Tiz the Law and Modernist breeze, Pneumatic confirmed for Belmont Stakes

June 15, 2020

New York native Gutierrez gets the call on Jungle Runner; Cross Country Pick 5 handles 104K; Talking Horses now available on NYRA’s YouTube channel 

Sackatoga Stable’s Tiz the Law, bred in New York by Twin Creeks Farm, breezed a half-mile Sunday on Big Sandy in his final preparation for the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes, to be held without spectators, on Saturday, June 20 at Belmont Park.

Jockey Manny Franco was aboard Tiz the Law who visited the Belmont main track at 5:30 a.m. The Constitution bay, working solo from the half-mile pole, breezed through splits of 26.50, 50.42 and out in 1:03.12.

Trainer Barclay Tagg said he was pleased with the colt’s final prep.

“He went well. We weren’t looking for anything special today,” said Tagg, who ponied Tiz the Law to and from the work.

Tiz the Law, who worked five-eighths in 1:00.53 on Monday on the Belmont main, was eager to work once released from the pony.

“When Barclay turned me loose, he got strong a little bit, but when we passed the seven-eighths to the three-quarters he settled down a little bit and he did it nice,” said Franco. “He did it really well and really easy, so I’m very happy with the work.”

A winner at first asking in August at Saratoga Race Course, Tiz the Law followed up with a four-length score in the Grade 1 Champagne in October at Belmont. He completed his juvenile campaign with a close third in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club, contested on a sloppy strip at Churchill Downs.

Tiz the Law prepared for his sophomore season at Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach, Florida, which began at Gulfstream Park with a convincing three-length score in the Grade 3 Holy Bull in February which garnered a career-best 100 Beyer Speed Figure. Last out, he romped the nine-furlong Grade 1 Florida Derby by 4 ¼-lengths on March 28.

Tiz the Law will travel the same distance on Saturday in the Belmont Stakes, which will be run at 1 1/8-miles around one turn as the opening leg of the Triple Crown for the first time in history.

Franco said Tiz the Law provides him with options to navigate the trip.

“He makes my work a lot easier,” said Franco. “He’s a versatile horse. He can be there on the pace or sit off, so I can do whatever I want.

“He’s run here before and won and I think he likes the track,” added Franco. “So, that’s to our advantage.”

The probable field for the Belmont Stakes currently stands at eight horses, including Dr Post (Todd Pletcher, Irad Ortiz, Jr.), Farmington Road (Pletcher, Javier Castellano), Jungle Runner (Steve Asmussen, Reylu Gutierrez), Max Player (Linda Rice, Joel Rosario), Pneumatic (Asmussen, Ricardo Santana, Jr.), Sole Volante (Patrick Biancone, Luca Panici), Tap It to Win (Mark Casse, John Velazquez) and Tiz the Law (Barclay Tagg, Manny Franco). Modernist, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, is on the bubble.

Tagg said he would prefer to receive an outside post for Tiz the Law at Wednesday’s post position draw.

“I’d like to be in 5, 6 or 7. I’d like him to be outside,” said Tagg.

The Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, rescheduled from May 2 to September 5, will go as the second leg of the Classic series, with the Preakness Stakes, originally slated for May 16, to close out the Triple Crown on October 3 at Pimlico Race Course.

As the exclusive broadcast partner of the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown, NBC Sports will present live coverage from Belmont Park on Belmont Stakes Day beginning at 2:45 p.m. Eastern.

Belmont Stakes Day June 20 will feature six graded races including four Grade 1 events led by the historic Belmont Stakes, which will offer 150-60-30-15 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers.

Rounding out the Grade 1 entertainment on Belmont Stakes Day are the $300,000 Acorn for 3-year-old fillies going one mile; the $250,000 Woody Stephens presented by Claiborne Farm, a seven-furlong sprint over Big Sandy for 3-year-olds; and the $250,000 Jaipur, presented by America’s Best Racing, for 3-year-olds and up going six furlongs on turf, which offers a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. A pair of one-mile turf races for sophomores, previously contested at nine furlongs, completes a stakes-laden card with the Grade 2, $150,000 Pennine Ridge and the Grade 3, $150,000 Wonder Again for fillies.

NYRA Bets is the official online wagering site for the 152nd running of the Belmont Stakes, and the best way to bet the 2020 Belmont Park spring/summer meet. Available to customers across the United States, NYRA Bets allows horseplayers to watch and wager on racing from tracks around the world at any time. The NYRA Bets app is available for download for iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com

For more information, please visit www.BelmontStakes.com.

