Remodeled Triple Crown series brings on Belmont Stakes
SHEPHERDSTOWN — On Saturday at Belmont Park, there will be no surge of fans leaving public transit cars to hustle their way toward this year’s first leg of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown series. No hype or promotion noting the Belmont as being the “Test of a Champion” or the track being the “Graveyard of Champions.”
Change will be the most noteworthy theme of the afternoon.
And change will be everywhere the thoroughbreds go, everywhere the television cameras pan for their shots.
The Belmont Stakes is now the first of the races that comprise the mostly disjointed Triple Crown series for three-year-olds.
The race is not the monster mile-and-a-half marathon that only Secretariat made look to be child’s play, when he won by a staggering 31 lengths in 1973. It’s a manageable mile-and-one-eighth here in 2020.
A field much less crowded than the cavalry charges seen in the Kentucky Derby will compete for a $1 million prize.
The obvious favorite is now Tiz the Law, decorated grandson of Tiznow, the two-time winner of the Breeder’s Cup Classic race.
Tiz the Law has survived his run-up to the Belmont Stakes . . . not like Charlatan and Nadal, two undefeated colts who have suffered leg injuries and will miss the Belmont.
Trained by 82-year-old Barclay Tagg, the man always seeking the less inhabited background and never the cameras, microphones poked toward him and interviews so many others in racing sprint toward.
Without Charlatan and Nadal, is there a bona fide challenger for Tiz the Law? Some point to Sole Volante, a winner in an allowance race contested on June 10. And a few others believe Tap It To Win, who raced on June 4 at Belmont, can prove to be enough for trainer Mark Casse.
Dr. Post, with two recent wins, and Modernist, a dark chocolate brown threat with trainer Bill Mott, are said to be potential trouble for the favorite. Basin and his long black tail is a likely entry, and longshot Farmington Road could be there.
Even with the litany of changes from that past, the horse-adoring public should be smiling in Cheshire Cat style, because racing is returning to the upper echelons of the thoroughbred sport.
The mint juleps, fancy millinery shown off by ladies and air made heavy by the weight of large sums of money as seen at the Kentucky Derby won’t be in evidence at the Belmont.
Only empty sections in the grandstand, missing potential stars in Charlatan and Nadal, a much shorter distance to be navigated and the Belmont instead of the Kentucky Derby to lead off the Triple Crown series will be the themes on this kickoff in thoroughbred racing on Saturday.