15-week road through Triple Crown begins Saturday with Belmont Stakes

15-week road through Triple Crown begins Saturday with Belmont Stakes
For the first time in the history of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes will be the first leg and not the last. (Source: Belmont Stakes' Twitter account)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - For the first time in the history of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes will be the first leg and not the last.

>> REMINDER: Watch live Belmont Stakes coverage on WAVE 3 News at 3 p.m. Saturday

The race distance has been shortened from its traditional mile and a half to a mile and an eighth. There will be no spectators at Belmont Park on Saturday.

Yet even with these major changes, the Belmont will mark a milestone on America’s 2020 sports calendar. The race will be the first marquee sporting event held in the U.S. since COVID-19 began wiping out one sport after another. Yes, both golf and auto racing have returned, but neither has yet to stage an event carrying the significance of the Belmont Stakes, a race that’s confirmed two Triple Crown winners over the past five years.

The favorite for Saturday’s race, Tiz the Law, has been at or near the top of rankings for the 3-year-olds for nearly the entire year. The colt could be on the verge of becoming the next big star. Last fall, Tiz the Law captured the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park. He is 2-for-2 this year, with of pair of dazzling wins in the Holy Bull and Florida Derby. His respected trainer, Barclay Tagg, knows the ropes. Tagg won the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness with Funny Cide. From the No. 8 gate Saturday, Tiz the Law could very well get a great trip on Saturday, tracking the front runners and biding his time. From a class standpoint, he has his competition over a Belmont barrel.

“He’s a nice horse,” an optimistic Tagg said. “Hopefully, he’s as good as we think he is.”

Sole Volante is a challenger for the first jewel as this runner tries every time out.

He jumped into the picture this winter in Tampa, winning the Sam F. Davis Stakes, then running second in the Tampa Bay Derby. Sole Volante recently took an allowance race at Gulfstream. He was solid enough to persuade his trainer, Patrick Biacone, to wheel the horse back in 10 days for the Belmont.

As for other contenders for Saturday, Max Player belongs with this bunch but is coming off a four-and-a-half-month vacation. Tap It to Win is a possible up-and-comer and is trained by Mark Casse, who grabbed two jewels of last year’s Triple Crown. Still, the Casse trainee is facing a stiff jump in class.

This year's first jewel looks awfully chalky to me:

Win: Tiz the Law

Place: Sole Volante

Show: Tap It to Win

You can catch coverage of Belmont Day starting at 3 p.m. on WAVE 3 News and NBC Sports.

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