It’s Derby Day in New York on Saturday, as the greatly anticipated 152nd Belmont Stakes will run on Saturday at Belmont Park. Post time for the epic event is scheduled for 5:42 p.m. EST. This represents the first leg of the Triple Crown. It’s an unusual Triple Crown season, which is going to stretch all the way to October. The Kentucky Derby will take place on September 5, while the Preakness Stakes will be the final leg on October 3.
I like the Triple Crown because of the fact a Triple Crown winner has to win three straight races in such a short amount of time. This changes it up and stretches things out considerably, but it’s something different at least. It gives trainers something else to prepare for versus the usual. The Triple Crown season is typically Bob Baffert season. It’s very unusual not to see a Baffert horse running in the first leg of the Triple Crown.
He couldn’t have controlled bad breaks, though. Baffert was left debating whether to go with Nadal or Charlatan in the Belmont Stakes just a month ago. However, life comes at you fast, and both horses are out with injuries. In Nadal’s case, he has retired after injuring his ankle during a morning workout at Santa Anita Park. Charlatan will not run in the Belmont Stakes, and he’s out of the Kentucky Derby as well.
Baffert has Gamine entered in the Acorn Stakes today, so he may not leave New York empty handed. We’ll go over the Acorn Stakes and other stakes races at Belmont Park for Saturday. Head below for our free Belmont Stakes pick and Belmont Park selections for June 20, 2020.
Race 4 – Pennine Ridge Stakes
Post Time: 1:42 p.m. EST
Distance: 1 Mile
Seven horses will meet for a Grade 2 stakes event in the Pennine Ridge Stakes. A purse worth $150,000 is up for grabs in the turf over a mile in Race 4. Decorated Invader, Proven Strategies, and Maroon Maniac all must be respected. Maroon Maniac is a two-time runner, with entries on February 12 and April 18 at Tampa Bay Downs. He made his presence felt right away, with a strong enough effort to place as a rookie in February. Maroon Maniac finished ¾ lengths back of Domestic Spending for a win. He entered that one as a +1000 underdog, and it looked like the public made a mistake ignoring him.
In Maroon Manaic’s next outing, he made no mistakes and cruised to a 2 ¾ length win over Kentucky Ghost in a wire-to-wire clinic. Improved form was noted for Maroon Maniac. A terrific career is ahead of Maroon Maniac, but this race might prove to be just a bit too tough. He’s certainly worthy of being on the shortlist given what he did on April 18 at Tampa Bay Downs. He shoots up in class from that, though, with a much more difficult task ahead of him.
Proven Strategies has more experience than Maroon Maniac with nine races on his resume. He won two of them, which doesn’t sound special, but Maroon Maniac has stakes racing experience. Proven Strategies has raced in four stakes races, with his most recent outing in the English Channel Stakes (Black Type) on May 2. He was in the race and had the lead, but just couldn’t hold at the wire. Proven Strategies faltered late and Gufo stole the win. There were good signs from a June 10 workout, with a time of 47.67 seconds at 4 furlongs.
Decorated Invader is going to be a tough crack. He has stakes experience and has experience winning as well. Decorated Invader won the Summer Stakes (Gr. 1) on September 15, 2019 and the Cutler Bay Stakes (Black Type) over a mile of racing on March 28 in his most recent race. He won by 1 ½ lengths over South Bend as the favorite in that event. Expect Decorated Invader to hang around and then hit the jets at the top of the stretch. That kick is likely going to be too much to contend with in the Pennine Ridge Stakes.
Race 6 – Wonder Again Stakes
Post Time: 7:32 p.m. EST
Belmont Stakes is offering another $150,000 stakes race on Saturday, with the running of the Wonder Again Stakes in Race 6. It’s another turf race over a mile as well. The only difference is that the Wonder Again Stakes is a Grade 2 event. Selflessly, Sweet Melania, and Highland Glory should all be involved and on your shortlist. Selflessly draws the No. 5 post position after what could have been a better performance in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (Gr. 1) on November 1.
She finished 5th in a tough Grade 1 event, so it wasn’t a bad run at all, though she needed a bit more to get into the money. Selflessly won the Miss Grillo Stakes (Gr. 2) on September 29, 2019 prior to the November outing. She edged out Crystalle by ¾ lengths as a +530 horse. Selflessly is down to a Grade 3 event at Belmont on Saturday, but must deal with Highland Glory and Sweet Melania. Overall, she has finished 2nd, 1st, 5th in her career. Both of those horses are capable of competing in tricker events than the Wonder Again Stakes.
Highland Glory enters Race 6 in terrific form after finishing 1st, 1st, 2nd in her previous three events. She has gone 2 for 5 in her career, with wins in a Maiden Special Weight and the Sanibel Island Stakes on March 28. Highland Glory is coming off a decent performance in the Honey Ryder Stakes on May 2 to place 2nd behind the winner, Micheline, by 2 ¼ lengths. Highland Glory was a +130 favorite, so I can’t say it was what her team was looking for.
