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2020 Belmont Stakes Day

Manny Franco celebrates aboard Tiz the Law after winning the Belmont Stakes
Date: 06/20/2020

With racing cancelled for much of the spring, the 2020 Triple Crown was rescheduled, with the Kentucky Derby moved to September 5 and the Preakness to October 3. However. the $1 million Belmont Stakes was only delayed 2 weeks to June 20, with its distance reduced by 3/8 mile from its traditional 1 1/2 mile lap of Belmont Park, down to 1 1/8 miles around one turn. In addition, the Belmont became part of the "Kentucky Derby Championship Series" worth 150 points to the winner. Conditions were excellent on Summer Solstice Day, with sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80's, the main track fast and the turf courses very firm.

A field of 10 three-year-olds were entered in the Belmont, with Tiz the Law sent off as the 4-5 favorite off wins in the Holy Bull (G3) and Florida Derby (G1) both at Gulfstream Park. In to challenge him included 5-1 second choice Tap It to Win, winner of his last 2 starts both in allowance company, and 8-1 third choice Dr Post, winner of the Unbridled Stakes.

At the head of the stretch with Tiz the Law out front.

Jockey John Velazquez sent Tap It to Win to the lead exiting the chute through fractions of 23.11, 46.16, and 1:09.94 while pressed by 25-12 Fore Left and stalked by Tiz the Law. On the far turn, Tap It to Win tired allowing Tiz the Law to take over the lead, quickly opening up a 4 1/2 length lead midstretch through 1 mile in 1:34.46. Dr Post, 6th early, put in a strong late rally to no avail as Tiz the Law, kept to task by Manny Franco, cruised to win by 3 3/4 lengths in 1:46.53. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to 14-1 Max Player third.

Pgm  Horse              Jockey         Win   Place   Show
 8   Tiz the Law        Franco        3.60    2.90   2.60
 9   Dr Post            Ortiz Jr.             5.80   4.20
 3   Max Player         Rosario                      5.20

Winning Time:  1:46.53

$1 Exacta 8-9                  19.60
$1 Trifecta 8-9-3              99.50
$1 Superfecta 8-9-3-10        556.50
Full results chart from DRF

Left: Tiz the Law in the winner's circle. He is the first New York-bred to win New York's signature race since Forester in 1882. Jack Knowlton, operating manager of owner Sackatoga Stable said from his Saratoga Springs base, "It's tremendous [to win the Belmont with a New York-bred]. We buy New York-breds, that's our game, and we don't spend a lot of money. We've been with Barclay Tagg for 25 years and I keep telling everybody, Barclay doesn't get a lot of big horses, big opportunities, but when he does he knows what to do. He's got his and Sackatoga's got theirs. Triple Crown, two different horses, two different years [Funny Cide, 2003], and not a lot of people can say that."

Right: Tiz the Law takes his walk down Victory Lane after winning the Belmont. Winning trainer Barclay Tagg said, "It looked to me like everything just went like clockwork. That's the way the horse likes to run and that's the position the horse likes to be in. Manny [Franco] knows the horse very well. We discussed it quickly before I put him up on the horse and I felt very confident Manny would ride him that way. I felt pretty solid about halfway down the lane. It's a good feeling. The long-range plan would be the Travers, the Derby and then the Preakness.  After that, they'll probably want me to take him to the Breeders' Cup."

Left: The mostly empty stands behind Tiz the Law at the finish of the Belmont Stakes. Winning jockey Manny Franco said, "I was pretty confident by the time we hit the 7/8 pole. He was so kind and relaxed for me. He was so comfortable and never got keen, so I think that was the key. I got the horse for the [Kentucky Derby]. I'm very happy for the opportunity that the owner and trainer have given me; I'm in good hands. They know what they're doing and the horse is really good. I'm not going to lie I was little bit nervous [in the gate], but at the same time I was confident because I know what I have under me. Like I said, I'm in good hands with Barclay. It means a lot to me. This is my home track. I've riding here for about six years already. One leg of the Triple Crown is the dream of any jockey. I'm happy with the opportunity that I have right now."

Right: Tiz the Law heads out to the track before the race. Franco added, "About the 5/8 pole, my horse was so relaxed, so calm. From there, I knew I had so much horse to win the race. I knew that [Tap It To Win] was the one we wanted to beat so I didn't want to let him go to easy. I was in the position that I wanted. I took a peak back around the 5/16, I didn't want to move early. I knew I had the horse underneath I was just waiting for the right time to move."

Left: Second place finisher Dr Post in the paddock before the race. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. said, "He ran great. No excuse. He got beat by a good horse too. The winner is a nice horse, New York-bred and he ran great. My horse is improving. He's only had three races [going into the Belmont]. He just needs a little more time to figure things out."

