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Tuley's Take on Belmont Stakes: #3 Max Player is value play

By Dave Tuley  (VSiN senior reporter) 

June 19, 2020 01:18 PM

With the way everyone is predicting an easy victory for Tiz the Law in Saturday’s 152nd running of the Belmont Stakes (aka The Run for the Carnations), you’d think it was The Walkover for the Coronation.

And I get it.

Tiz the Law is the only Grade 1 winner in the 10-horse field (and has two of them) and appears to stand head and withers over his competition, especially as other top contenders such as Charlatan, Nadal and Maxfield have fallen by the wayside in the leadup to a Triple Crown season that has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic with the Belmont now leading off the series at a mile and an eighth (shortened from the traditional mile and a half) and the Kentucky Derby postponed four months until Sept. 3. Tiz the Law is 4-for-5 lifetime with his only clunker being on a sloppy track last fall at Churchill Downs. He won the Grade 1 Champagne at this track last fall and then romped in the Grade 3 Holy Bull and Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park this spring to put himself at the head of the 3-year-old class.

But as the old racetrack saying goes, “there’s not a man alive that can pay the rent at 4-5.”

No. 8 Tiz the Law was actually installed as the 6-5 favorite on the morning line, but with all the hype and the fact he’s owned by Sackatoga Stable and trained by Barclay Tagg (the same connections that famously campaigned New York-bred Funny Cide to win the 2003 Derby and Preakness), the public is sure to make him odds-on at 4-5 if not lower.

However, I don’t see him as unbeatable against this group, even if the track doesn't come up wet like it did in his lone loss. He also hasn’t raced in 12 weeks since the Florida Derby on March 28, so that adds some doubt.

I really like No. 1 Tap It to Win as he could steal this wire-to-wire under jockey John Velazquez, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets bet lower as he’s ridden by popular New York jockey John Velazquez and the fact he’s getting a lot of buzz as the “wiseguy horse.” In addition, there’s a good chance he’ll be pushed to go faster than he wants on the lead with UAE 2000 Guineas winner Fore Left added to the pace scenario.

So, that leads me to a closer and I’m going with No. 3 Max Player as my top value play at 15-1 (and hopefully much higher). He rallied to win the Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct and should be flying late under jockey Joel Rosario, who is great on closers. After Max Player’s Withers win, trainer Linda Rice was asked if she had her “Derby horse” and she said he was actually a better fit for the Belmont. She felt he would be able to get the distance, and that’s even more certain now that the Belmont is at the same 1 1/8 miles he won at in the Withers.

Wagers: No. 3 Max Player to Win & Place; box No. 3 Max Player in exotics with No. 1 Tap It to Win and No. 9 Dr Post (add in No. 8 Tiz the Law if you really can’t resist the chalk).

Note: I also have value bets in two stakes on the Belmont card. For those, as well as more selections from my stable of handicapping friends, check out this week's edition of "Tuley's Throroughbred Takes" at

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