD = .75
Mare Profile = 7-6-3-7-4 Speed = 13 Stamina = 11
Index = 1.28 Triads = 16-16-14
Said it before, these numbers are very hard to look at. They are terrible to say the least. Tapit is coming through in a big way to knock those mares out of the way. He loves this distance. He likes a fast dry track which points to a horse who most likely has caved to that Tapit factor. The Kentucky Jockey Club was his one and only poor performance – one that was run on a sloppy track – which if you take his total configurations at face value, should have been his shining moment. Since he did not take that advantage with his high 4.33 index, this is a tell-tale sign that Tapit is putting his foot down. This guy is sitting with Tapit Stamina above the chefs speedy index and he’s shown it... Hard to look past those mare’s numbers but there is no choice in the matter. This guy has performed to an exceptional level as he climbed those distances and now he sits with class and with backing. There is no question here if you play supers.
4.00 - PNEUMATIC
2-4-4-0-0 (10) Index = 4.00 CD = .80
Mare Profile = 10-1-7-7-4 Speed = 11 Stamina = 11
Index = 1.27 Triads = 18-15-18
Speed. Speed. And more Speed. Trying to find what lurks in Asmussen’s devious mind. A quick speed driven lead type with Pneumatic entered with his stablemate Jungle Runner, who is the rear running stamina guy. One up front, one in the back. Are we smelling rabbit stew yet? If you believe that Pneumatic will try to keep up front with the class in this field, then you must believe that he is playing for Jungle Runner – one who has ZERO shot against Sole Volante coming from the same spot. This guy will play right into Sole Volante’s sweet spot. Pneumatic will have to outrun his past performances early on in the race to keep up with the likes of Tiz the Law, Tap it To Win and Fore Left which means he will be expending way to much energy early on, especially coming out of the ten hole. This is not an 8f race. Asmussen knows this.
3.36 - MAX PLAYER
8-5-11-0-0 (24) Index = 3.36 CD = .88
Mare Profile = 8-3-6-4-7 Speed = 11 Stamina = 11
Index = 1.04 Triads = 17-13-17
Favoritism in his sire set to the side. I like these numbers very much for the 9f distance. This is the type that could successfully capitalize off of a speed duel with those 3 lead hotshots. He is balanced – even speed – even stamina. 3.36 index with aligned stamina. He needs that duel desperately because the 3 lead guys have the power to run it all the way around. The only chance at success for Max Player is if that speed duel presents itself. He wont be in a position to bypass and his last at the same distance saw him slowing down. His numbers however do give him a shot to cash somewhere mainly because of the Pneumatic factor. He will be coming on late probably making his move ahead of Sole Volante. But Sole has more, much more, in the late stages of the race. This one is good for that 3 or 4 spot underneath.
Lower Speed – 3.00 Exact
3.00 - TAP IT TO WIN
7-11-12-2-0 (32) Index = 3.00 CD = .72
Mare Profile = 11-3-1-5-9 Speed = 14 Stamina = 14
Index = 1.08 Triads = 15-9-15
The 9f is right in his wheel house but there is something about his resume that is very off-putting. Yes, he looked like a champ in his last at 8.5 and produced a gorgeous beyer figure. A higher end allowance race. That’s okay, but prior was a short optional claiming. That’s not okay. His two big league races, he folded big time. A Tapit boy who did exceptionally well in his first 2 short debut races. He is holding the nicest chefs profile configuration 7-11-12-2-0 (32) on the field. Loaded up top. Tapit factor hasn’t really shown up yet on his sheet. Hype is here and his last race he really did shine on that track. But realistically, the class is so-so and his sheet is so staggered that there is a huge possibility this guy may be in over his head. It is very difficult to look past that last race, as his performance truly was striking and there is a good chance that he may be coming into himself at this time.
I see this guy as another 50-50 shot. On one hand, he has the breeding to go wire to wire. On the other hand, he is sitting in the back seat to some of the class and to some of the resumes on this field. I cannot put my finger on it but something isn’t sitting right with this one. The only thing I can say with confidence is that the numbers are very nice for this race and I believe the bias will be favorable for him. What I am not confident in is the way this guy folded in his real tests along the way. If he can reproduce that same performance last out, jumping up in class and jumping up in distance he has a shot here. He has 2 hurdles to overcome and I think that may be 2 too many. I cannot give an accurate read here on this guy because it appears that from his last race he was favoring that mare 5 digit profile to a T and he also appeared to be disregarding that magical Tapit dominance. This is the opposite of how they usually react. Look at that 11 in the brilliant category of his mare profile. He poured that all over that Belmont track last race. But it was not a Graded prep race, it was allowance race.
I go back and forth with this guy with no real logical answer. I’m actually seeing a roll of the dice here if he can jump past those 2 hurdles. The only way he does is if he hit his maturity uptick between his last race to this one. He definitely would need to do just that to compete with the class here. Only his trainer knows that answer. Yes, I am stumped with this particular horse because I can’t find that elusive puzzle piece. I need more time with him. For now, you’re on your own here!
3.00 - JUNGLE RUNNER
2-7-6-1-0 (16) Index = 3.00 CD = .63
Mare Profile = 3-3-5-6-8 Speed = 6 Stamina = 14
Index = 0.52 Triads = 11-14-19
We would be all over this guy (with Modernist) if we had our normal 12f Belmont. Look at that point spread between his mares speed and stamina – 8 large points leaning to stamina with the perfect 3.00 chef index. Unfortunately, I do not believe that Asmussen received that memo telling him about the distance drop. This poor fellow is all stamina and his past performance sheet makes that statement so obvious. That low .63 CD coupled with those mare triads do not give him near enough inbred speed to compete against the speed demons at this distance, let alone those previous shorter races in his past. Something brewing between Pneumatic and Jungle Runner that’s for sure, but either way, seems mighty fruitless.
