August 10, 2020

Belmont Stakes Report: Final analysis and selections

Spinoff (left) and Intrepid Heart (right) ready for the 151st Belmont Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park on June 5, 2019 (c) Horsephotos.com/Kathleen O'Leary

Don’t expect a fast pace in the 151st running of the Belmont Stakes. In a 10-horse field lacking quality front runners, early fractions will be tepid and that puts an emphasis on tactical speed. The 1 1/2-mile distance makes positioning key in the final leg of the American Triple Crown.

The 2019 three-year-old crop hasn’t been fast, with only four of the Belmont Stakes contestants recording a triple-digit BRIS Speed rating so far. And it’s unrealistic to think this group will have much punch left for the stretch drive on Saturday. Being prominent turning for home often proves critical in the Belmont Stakes as the field comes home slowly on the stretch out to 12 furlongs.

1st Selection: SPINOFF (#6) (15-1) has proven as fast as any in the field, registering a 102 BRIS Speed rating for an excellent second in the Louisiana Derby (G2) two back, and possesses the tactical speed to receive a perfect trip Saturday. The Louisiana Derby served as his only real race since last summer (also recorded a facile front-running allowance win that resembled a paid workout) and the Hard Spun colt simply lacked the foundation to make a serious impact in the Kentucky Derby (G1) with only four career starts under him.

Just getting to the Kentucky Derby seems to be the goal at times for stables, and horses have moved forward significantly for Todd Pletcher off an unplaced effort at Churchill Downs. For example, Palace Malice and Tapwrit both won the Belmont Stakes next out and Destin posted a nose second. The three-time Belmont-winning trainer has tightened the screws on Spinoff in recent weeks, including a recent five-furlong drill in :59.91 over the track, and the chestnut colt now appears poised for a career-best.

The longest shot in the field, Joevia, appears likely to be showing the way from his innermost post and Spinoff should be up close pressing the pacesetter. Spinoff garnered a 100 BRIS Late Pace rating in the Louisiana Derby and his best races are in front of him. He won’t face an imposing group of rivals in the Belmont Stakes and, similar to Palace Malice, Spinoff could earn his first stakes triumph with a minor front-running upset.

2nd Selection: TACITUS (#10) (9-5) broke well in the Kentucky Derby but Jose Ortiz made no attempt to establish favorable positioning, allowing his mount to drop back to 15th by the first turn. The jockey must find a way to race up closer in the Belmont Stakes, but that may be easier said than done for a colt who has been at least eight lengths back after the opening half-mile in his last three starts.

The Juddmonte Farms homebred certainly has the talent to prove best with a better trip. Tacitus strung together three straight wins, including convincing tallies in the Wood Memorial (G2) and Tampa Bay Derby (G2), heading into the Kentucky Derby and posted a field-best 103 BRIS Speed rating two back. He’s by Tapit, who has already sired three Belmont Stakes winners, and Hall of Fame conditioner Bill Mott will be seeking his second Belmont Stakes win.

3rd Selection: INTREPID HEART (#8) (10-1) easily captured his career debut in mid-February and followed with a nice allowance win at Keeneland. Pletcher will add blinkers following an even third in the Peter Pan Stakes (G2), where the gray sophomore stumbled out of the gate.

The Tapit colt is bred to improve with experience. A half-brother to Commissioner, who missed by head to Tonalist in the 2014 Belmont Stakes after dropping the Peter Pan, Intrepid Heart has displayed good tactical speed, recording E1 Pace ratings in the mid-90s in a pair of starts. I’m expecting a better trip from the gray colt and won’t be surprised to see Intrepid Heart make a serious impact with John Velazquez aboard.

WAGERING STRATEGY

Utilizing a $100 bankroll, here’s how I will play the Belmont Stakes:

$24 win & $20 place
6 (Spinoff) ($44)

$10 exactas
6 over 8 (Intrepid Heart) and 10 (Tacitus) ($20)

$5 exactas
8,10 over 6,8,10 ($20)

$1 Trifecta Part-Wheel
6 over All over 8,10 ($16)

Good luck in the Belmont Stakes!