Modernist breezes but G1 Belmont Stakes still in question

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott sent out Pam and Martin Wygod’s graded stakes-winner Modernist to the Belmont Park main track for a five-furlong breeze on Sunday morning.

Under mostly sunny skies, the graded stakes-winning son of Uncle Mo, piloted by regular rider Junior Alvarado, worked in tandem with two-time graded stakes winner Tacitus, who was piloted by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, recording a 24.40 opening quarter before finishing off their breeze in 59.20 seconds and galloped out in 1:11.40 over a main track rated “fast.” The moves were the fastest of 16 recorded works at the distance.

“He broke off in a nice rhythm and turning for home I was one length behind Tacitus,” Alvarado said. “As soon as we turned in, we got together and galloped out.  I thought the work was extremely good.”

Following a third out maiden victory going a one-turn mile at Aqueduct, Modernist won his graded stakes debut in the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds en route to a third-place effort in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at the New Orleans oval.

Alvarado praised his horse’s versatility.

“He’s a late [developing] horse. He’s learning and learning. Last time we tried to sit a little bit off the pace to see what he was capable of…when we won at Fair Grounds we went wire to wire, so he’s a versatile horse,” Alvarado said. “We can do anything we want in the race depending on how he breaks out of there. He always will be there to put me in the spot that I want.”

Mott did not confirm Modernist for the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 20, but said that a start in the American classic remains a possibility. The Grade 3, $500,000 Ohio Derby, slated for June 27, also is in play for Modernist.

“We’re going to have an owner conversation before too long,” Mott said. “The work looked good, nice and smooth. Modernist and Tacitus both worked together and looked great. They finished up well, galloped out nice and strong.”

Modernist is currently sixth on the Road to the Kentucky Derby with a total of 70 qualifying points toward the ‘Run for the Roses’. In the Louisiana Derby, Modernist fell victim to a wide trip during the 1 3/16-mile journey, but still managed to come up a strong third finishing 4 ¼ lengths in arrears of Wells Bayou.

“He had kind of a wide trip in the Louisiana Derby but he’s been off a while,” said Mott. “We don’t know whether we’ll go. We’ll see how he comes out of it and we’re going to talk with the owners.”

Should Modernist enter the Belmont Stakes, he will attempt to give Mott his second win in the American Classic. He saddled Drosselmeyer to victory in the 2010 edition.

Juddmonte Farms’ Tacitus, last year’s Belmont Stakes runner-up, is a likely contestant for the 1 ¼-mile Grade 2, $200,000 Suburban on July 4 at Belmont Park. A last out fourth in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap on May 2, the gray son of Tapit won the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby and Grade 2 Wood Memorial last year en route to a third in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby.

“We’re looking at the Suburban,” said Mott, who won the Suburban with Wekiva Springs (1996) and Flat Out (2013).

A Kentucky homebred, Tacitus is out of 2014 Champion Older Filly Close Hatches and boasts career earnings of over $2 million.

Juddmonte Farms homebred Hidden Scroll, who unseated Hall of Famer John Velazquez in his turf debut on June 3 at Belmont Park, worked a bullet half-mile in 47.88 Sunday on the Belmont green.

Hidden Scroll flashed his potential with a 14-length win on debut in January 2019 in a one-mile maiden contested on a sloppy track. The eye-catching effort earned a 104 Beyer Speed Figure. He followed up with a fourth in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and was sixth in the Grade 1 Florida Derby.

The talented bay was again spectacular in his seasonal debut with a 12 1/2-length score in a six-furlong optional-claiming sprint at Gulfstream that garnered a 102 Beyer, but was off-the-board in the Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap in April at Oaklawn.

Alvarado was aboard the two-time winner for Sunday morning’s return to the turf.

“He’s a horse that’s been very unlucky but he works like a freight [train],” said Alvarado. “He worked very fast today even though the way he was going it seemed like he was just enjoying the ride around there.”

New York native Gutierrez earns first Belmont Stakes mount with call aboard Jungle Runner

Jockey Reylu Gutierrez has maintained an even keel despite the natural fluctuations in a young rider’s career. That tenacity has paid off in a big way.