The Average – 2.00 to 2.90
2.56 - FARMINGTON ROAD
3-4-9-0-0 (16) Index = 2.56 CD = .63
Mare Profile = 9-6-2-7-9 Speed = 15 Stamina = 16
Index = 0.96 Triads = 17-15-18
He’s a fairly even keel type. Nothing standing out on either side of the spectrum, just fairly plain and simple. Because of the speed up top and the slight confusion with the class of Tap It To Win, the chance that the speed duel occurs is fairly high. This guy will hold his ground, reserving his even keeled speed until Castellano decides its time to go. He will show speed at that point and has a favorable position to at least grab a piece of the action. It won’t be flashy but he will absolutely pass tiring horses in the late stages of the race. It does not appear that Jungle Runner is any competition, but the lone stamina guy, Sole Volante, coming from further behind certainly is. A 3rd or 4th nod is acceptable in this scenario just in case. He will not hit a will, he will reserve his energy for the top of the stretch and he will progress further.
2.43 - DR POST
3-2-7-0-0 (12) Index = 2.43 CD = .67
Mare Profile = 9-2-4-5-9 Speed = 11 Stamina = 14
Index = 0.89 Triads = 15-11-18
As with any mid-range colts, past performances play a much greater role than those on the far ends of the spectrum. This guy is getting better and better with each passing race. His class though is as mid-range as his numbers. He is packing more stamina than speed which will be to his favor stepping up from his last to this one. He should be able to put in an even better performance than his last. But nothing is that easy when handicapping. There's always something. He has been laid up close to 3 months. Sometimes a horse flies like the wind coming off a long layoff (like Maxfield) and sometimes they pack it in as soon as they break (like Le Vent Se Leve). Sorry to say, the second 50-50 in the race. Mid-range guy coming off a long layoff who displayed something special in his last race in the ability to beat up on his speed opponents travelling only 8.5f. That is a tough call. He was a stand-out in that he was able to do that based on his breeding, but how does that lay-off affect him up against the speed of Tiz the Law and the determination of Sole Volante. On top of that, we have the unknown with Tap It To Win. Then there is Fore Left who is packing the most impressive configurations of the bunch. Too many variables to take a solid stance with a 2.43 contender. I’ll leave it up to you to ponder the pros and cons.
2.20 - MODERNIST
1-2-5-0-0 (8) Index = 2.20 CD = .50
Mare Profile = 7-2-7-6-6 Speed = 9 Stamina = 12 Index = 0.92 Triads = 16-15-19
Packing much more stamina than speed and yet faltered at his furthest last race. He drops back down to his apparent most favorable 9f distance here so that is good for him. It would appear that this is his most favorable distance. He was beaten by speed going further in his last, and the one prior he ended up capitalizing on a speed breakdown and beat stamina. So, this follows suit with his numbers. He is not packing nearly enough speed to compete against those colts who have major inbred speed backed up with mare stamina to sustain it. He has more inbred speed than the stamina horses below him. He is running directly in line with his numbers. Unfortunately for Modernist, there are speed guys entered in this race that have the stamina to continue for the 9f.
The Stamina – Under 2.00
.93 - SOLE VOLANTE
6-0-13-5-2 (26) Index = .93 CD = .12
Mare Profile = 4-9-5-9-5 Speed = 13 Stamina = 14
Index = 0.92 Triads = 18-23-19
Magnificent configurations. Fantastic resume running under his optimum. Reminds me of Shared Belief so much. At least in potential. He’s even a gelding too! Major serious stamina contender (overseas sire Karakontie) with the raw ability to demolish his speed contenders. It doesn’t matter that he didn’t hit first every time. Not with a horse bred like this. He ran 6 races, came in 1st four times, and posted a 2nd and 3rd – all under his optimum. Won on the short muddy turf as well. Spectacular. Every race he enters with further lengths only aligns that much better with his breeding. At this distance, Sole is still at a disadvantage, however it does not appear that it will faze him in the least. He will be a major player in the 10f Derby and he would be a serious player at 10f at Saratoga. Whether or not this guy wins this race or comes in 3rd, it will have no bearing on his advantage in Kentucky.
On the one side, gambling rewards and selfishness wish to see him grab a small piece underneath so that he remains low and off the radar for September. On the other side, I would love to see this stamina driven champ demolish this field with that gorgeous breeding. And he may do just that. This race is a huge test between Sole Volante and Tiz the Law. We shall see how that Tapit factor fairs with Tiz and we shall see what direction our little Thunder Snow clone will react to all of that speed in front of him. He will absolutely be running on the far outside at least 4 to 5 wide passing all of those mid-range average guys and he will tear up those speed demons who themselves will be running backwards at the top of the stretch. He has a nice long distance to ramp up that pent up speed of his and he will be right there with them. The ultimate speed vs stamina challenge. The only problem Sole faces is that Tiz may in fact be holding a boatload of hidden Tapit stamina as well. This entire race revolves around that factor. These two guys are the main speed and stamina competitors, but Tiz the Law retains the advantage. And that isn’t such a bad thing when it comes to future betting in the Derby. But still, I'm sitting in Sole's corner.