Right: Third place finisher Max Player at the finish. Trainer Linda Rice said, "He got shuffled back a little after the break and had a wide trip through the turn, but he was still running on at the end of it. He hasn't run in five months so it was a pretty good effort." Jockey Joel Rosario added, "He came running real well at the end and put in a nice run. I was happy with where I was in the beginning and then getting into the turn he took some dirt to the face. But he was coming, he was making a nice run on the outside and just kept coming. He still came with a nice run there at the end. I thought it was a good performance for him."

The $300,000 Longines Acorn Stakes (G1) featured top 3-year-old fillies going 1 mile on the main track. Gamine was sent off as the 7-10 favorite in the field of 7, undefeated in 2 starts in allowance company, over 4-1 Casual, also undefeated in 2 starts, and 5-1 Lucrezia, 2nd in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2).

Jockey John Velazquez sent Gamine to the lead exiting the chute and she set fractions of 22.48, 45.28, and 1:09.33 while stalked by 33-1 Water White and Lucrezia. Turning for home, Gamine left the field behind, opening up by 9 1/2 through 7f in 1:20.80, and finishing 18 3/4 lengths ahead of 40-1 longest shot Pleasant Orb in a a new stakes record 1:32.55, just 31/100 off the track record. It was another 1/2 length back to Water White third.
Full results chart

Left: Gamine in the winner's circle. Jimmy Barnes, assistant to winning trainer Bob Baffert said, "It was an amazing race out of her. Especially coming into a Grade 1 and for it being only her third start. Johnny rode her right to the way we told him to go. We told him to take advantage of her position and he certainly did. Bob does a great job at this. He buys a very good horse and it makes it a lot easier to get the job done like this. I wanted to see her run the one turn just because of the way she runs. Two turns, one turn, she can handle either one. We'll go home, give her a little time and see what's next for her. I can imagine something at Saratoga."

Right: Gamine heads back to the barn after the race. Winning jockey John Velazquez said, "She's a little bit on the aggressive side, but I let her relax around the backstretch. Once we got to the 5/16 pole I let her run. By the 1/4 pole she opened up so quickly I had to look back. She's very nice and professional. I wish they were all that easy. When we got to the 1/4 pole she started drifting out, so I said, you know what, let me just go forward with her and slow her down a little. On the turn she was kind of getting away from me, so I just showed her the whip and it was just instantly, she picked it up so quickly. By the 1/8 pole I looked back and thought maybe I'm going too quick, so let me see."

A field of 8 older horses contested the $250,000 Jaipur Stakes (G1) at 6 furlongs on the inner turf looking for automatic entry into the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. Oleksandra, the only mare in the field, was sent off as the 9-4 favorite off her 2nd place finish in the Monrovia (G2) at Santa Anita. In to challenge her included 7-2 Pure Sensation, unraced since 5th in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1), and 15-4 Stubbins, 3rd in the Daytona (G3).

Jockey John Velazquez sent 4-1 fourth choice Hidden Scroll to the front through fractions of 21.33 and 43.62 while pressed by Stubbins and stalked by Pure Sensation. Turning for home, 7-1 Texas Wedge moved up from 4th to lead through 5f in 55.10, but Oleksandra, last early under Joel Rosario, came out for room and outfinished 16-1 Kanthaka to win by a neck in 1:06.80, just 6/100 off the course record. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to Texas Wedge third.
Full results chart

Left: Oleksandra in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Neil Drysdale said, "She had been training really well into this race. She is so much fun to watch race. She makes life very exciting. At Santa Anita, going 5 1/2 furlongs, it's very difficult to run down speed. We were pleased with the way she ran and that's why we sent her to Belmont. The speed up front helped her, but on the other hand I've seen her do well with slower fractions. The main thing is the turn of foot she had and she really put that on display."

Right: Oleksandra takes her walk down Victory Lane. Winning jockey Joel Rosario said, "Coming out of the gate, [Kanthaka] got me a little bit. I just let her be there, which she likes to do. She put up a great performance and did well in the end. She's an amazing horse. I'm very grateful that the connections have given me the opportunity to ride her. The fast pace was probably why I was further back, but she came with a great run in the end. We do well together."

Kicking off the stakes action on Belmont Saturday was the $250,000 Woody Stephens Stakes (G1) featuring just 5 three-year-olds sprinting 7 furlongs on the main track. Nashua (G3) runner-up Meru was sent off as the 2-1 favorite over 5-2 Mischievous Alex, winner of the Gotham (G3), and 3-1 No Parole, an allowance winner after finishing 8th in the Rebel (G2).