Gutierrez was a finalist for the Eclipse Award for outstanding apprentice in 2018, earned his first graded stakes win in 2019 and has become a regular on the NYRA circuit, garnering a place in one of the world’s most competitive jockey colonies.

Now, another milestone has come for Gutierrez: his first mount in an American Classic, as Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen tabbed the 23-year-old to ride Jungle Runner in the 152nd Belmont Stakes on June 20.

“I’m kind of speechless. I was working the horse for the Belmont Stakes, but I was assuming I was working him just to get him ready,” said Gutierrez, whose surprise was palpable when informed of the news. “It’s an incredible opportunity. I’ve had a good start to the spring meet and I wasn’t expecting it. I’m super excited.”

A native of Rochester, New York, Gutierrez took a non-traditional path to his career, first attending Cortland State University, where he graduated with a degree in exercise physiology. The son of trainer Luis Gutierrez and the nephew of jockey Jose Gutierrez, Reylu started riding in 2017, winning just once in 61 starts. 

But in 2018, Gutierrez made 843 starts and won 109 races, earning more than $3.3 million. His wins and earnings ranked second among all apprentices in 2018. In 2019, he won his first graded stakes aboard Do Share in the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap.

“I’ve really had to put in the time and get better,” Gutierrez said. “Last year, I rode a lot in Florida. I got more experience, but my long-term goal was to ride here in New York. I came back this winter a much better rider. I work with my agent, Rudy Rodriguez, Jr., and it’s been great for my career.

“With the pandemic, we wanted to stay here and build our business and help the horsemen here. It’s a great opportunity now, and we’ll embrace it with open arms and do our best.”

Gutierrez said he has some experience in a big race in the Empire State, finishing second aboard Not That Brady to Bankit in the New York Derby last July at his local track at Finger Lakes. The million-dollar Belmont Stakes – the oldest of the Triple Crown races – is one of the sport’s biggest stakes and for the first time in history will be run as the first leg of the Triple Crown to properly account for the schedule adjustments and overall calendar for 3-year-olds in training.

“I’ve been preparing for this my whole life,” Gutierrez said. “Last year, I rode in the New York Derby up in Finger Lakes, and that’s the biggest race at Finger Lakes. I lost that race; it was a heartbreaker since a lot of people from home were cheering me on and came up to see me. But the Belmont is the biggest race in New York, so I’m very excited. I haven’t had a lot of these moments, but I’ll be prepared.”

Jungle Runner has two wins in eight career starts. With the Belmont Stakes moved to 1 1/8 miles as the first leg of the Triple Crown this year, the Candy Ride colt will be competing at that distance for a second consecutive start after running eighth in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on May 20 at Oaklawn Park.

Jungle Runner won his stakes debut in the Clever Trevor on November 1 at Remington Park and has finished out of the money in four subsequent starts. As one of the expected long shots, Gutierrez said he will approach the Belmont the same as he did a maiden claimer at Finger Lakes or Aqueduct.

“I approach it like any other race,” Gutierrez said. “I have a job to do out there. You have to prepare, get there early and get my jog in before the races. I’m just really happy to be out there. I’ll take a moment before the race and have it sink in. But once we’re on to the post parade, it’s time to focus.”

Pneumatic confirmed for G1 Belmont Stakes

Solid training in addition to changes made to the list of probable entrants for the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes has given the connections of graded stakes-placed Pneumatic enough confidence to send the sophomore son of Uncle Mo to the Empire State for the American Classic.

Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, who saddled Creator to a 16-1 upset victory in the 2016 Belmont Stakes, Pneumatic was recently third in the Grade 3 Matt Winn at Churchill Downs, where he was forwardly placed along the rail, battled down the stretch with Ny Traffic but was passed up by Maxfield, who won under a hand ride.

Pneumatic last appeared on the work tab on Monday, June 8, where he drilled through five furlongs in 59.80 over the Churchill Downs main track.

Winchell Thoroughbreds’ racing and bloodstock manager David Fiske said Pneumatic had also been under consideration for the Grade 3 Ohio Derby, slated for June 27,

“A couple of things went into the decision. In addition to the fact that he’s been training really well and worked well last week, the changes that have been made in terms of defections and horses going to other races also are reasons why we’re going,” said Fiske. “It was either this or Ohio and the Belmont is an American classic. To have some Grade 1 black type in a Triple Crown race would be highly beneficial.”

