Belmont champion Tiz the Law sets off on ambitious schedule
Tiz the Law has been good and lucky, two ingredients essential to success in horse racing.
He's been dominant, too.
He raced to a 3 3/4-length victory Saturday in the Belmont Stakes to open the rescheduled Triple Crown. His five wins in six career starts have been by an average margin of 19 1/4 lengths. His only loss came at Churchill Downs in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last year, when he finished third on a sloppy track.
In 11 weeks, he'll get a chance to avenge that defeat over the same track in the Kentucky Derby.
Tiz the Law has an ambitious summer and fall campaign ahead of him if all goes according to plan.
Next up is the Travers on Aug. 8 at Saratoga, where Tiz the Law would be competing on his home turf in upstate New York. It's where he won for the first time last August. As the first New York-bred Belmont winner since 1882, his following only figures to get bigger. However, it remains to be seen whether fans will be allowed to attend at any point in the Saratoga meet, which opens July 16.
"I've never won the Travers and I want to win it," trainer Barclay Tagg said.
Then comes the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5 and the Preakness on Oct. 3 — no word yet on spectators at either race — to close out the Triple Crown. The bay colt would finish the year in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Keeneland on Nov. 7.
Jack Knowlton of Sackatoga Stable — comprised of 34 partners who paid $110,000 for Tiz the Law — hasn't been able to cheer his colt in person since Feb. 1 at Gulfstream in Florida. He watched Tiz the Law win the Florida Derby on March 28 from his condo near the track and the Belmont at a restaurant in Saratoga Springs. The colt has earned over $1.5 million.
"I keep telling everybody Barclay doesn't get a lot of big horses and big opportunities," Knowlton said about his trainer of 25 years, "but when he gets them he knows what to do."
Keeping Tiz the Law healthy and happy is key and becomes even more of a challenge with this year's extended Triple Crown schedule. Instead of three races over five weeks, the coronavirus pandemic has forced the series to be run out of order over 15 weeks.
Instead of running in the Derby five weeks after his Florida Derby victory, Tiz the Law had to wait 12 weeks for the Belmont to open the Triple Crown series. Now, the colt is facing 11 weeks between the Belmont and the Derby, with the Travers as his only race in between. That's a long time to train and avoid injury and illness.
In 2003, Funny Cide got sick after losing the Haskell Invitational and didn't compete in the Travers. Tagg and Sackatoga Stable teamed up that year to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness with Funny Cide — a gelding that cost $75,000 — before his Triple Crown hopes were dashed with a third-place finish in the Belmont.
"You have to pay attention to your horse. He tells you whether it's too much or too little," Tagg said. "He tells you all that stuff if you pay attention to it. You have to show up every day. You have to see if he eats every day and if he eats every night."
Tagg is always a man with a plan. The 82-year-old trainer gets on a pony to accompany each of his horses to the track in the mornings. He's at the barn in the evenings, too, making sure each one empties their feed tub. Anyone that doesn't is often a sign that something isn't right.
Tiz the Law's immediate schedule after a major race involves walking around the barn for a few days before jogging on the track, then galloping, followed by a workout at a moderate speed. It's a tricky balance of not going too fast or too slow but just right.
Injuries have already decimated the 3-year-old ranks. Charlatan and Nadal, trainer Bob Baffert's undefeated duo that each won a division of the Arkansas Derby, are out. Charlatan could return in time for the Preakness; Nadal was retired. Louisiana Derby winner Wells Bayou won't make the Derby. Maxfield is out until next year.
Tiz the Law is atop the leaderboard that determines the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field with 272 points. Honor A.P., in second with 120, skipped the Belmont because it came just two weeks after he won the Santa Anita Derby. Authentic, second in the Santa Anita Derby, is third on the leaderboard.