How to Find the Belmont Stakes Winner
Historically, the Belmont Stakes has been the last leg of the Triple Crown races -- the three biggest horse races of the year.
The order of the races isn't the only thing that's changed. The New York Racing Association announced that the race will be 1 1/8-miles (9 furlongs) rather than the usual 1 1/2-miles (12 furlongs).
Now, you might see a horse (Tiz The Law, in this case) listed as a heavy favorite, but that should not dissuade you from trying to unearth other potential winners and resorting only to exotics.
In the 14 events since 2005, the Belmont Stakes betting favorite has won just twice. That includes five favorites that had worse than even odds (below 1/1 payout). In fact, on average, the winning horse has had the fifth-best odds among the field.
With that in mind, here are some factors to look for when searching for a potential winner.
(I will be referencing Equibase's speed figure, which tells you how fast a horse has been running in each of its races -- adjusted for track, distances, and conditions.)
It probably goes without saying, but how a horse is performing is vital to its chances of competing.
Form doesn't necessarily mean the horse is coming off a bunch of first-place finishes. Last year's winner, Sir Winston, didn't win any of his four races prior to his Belmont Stakes victory. However, Sir Winston did post the three highest speed figures of his career in those four efforts.
As it happens, 12 of the last 14 winners achieved a career-high speed figure in one of their three outings prior to Belmont Stakes. In fact, 11 of the 14 posted two of their three highest figures in their three races prior to Belmont, and 8 attained all three of their career-high speeds in that three-race span.
In their three times out before Belmont, all but two winners since 2005 averaged a speed figure of at least 94. Six of them had averages in the triple-digits.
In a majority of the cases, the winning horse comes from one of the top trainers.
All but one of the last 14 winning trainers ranked inside the top 10 in either total earnings or earnings per start for that year, and 7 of the trainers ranked top 10 in both categories.
Since 2005, 7 of the winning trainers had winning percentages of 20 percent of higher for that year, and 13 of the 14 had wins in at least 17 percent of their races.
Last but certainly not least are jockeys.
Jockeys are huge factors in deciding which horse to bet on at any given track or race, and the Belmont Stakes is definitely not any different.
Since 2005, only one of the winning jockeys had not been inside the top 10 of that year's total purse or purse per race earned, and 9 of the winning riders had been top 10 in both categories.
In this sample, 11 of the 14 winning jockeys during that stretch had won at least 17 percent of their races in that given year, while 12 of them placed top-three in at least 42 percent of their outings.
Jockeys have been even more prominent recently: 5 of the last 7 winners had winning and top-three percentages of at least 19 and 49 percent, respectively.
According to HorseRacingNation, there are currently nine probables for this year's Belmont Stakes. As a reminder, nothing is official until morning-line odds and post positions are set on Wednesday.
Since there are no official odds yet, I'll use the odds via VegasInsider for now.
After summarizing each probable horse, I'll include a score of how many (and which) of the winning criteria they meet.
Tiz The Law (6/5)
Tiz The Law is very likely to be the heavy morning-line odds favorite, and for good reason. He ranks first in Kentucky Derby Points and in non-restricted stakes earnings.
As a two-year-old in February, Tiz The Law won Florida's 8/5 furlong Holy Bull Stakes, posting a ridiculous speed figure of 117 in the process. Right after turning three, the colt won the Curlin Florida Derby with a figure of 112 -- that race was the same distance (9 furlongs) of this year's Belmont Stakes.
Both of those victories came with jockey Manuel Franco as the rider. So far in 2020, Franco is eighth in total purse earnings and earnings per start. He has also won 20 percent of his starts and placed top-three in 48 percent.
Trainer Barclay Tagg ranks just 48th in total earnings but 3rd in purse per start. His horses have won 20 percent of their efforts.
Score: 3 out of 3 -- Form, jockey, and trainer.
Dr Post (5/1)
Dr Post is a two-time winner from trainer Todd A. Pletcher, who has trained 3 of the last 13 Belmont Stakes winners.
The colt has won each of his 2020 starts, both coming at Gulfstream Park. His last race -- a stakes event -- saw him achieve a career-high speed of 101.
Irad Ortiz Jr. will be jockeying Dr Post. Ortiz is first in total purse and second in earnings per start. He's won a whopping 26 percent of his 2020 races, along with a 62 percent top-three percentage. Ortiz was the rider when Creator won the 2016 Belmont Stakes at 13/1 odds.
Meanwhile, trainer Todd Pletcher is 5th in total earnings and 14th in earnings per start (minimum 90 starts). His horses have won 19 percent of the time.
