He is 6-5 on the morning line. But if Las Vegas and overseas futures mean a thing, that would actually be decent value for anyone buying into the belief that Tiz The Law is more than a cut above the other nine horses drawn Wednesday into this weekend’s $1 million Grade 1 Belmont Stakes.
Asked about the futures’ influence, Timeform U.S. analyst and New York Racing Association morning-line writer David Aragona said on Twitter, “I don’t pay much attention to that. In my experience it has limited relevance.”
Is Aragona right? Will bettors reverse course and keep the two-time Grade 1 winner at even money or better in the pari-mutuel pool for Saturday’s Triple Crown opener? Or will they move the needle the way they have so far with Nevada bookmakers, who doubled down on the bull market that they have seen for Tiz The Law.
While Circa Sports kept him shorter than 4-5 (minus-135) in its 12-day-old futures, William Hill Nevada opened him at even money shortly after he was drawn into post 8 for this uniquely abridged renewal of the Belmont. Abridged with the purse cut from $1.5 million to $1 million. Abridged with the distance reduced from 1½ miles around two turns to 1⅛ miles around one.
“There’s no real, solid second choice,” XBTV handicapper Jeff Siegel said. “When that happens a lot of the money goes to the favorite, maybe more than it deserves. But in this case I think Tiz The Law will be 4-5, even money, somewhere around there. He’s a very good horse, and I think he’s an easy horse to like.”
Likable from any gate. It was probably a reach to suggest that Tiz The Law did not draw ideally for jockey Manny Franco and 82-year-old trainer Barclay Tagg. But getting post 8 for a one-turn Belmont Stakes was far from the end of the world.
“It could have been worse,” Tagg said on the NYRA video stream that brought the draw to an audience still shut out of Belmont Park by the coronavirus. “I was hoping to get 5-7, something like that. We’ll take 8.”
Before he won the Florida Derby in late March, Tiz The Law won the Champagne Stakes last autumn over the same dirt on which he will be running this weekend. Those are the only Grade 1 wins on the collective résumés from Saturday’s entrants.
“He does everything the way we ask him to,” Tagg said. “He likes this track so I’m glad to be back here with him.”
As a consensus but not necessarily convincing second choice, Sole Volante (plus-495 Circa, 5-1 William Hill, 9-2 morning line) drew post 2 for Patrick Biancone. The deep closer that won the wintertime Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs will be partnered again with Luca Panici, who rode him victoriously again only last Wednesday in a top-level allowance race at Gulfstream Park.
“He needed that race,” said part-owner and assistant trainer Andie Biancone, Patrick’s 22-year-old daughter. “He came out super fresh and happy. The other day he won on a one-turn mile. I think (the one-turn Belmont) is going to be perfect for him.”
Mid-pack-running stakes winner Dr Post (plus-675, 5-1, 5-1) drew post 9 for trainer Todd Pletcher, who also has deep-closing maiden winner Farmington Road (20-1, 16-1, 15-1) coming out of gate 5. Working at his home track, Pletcher is looking for his fourth victory in the last 14 runnings of the Belmont.
Everyone in the field may be chasing rail starter Tap It To Win (plus-595, 5-1, 6-1), Mark Casse’s five-length winner two weeks ago out of the same backstretch chute, and late entrant Fore Left (45-1, 65-1, 30-1), Doug O’Neill’s speedster that drew the 6 coming back from his February victory in a Grade 3 race at Dubai.
With the outside post, Pneumatic (17-1, 8-1, 8-1) still carries long odds at Circa despite a growing belief from some handicappers that he may be the value play Saturday. With Ricardo Santana Jr. riding, he could stalk the pace or lay back. It will be his first start since a competitive third-place finish last month to the now-injured Maxfield in the Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs.
The rest of the field includes Withers winner Max Player (22-1, 15-1, 15-1) in post position 3, Risen Star winner Modernist (20-1, 20-1, 15-1) at No. 4 and Asmussen’s other entrant Jungle Runner (50-1, 65-1, 50-1), a colt that has last his last four starts by an average of 19 lengths.
Both Circa and William Hill are expected to keep their futures posted through at least a part of Saturday. Post time is scheduled for 5:42 p.m. EDT. The race will be televised by NBC Sports.
Ahead of the Belmont Stakes, Ron Flatter’s racing column will be posted Wednesday, Friday and Saturday this week at VSiN.com. You may also hear two episodes this week of the Ron Flatter Racing Pod. Handicappers Chris Andrews, Johnny Avello, Duane Colucci and Vinny Magliulo will analyze every horse in the Belmont in a special handicappers pop-up posting around midday Thursday. Tiz The Law’s jockey Manny Franco, Fox Sports racing analyst Maggie Wolfendale Morley and XBTV handicapper Jeff Siegel are the guests on the regular episode that will be posted Friday morning. The Ron Flatter Racing Pod is available via Apple, Google, iHeart, Spotify, Stitcher and at VSiN.com/podcasts and is sponsored by 1/ST BET.