A Kentucky homebred, Pneumatic is out of the stakes-placed Tapit broodmare Teardrop and comes from the same family as multiple-graded stakes winning millionaire Pyro and is a direct descendant of Carol’s Christmas, who has been a foundation mare for Winchell’s racing operations having produced Grade 1-winners Olympio and Cuvee as well as graded stakes-winner Call Now.

“It would be the cherry on top of the sundae,” Fiske said of a Belmont victory with the Winchell homebred. “He’s a direct descendant of Carol’s Christmas who might be the best $25,000 claim ever made.”

Pneumatic will be Winchell’s second starter in the Belmont Stakes. In 2018, Tenfold represented Winchell when running fifth to Triple Crown-winner Justify.

Prior to his graded stakes debut in the Matt Winn, the lightly-raced Pneumatic broke his maiden at first asking over the Oaklawn Park main track defeating next-out winners Skol Factor and Liam’s Pride en route to a victory against winners over the Hot Springs oval defeating stakes-winner Captain Bombastic by 2 ½ lengths.

Jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. will have the mount aboard Pneumatic for the Belmont Stakes.

Cross Country Pick 5 handles $104K

Saturday’s Cross Country Pick 5, featuring racing from Belmont Park and Churchill Downs, returning a whopping $88,940 for correctly selecting all five winners for the 50-cent wager, with $104,659 wagered in total.

The sequence started when Cost Benefit rewarded his status as the favorite in winning a maiden special weight going one mile on firm turf in Belmont’s Race 7. The Chad Brown trainee returned $5.20 on a $2 win bet.

Action alternated between the tracks, with Dance Rhythms besting allowance company in a 5 ½-furlong turf sprint in Churchill’s Race 8. Trained by Gregory Foley, Dance Rhythms paid $23.

Switching back to Belmont for the third leg, Quality Stones, under jockey Kendrick Carmouche, took the six-furlong main track sprint in Race 8. Conditioned by Roddy Valente, Quality Stones returned $12.20.

Churchill served as the site for the concluding two legs, with big-priced winner Sconsin winning Race 10 at 19-1 odds. Trained by Foley, Sconsin paid $41 and set up the exciting finale in the Cross Country Pick 5 in the following race.

Race 11, the sequence’s lone stakes, saw Admission Office win the Grade 3 Louisville, returning $9.20. Trained by Brian Lynch, Admission Office won for the first time since April 2019, edging Arklow by a head in the 1 ½-mile turf contest.

The minimum bet for the multi-track, multi-race wager is 50 cents. Wagering on the Cross Country Pick 5 is also available on track, on ADW platforms, and at simulcast facilities across the country. Every week will feature a mandatory payout of the net pool.

The Cross Country Pick 5 will continue each Saturday throughout the year. For more information, visit NYRABets.com.

Talking Horses now available on NYRA’s YouTube channel

The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) reminds viewers that Talking Horses is now available on NYRA’s YouTube channel, in addition to its regular home on the daily simulcast feed every race day during the 2020 Belmont Park spring/summer meet.

Hosted by Andy Serling, Talking Horses lowers the curtain on each day’s live racing program on the NYRA circuit. For more than a quarter-century, the show has previewed the full card of the day’s racing and provided insight and in-depth analysis of the handicapping process from experts. Serling has served as the lead NYRA handicapper on the NYRA TV broadcast team since 2008 and provided commentary on Talking Horses for most of its history. 

“Talking Horses, which has been a part of the NYRA Simulcast experience for over 25 years, is in many ways simply two horseplayers arguing handicapping opinions,” said Serling. “It’s also the first show of its kind to add replays and statistics to its production in an attempt to broaden the viewer’s appreciation of the day’s races. We’re pleased that is now more widely available than ever before.”

America’s Day at the Races, the acclaimed national horse racing telecast produced by NYRA in partnership with FOX Sports,  is also broadcast on NYRA’s YouTube channel, which boasts more than 36,000 subscribers. Fans can subscribe to NYRA’s channel and set a reminder to watch the show on YouTube Live. NYRA’s YouTube channel also hosts a number of race replays, special features, America’s Day at the Races replays and more.

The 2020 Belmont spring/summer meet continues through Sunday, July 12. Live racing is offered Thursday through Sunday with a first post of 1:15 p.m. The 25-day meet features 22 graded stakes and 40 stakes races in total worth $7 million in purses.

NYRA Press Release 

Photo: Tiz The Law. Credit: Francesca Le Donne Photo

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