She will need a little more in the tank to find a route past Sweet Melania. She has been in the top-3 in all six of the races in her career, and a winner in the JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes (Gr. 2) on October 9, 2019. That was two races ago, which resulted in a comfortable 5 ½ length win. In her latest outing, it was another impressive run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (Gr. 1). She finished 3rd for a solid performance versus a hard field. The Wonder Again Stakes is a drop in class in comparison. If she brings the same form as in her previous two races then Sweet Melania will be the horse to beat.
Race 8 – Longines Acorn Stakes
Post Time: 4:15 p.m. EST
Race 8 is a Grade 1 event for a $300,000 purse in the Longines Acorn Stakes. This is a dirt race with eight horses entered. Bob Baffert doesn’t have an entry in the Belmont Stakes, but can still find a nice payday if he hits on Saturday. Gamine and Perfect Alibi are on my shortlist for the event. Perfect Alibi could be a sneaky horse on the outside from the No. 7 post position, opposite Gamine.
Perfect Alibi is 3 for 6 in her career, with wins in the Adirondack Stakes (Gr. 2) on August 4, 2019 and Spinaway Stakes (Gr. 1) on September 1, 2019. Since then, Perfect Alibi has finished 2nd in the Darley Alcibiades Stakes (Gr. 1) and 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (Gr. 1) on November 1, 2019. Those are a couple of tough races, but winnable for Perfect Alibi given her previous form going into those events. She is fully capable of getting the win here, but a break might be needed.
Baffert’s lone entry on Derby Day in New York is Gamine in the Acorn Stakes. Gamine is seeking a hat-trick to begin her career on Saturday. She was a winner on March 7 at Santa Anita Park by 6 ¼ lengths in a route over Reem. Gamine was a heavy favorite in that race and delivered brilliantly. Her warm up race on May 2 for the Acorn Stakes at Oaklawn Park was impressive as well, with a wire-to-wire win over Speech. Gamine was purchased at auction for $1.8-million and is expected to have a tremendous career. Look for John Velazquez to pilot a big race on Gamine here.
Race 10 – Belmont Stakes
Post Time: 5:42 p.m. EST
Distance:1 ⅛ Miles
The time is finally here for the shortened Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on Saturday. As you may know by now, the 152nd Belmont Stakes has been reduced from 1 ½ miles to a 1 ⅛ mile race. The purse stays the same, as a million bucks will be on offer on Saturday. The handle on this race should be monstrous given the sports shutdown in the US. People are hungry for a big event to bet on, and the Belmont Stakes fills that need. Dr Post, Tiz the Law, and Sole Volante, with Tap It to Win a possible upset selection, are on my shortlist. Tap It to Win has gone 3 for 6 in his career and heads into Saturday feeling hot.
He is seeking a hat-trick after winning on May 9 and June 4 at Gulfstream and Belmont. In his latest performance, which was just over two weeks ago, Tap It to Win won over Mystic Guide by 5 lengths in an impressive showing. Prior to that, Tap It to Win was a winner by 1 ½ lengths over Whiskey Sunrise on May 9. In both instances, Tap It to Win was not expected to win, nor is he here, so it could be another one of those trips out for him.
My only issue with Tap it to Win has to do with his time in stakes races. He was not good in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (Gr .1) on October 5, 2019 and Street Sense Stakes (Black Type) on October 29, 2019. However, improvement in form has been noted since 2019, so Tap It to Win could play a sneaky role in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday. Dr Post can’t be a horse to ignore, either. Todd Pletcher likes him for good reason.
Dr Post is 2 for 3 in his career and needs a win in the Belmont Stakes for a hat-trick. He won over Attachment Rate by 1 ½ lengths on April 25 at the favorite at Gulfstream Park in the Unbridled Stakes (Black Type). That was a minor stakes event for Dr Post, but it was a good lean in for the Belmont Stakes. He, however, has not raced against the same competition as Tiz the Law or even Sole Volante, though.
Sole Volante was shipped from Florida to New York after winning on June 10. Ete Indien was a heavy favorite in that race, but couldn’t hold up against Sole Volante. Sole Volante got the win by ¾ lengths over Jesus’ Team. He is 4 for 6 in his career, with his biggest win in the Sam F. David Stakes (Gr. 3) on February 8. He followed that up for 2nd in the Tampa Bay Derby (Gr .1) on March 7. The Belmont Stakes is his biggest test yet, but is capable of running a smart race.
Tiz the Law is the horse with a target on his back on Saturday. Everything he has done has been impressive, and he’s looking beyond today, with Triple Crown aspirations. It wouldn’t be a traditional Triple Crown win, but it’d still go into the record books. Tiz the Law is 4 for 5 in his career, with wins in the Champagne Stakes (Gr. 1), Holy Bull Stakes (Gr. 3), and Florida Derby (Gr. 1). He won the Holy Bull Stakes by 3 lengths over Ete Indien, and then on March 28, was in excellent form for a 4 ¼ length win over Shivaree. He’s the most accomplished horse in the field and must be strongly acknowledged.