Score: 3 out of 3 -- Form, jockey, and trainer.
Pneumatic - 8/1
Pneumatic looks to be one of two horses in this event by trainer Steven M. Asmussen.
He placed third in a stakes event three weeks ago, though he did post a career-best figure of 98.
Pneumatic's jockey, Ricardo Santana Jr., is third in earnings and ninth in purse per start. He's won 19 percent of his outings and placed top-three in 44 percent.
As for Asmussen, he's 1st in total earnings by far. He's also 11th in per race earnings with his horses winning 18 percent of the time. He was the trainer of the aforementioned 2016 winner, Creator.
Score: 3 out of 3 -- Form, jockey, and trainer.
Tap It to Win - 6/1
Tap It to Win last raced just 11 days ago, winning an allowance event here at Belmont. He produced a career-best figure of 108 -- it was his second straight win and the second consecutive time he posted a career-high speed.
The colt will be ridden by John R. Velazquez, who is 17th in total earnings and 13th in purse per start. Velazquez has won 18 percent of his races this year and placed top-three in 44 percent of them.
Trainer Mark E. Casse trained last year's winner, Sir Winston. Casse is 8th in total earnings and 28th in earnings per start. The horses he's trained have won just 13 percent of their efforts so far.
Score: 2 out of 3 -- Form and trainer. Jockey is right there, though.
Sole Volante - 9/2
Sole Volante is a two-times stakes winner and is coming off a first-place finish less than a week ago, where he posted a figure of 107.
His jockey, Luca Panici (missed one race due to injury), is just 89th in total earnings and 88th in earnings per start -- on the back of winning just 9 percent of his races and placing top-three in just 30 percent.
Trainer Patrick L. Biancone is 40th in total earnings and 7th in earnings per start, though his horses have won just 13 percent of their races in 2020.
Score: 2 out of 3 -- Form and trainer. Jockey is not among the most successful.
Modernist - 12/1
Modernist has posted a new career-best speed figure in three consecutive races, reaching 94 in his most recent effort. He currently finds himself sixth on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.
He'll be jockeyed by Junior Alvarado, who is 16th in total purse and 5th in earnings per start. He's ridden to victory in 21 percent of his outings and finished top three 47 percent of the time.
He's trained by William I. Mott, whose 13/1 horse (Drosselmeyer) won the Belmont Stakes in 2010. Mott is 14th in total earnings and 11th in per start purse (minimum 90 starts). His horses have been victorious just in 14 percent of races.
Score: 2 out of 3 -- Form and jockey. Trainer is right on the cusp of the best.
Farmington Road - 15/1
Farmington Road is 24th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard and is coming off a fourth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby
The colt has post figures above 90 in four straight, though his career-best came four efforts ago in January.
Farmington Road will be ridden by Javier Castellano, who is 14th in total purse and 11th in earnings per start. He's won 15 percent of his races while finishing top-three in 51 percent of them.
His trainer is also Todd Pletcher, whose success has already been noted with Dr Post.
Score: 1 out of 3 -- Trainer. Form is solid but not up to par with the rest of the field. Jockey just missed the top of the leaderboard.
Max Player - 15/1
Max player is fresh off a stakes win in early February. The colt posted a career-best speed figure of 103 in that effort.
Jockey Dylan Davis is 18th in total earnings and 40th in earnings per start (minimum 90 starts). He has a winning percentage of just 12 percent to go with a top-three percentage of 37 percent. There have been some places that have two-time Belmont Stakes winner Joel Rosario riding Max Player -- that would certainly help.
Max Player's trainer, Linda Rice, ranks 20th in total earnings this year and 16th in purse per start. The horses she's trained have won 16 percent of their outings.
Score: 1 out of 3 -- Form. Jockey and trainer are mid-tier.
Jungle Runner - 50/1
Jungle Runner is Asmussen's second horse in this race, though he's likely too overmatched for Belmont.
The colt has never attained a speed figure above 85, and his jockey isn't quite elite.
Score: 1 out of 3 -- Trainer. Neither form nor jockey are up to par.
- Tiz The Law deserves to be the favorite but won't provide much value.
- Dr Post has a trainer with plenty of experience in Belmont, an elite jockey, and form to back it up. Odds could shrink before post time.
- Pneumatic is a legit competitor who should be thereabouts. Trainer has won this event before.
- Tap It to Win could be the best bet behind Tiz The Law. Though his jockey hasn't broken the top-10 yet, he has placed first at this very race twice since 2007.
- Modernist has improved with every effort and should certainly be in the mix.
- Farmington Road is a longshot that should not be overlooked.