Belmont Stakes Handle Drops Sharply, Tiz the Law to Race Again Before Kentucky Derby

Posted on: June 22, 2020, 01:36h. 

Last updated on: June 22, 2020, 10:04h.

For the second straight year, Belmont Park saw a decline in the handle on its biggest racing day. Saturday’s Belmont Stakes card, which featured a dozen races including six graded stakes, generated just $67.8 million in wagers. That’s down from the $102.2 million handle the New York Racing Association reported last year for a 13-race card, a record for a Belmont where no Triple Crown was on the line.

Belmont Stakes Tiz the Law
Jockey Manny Franco wore a mask Saturday, but nothing could cover Tiz the Law, who won the Belmont Stakes Saturday in commanding fashion. (Image: Elsa Lorieul/NYRA)

Obviously, there were several changes to Saturday’s derby. For one, no fans were in the stands as part of New York’s efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus. In addition, the race ran two weeks later than normal as COVID-19 delayed the start of Belmont Park’s spring meet.

The Belmont Stakes, won by 4-5 favorite Tiz the Law, accounted for just over half the betting at $34.1 million. Last year generated a handle of $53.2 million.

In addition, the Belmont Stakes – traditionally the final leg of the Triple Crown series – ended up going first this year, as the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes were rescheduled for September and October, respectively. As a result, NYRA leaders decided to cut the Belmont length from its normal 1-1/2 miles to 1-1/8 miles, since the 3-year-old class was still training for running the Kentucky Derby’s 1-1/4-mile distance.

Still, Saturday’s low handle was a little eye-opening. Not all tracks have reopened, as states are still recovering from the coronavirus emergency. For example, this time last year, such tracks as New Jersey’s Monmouth Park and Arlington International Racecourse in Illinois were open. Last year, 39 tracks were racing on Belmont Day, according to Equibase. On Saturday, 17 held races.

With fewer tracks holding events, those that reopened or stayed operational through the emergency have reported higher handles. On Friday, NYRA spokesman Patrick McKenna posted on Twitter that Belmont’s Friday card drew a $12.5 million handle, a 130 percent jump from the same day last year.

Travers Next for Belmont Champ

As expected, favorite Tiz the Law dominated Saturday’s Belmont. Under Manny Franco, the Barclay Tagg-trained colt stalked early leader Tap It to Win, staying within two lengths of him.

Once the horses completed the turn, Tiz the Law had a clear shot for the lead, took it, and left the pack behind en route to a nearly four-length victory. He’s now 3-for-3 in races this year and 5-for-6 in his career.

Even before the Belmont, Tiz the Law led all active Kentucky Derby contenders with 122 points. That was more than enough to qualify, and he got 150 more Saturday. Still, Tagg told reporters his horse will likely run one more Kentucky Derby prep, the Aug. 8 Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York.

I’ve never won the Travers and I want to win it,” Tagg said. “It’s very important to me.”

While he has little to prove until the Derby, running in the Travers would help Tiz the Law, avoid another long layoff. Before Saturday’s win, he hadn’t competed in 84 days. It’s 77 days between the Belmont and the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby.

More Kentucky Derby Futures Rounds Announced

Speaking of the Kentucky Derby, on Friday, Churchill Downs officials announced when the additional rounds of Derby futures betting will take place, giving bettors a chance to wager on Tiz the Law and more than 20 others and get odds that would likely be higher than what they may end up with on Derby Day.

The next round is this upcoming weekend, from Friday to Sunday. Additional rounds will run July 17-19 and Aug. 7-9. The futures pools are pari-mutuels, so the odds won’t be set until betting ends each Sunday evening.

In addition, Churchill Downs will offer an additional round of betting on the Kentucky Oaks, a premier race for 3-year-old fillies, from July 17-19.