Jockey Luis Saez sent No Parole to lead through fractions of 23.31 and 45.01 while pressed by Mischievous Alex and stalked by 4-1 Shoplifted. Turning for home, No Parole opened up a 4 length lead through 3/4 in 1:08.62, and easily held off late-running 9-2 Echo Town to win by 3 3/4 lengths in 1:21.41. It was another 1 3/4 lengths back to Shoplifted third.
Full results chart

Left: No Parole in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Tom Amoss said, "I think No Parole's game is his speed. He's shown that in all his races. To be able to draw the inside and take advantage of that with a good rider like Saez, everything played out as we hoped. No Parole is a one-turn horse for sure. We'll get together with the ownership and we'll sit down and map out a plan. We're very excited about his future and we're already thinking about the first weekend in November."

Right: No Parole returns after the race. Winning jockey Luis Saez said, "[Speed] was the game plan. You always want to slow the pace as much as you can, and today they gave me the opportunity, so we took it. I think it worked pretty good. He came out of the gate perfect and he put me in a perfect spot. We came to the half-mile and I had a lot of horse. When we hit the stretch, he took off. I was sitting chilly and I knew I had a lot of horse. When everyone got close to him [turning for home], he took off again."

A field of 6 three-year-olds contested the $150,000 Pennine Ridge Stakes (G2) at 1 mile on the Widener turf. Cutler Bay Stakes winner Decorated Invader was sent off as the 3-5 favorite over 3-1 Proven Strategies, 2nd in the English Channel, and 13-2 Venezuelan Hug, winner of his last 2 starts in allowance company.

Jockey Jose Ortiz sent Proven Strategies to lead through fractions of 23.86, 47.50, and 1:10.61 while pressed by 15-1 Vanzzy and stalked by Decorated Invvader. Turning for home jockey Joel Rosario sent Decorated Invader to lead through 7f in 1:21.72, and drew off to win by 4 3/4 lengths over Proven Strategies in 1:33.66. It was another 1 3/4 lengths back to 13-1 Mr. Kringle third.
Full results chart

Left: Decorated Invader in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Christophe Clement said, "I've always liked him since Day 1 and I think he's been a tremendous horse since the beginning. He's been a top-class horse even last year. He was very unlucky in the Breeders' Cup. He won a Grade 1 in Canada. He won at Gulfstream this year. He won one today and I think he's good enough to do a mile, 1 1/4. I could be wrong, but I think he'll stay. My only instruction to Joel today was if you had two choices - to be four or five lengths out of it or ten lengths out of it - and I'd prefer to be four or five out of it. He was bullish on the inside."

Right: Decorated Invader returns after the race. Winning jockey Joel Rosario said, " He's very classy. The pace was OK, but not too fast. He was there for me and so relaxed, so I just let him be [closer up] because it looked like there was no pace up front. I made a move before the turn and I saw [Proven Strategies] come off the rail a little bit, go in and out, and I wasn't sure what he was doing. I let him go inside and started working from there. I think the further he goes, he'll go better. He's a big horse and he loves to run."

The $150,000 Wonder Again Stakes (G3) featured a field of 5 three-year-old fillies going 1 mile on the Widener turf. Sweet Melania, unraced since 3rd in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), was the 6-5 favorite over 11-4 Selflessly, 5th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, and 3-1 Highland Glory, 2nd in the Honey Ryder.

Jockey Jose Ortiz sent Sweet Melania to the front out of the chute through fractions of 24.15, 47.62, and 1:10.99 while pressed by 6-1 Antoinette and stalked by 7-1 Speaktomeofsummer. Entering the lane Sweet Melania opened up a 3 1/2 length advantage thriough 7f in 1:22.01. Highland Glory put in a strong rally from last to no avail as Sweet Melania cruised to a 1 1/2 length win in 1:34.23. It was another 1/2 length back to Antoinette third.
Full results chart

Winning trainer Todd Pletcher said, "Analyzing the race beforehand, it looked as though she had a pace advantage. We weren't going to put her on the lead, we felt that she would naturally get herself there. Jose did a nice job of hashing it out and she responded well. We planned on giving her a little time off after the Breeders' Cup and things went kind of crazy for a while. We didn't know where she would come back. We knew a distance like a mile was what we were looking for, so when this race came out, we pointed towards this. I'm sure there will be some options for her and we'll try to stretch her out a little more. I'm not sure that she wants 1 1/4, but I think she's classy enough to where she can get 1 1/8."

Winning jockey Jose Ortiz said, "She relaxed well and we started picking it up little-by-little. At the three-sixteenths pole, she gave me a nice kick. She's a nice filly."

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