Keeler Johnson’s Belmont 152 Selections

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

A few short weeks ago, the $1 million Belmont Stakes was shaping up to be an intriguing battle between Grade 1 winners Tiz the Law, Nadal, and Charlatan, the three early favorites for the Kentucky Derby. With its shortened 1 1/8-mile distance and newfound status as the first leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont was poised to attract arguably its strongest field in years.

But then Nadal and Charlatan were struck down by injuries, and other key contenders soon withdrew as well. Now we're left with just 10 horses to vie for victory in the restructured Belmont Stakes, and on paper, #8 Tiz the Law (6-5) has emerged as an overwhelming favorite to prevail.

Tiz the Law's credentials are formidable. As a juvenile he crushed his debut at Saratoga, winning by 4 1/4 lengths with complete authority, and he followed up with a powerful 4-length romp in the Champagne (G1) traversing a one-turn mile at Belmont Park. This is significant since the Belmont Stakes, in its new shorter format, will also be held around one turn.

An awkward inside trip over a sloppy track in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) likely cost Tiz the Law an undefeated season, but the son of Constitution bounced back with a pair of big races during the winter at Gulfstream Park. In the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull (G3), Tiz the Law overcome early traffic to romp by three lengths over Ete Indien, who returned to dominate the Fountain of Youth (G2) by 8 1/2 lengths. Then Tiz the Law proved he can handle 1 1/8 miles when cruising to victory by 4 1/4 confident lengths in the Florida Derby (G1).

Tiz the Law isn't always the quickest runner out of the gate, and at times he can be a little overeager to put himself into contention. But these pitfalls should be easy to avoid since Tiz the Law has drawn perfectly in post eight with the main pace players to his inside. Tiz the Law has enough tactical speed to stay within striking range of the pace, but drawing wide affords him an easy opportunity to settle behind the leaders while running in the clear. Traffic shouldn't be an issue with such an ideal setup.

In conclusion, Tiz the Law is a short-priced but deserving favorite for the Belmont Stakes. He's the only horse in the field to have posted a triple-digit Beyer speed figure, and his proven affinity for Belmont Park is an asset. Any way you slice it, Tiz the Law is the horse to beat, and I won't bother trying to oppose him. Instead, I'll single him in multi-race wagers and key him on top in the trifecta and superfecta.

For the vertical exotics, #2 Sole Volante (9-2) is a must-use runner. Although this son of Karakontie is bred to excel on turf, and is indeed a stakes winner on grass, he's really thrived since switching to the main track, posting four straight Beyer speed figures in the 92-96 range.

Sole Volante achieved his signature victory in the 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, where he rocketed the third quarter in :23.26 and the final five-sixteenths in :30.53 to defeat graded stakes winner Independence Hall by 2 1/2 lengths. A slow pace subsequently compromised Sole Volante's late rally in the 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby (G2), but the improving colt still sprinted home in :30.62 to finish second behind future Arkansas Derby (G1) runner-up King Guillermo.

Following a 3-month break, Sole Volante returned to action in a 1-mile allowance race on June 10 at Gulfstream Park, where he rallied confidently from last place to beat a deep field including Florida Derby (G1) runner-up Shivaree and Tiz the Law's old rival Ete Indien. Having demonstrated he can handle a one-turn route just fine, Sole Volante figures to be a major threat from off the pace in the Belmont Stakes, and I will be very surprised if he finishes out of the trifecta.

The wildcard in the Belmont Stakes is #1 Tap It to Win (6-1), whose sire—Tapit—is responsible for three previous winners of the oldest American classic. Conditioned by Mark Casse, who saddled Sir Winston to win the 2019 Belmont, Tap It to Win has sandwiched flashes of brilliance around disappointing efforts. In his two tries against stakes company as a juvenile, Tap It to Win finished last in the Breeders' Futurity (G1) and Street Sense S., beaten by more than 20 lengths on both occasions.

But after taking the winter off, Tap It to Win has come back a different horse. After beating fellow Florida-breds in a 6-furlong allowance race at Gulfstream, Tap It to Win stepped up in class and distance for a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Belmont. The result? A freakish victory. After carving out fast fractions of :22.65, :45.64, and 1:09.39, Tap It to Win powered away and led by 7 1/2 lengths at the eighth pole before crossing the wire 5 lengths clear in 1:39.76, missing the track record by just 0.54.

It was a massive performance, which raises a key question—can Tap It to Win repeat the feat? He was never challenged on the front end at Belmont, but figures to face pace pressure on Saturday from #6 Fore Left (30-1), front-running winner of the UAE Two Thousand Guineas (G3). It's possible a duel for the lead while stepping back into stakes company will prompt regression from Tap It to Win. On the other hand, if his runaway allowance win is proof he's turned a corner, Tap It to Win could give Tiz the Law quite a tussle down the homestretch.

So how do we turn these opinions into wagers? Let's put all our eggs in one basket and key Tiz the Law on top in the trifecta and superfecta, since covering for the possibility of his defeat will reduce our profits if he wins as expected. Underneath, we'll strongly emphasize Sole Volante and Tap It to Win while adding #4 Modernist (15-1), #9 Dr Post (5-1), and #10 Pneumatic (8-1) to smaller tickets:

$6 Trifecta: 8 with 1,2 with 1,2 ($12)
$3 Trifecta: 8 with 1,2 with 4,9,10 ($18)
$1 Superfecta: 8 with 1,2 with 1,2 with 4,9,10 ($6)
$1 Superfecta: 8 with 1,2 with 4,9,10 with 1,2 ($6)
$0.50 Superfecta: 8 with 1,2 with 4,9,10 with 4,9,10 ($6)

Total: $48

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Belmont Stakes?


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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website

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