Tiz the Law: A New York Hero
From the very moment that Tiz the Law broke his maiden in his debut at Saratoga, it was clear that he was going to be something special. The bay colt left his onlookers breathless as he crossed the wire under wraps, 4 ¼ lengths in front of his competitors. Those who are not easily convinced of talent may have brushed off that initial win, but the colt made himself impossible to ignore when he recovered from a stumble at the start of Belmont Park’s most prestigious race for two-year olds, the Champagne Stakes (G1), to win by four commanding lengths.
It was then that the murmurs of Tiz the Law becoming the next Kentucky Derby winner began in the horse racing community. A fanbase started to develop around this colt from Constitution's first crop. Many of these fans still had memories of Funny Cide, the gutsy gelding that won the ‘03 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, dancing in their heads. Though Funny Cide had taken a different route towards the Kentucky Derby, they both came from the same owners, Sackatoga Stables, and the same trainer, Barclay Tagg. Funny Cide and Tiz the Law shared some other similarities, too. Like Tiz the Law, Funny Cide was also from the first crop of his sire Distorted Humor. Additionally, Tiz the Law’s sire Constitution is out of a Distorted Humor mare. While both are New York breds, their sires Constitution and Distorted Humor stand stud at WinStar Farm in Versailles, Kentucky.
After the convincing Champagne Stakes victory, the Tiz the Law team loaded up and headed to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2). A win there would show naysayers that he was capable of winning outside of New York and at the track at which the Kentucky Derby would be run. Unfortunately, racing luck would hamper Tiz the Law’s ability to finish his two-year old season undefeated.
Tiz the Law and his jockey Manny Franco had taken up a spot on the rail, a ground saving move in the longest race of Tiz the Law’s career to that point. However, New Eagle got directly in front of Tiz the Law to set the pace while South Bend and Two Last Words boxed him in on the outside. Tiz the Law had plenty of energy bottled up when the field rounded the far turn, but a three horse wall formed in front of him the moment they reached the top of the stretch. When he finally got the chance to burst through an opening, he didn’t have enough in him to catch Silver Prospector and the fast-closing Finnick The Fierce nipped him for second. [Video: Watch Tiz the Law (#3) finished third in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes]
It was a disappointing finish to Tiz the Law’s two-year old season, but his connections were determined to come back winners. Sackatoga Stables didn’t send Tiz the Law to the races for two months, instead giving him some time to mature. In late January it was confirmed that Tiz the Law would be returning in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park. Florida’s Kentucky Derby preps are some of the most prestigious of them all and despite his loss in the Kentucky Jockey Club, Tiz the Law was still the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby. All eyes were on him.
Prior to the race, some fans wondered if the promising Allowance winner Ete Indien or his runner-up Toledo could get the best of Tiz the Law in the Holy Bull. At the start, Ete Indien got the advantage over Sackatoga’s star and went out to set the early place; Tiz the Law settled on the rail behind him. Suddenly, a longshot named Clear Destination squeezed between Tiz the Law and Relentless Dancer, forcing Manny Franco to quickly slow down Tiz the Law to take him around horses. The lost ground didn’t matter - Tiz the Law easily blew past Relentless Dancer and Clear Destination as they went around the far turn. He then set his sights on Ete Indien, eating up the distance between them in a matter of seconds and then flying by him when they got off the turn and into the stretch.
Tiz the Law had returned a three-length winner. But before anyone could truly celebrate, the world was hit with the Covid-19 pandemic. On March 17th, it was announced that the 2020 Kentucky Derby would not be held on the first Saturday in May, but instead on the First Saturday in September. A seven month delay in the Kentucky Derby could be devastating. So much could happen in that amount of time - a horse who seems perfect for the Derby in May can come out of form or become sick or injured, while a horse who wouldn’t have been ready for the Derby in May would have more time to grow, learn, and mature. Still, team Sackatoga had their sights set on returning to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby, regardless of the date. They entered Tiz the Law into the March 28th Florida Derby (G1), a race that has proven to produce Kentucky Derby winners. Ete Indien was back to battle Tiz the Law one more time and Nashua Stakes (G3) winner Independence Hall was in town to take a swing at him too. As usual, Tiz the Law allowed Ete Indien and longshot Shivaree to set the early pace while he settled on the outside of them in third. Just like in the Holy Bull, Tiz the Law lined up with Ete Indien as they rounded the far turn and geared up for battle. Ete Indien just didn’t have it in him and dropped back as they straightened into the stretch. Though Shivaree was still running gamely on the rail in second, he was no threat to Manny Franco and Tiz the Law; the pair flew home to a 4 ¼ length victory.
[Video: Watch Tiz the Law (#7) win the Florida Derby]
When Sackatoga Stables’ Jack Knowlton was asked where he planned to race Tiz the Law next, he answered with, "We'll stay here on the East Coast and see what happens. I don't want to face Bob Baffert until I have to." No one knew at the time that a Baffert horse would indeed be the one to dethrone Tiz the Law.
On May 19th, nearly two months after Tiz the Law’s win in the Florida Derby, it was announced that the Belmont Stakes would be run on June 20th at a shortened distance of 1 ⅛ miles instead of 1 ½ miles. This made it the first leg of the Triple Crown series, followed by the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5th and the Preakness Stakes on Oct. 3rd. Though at first glance this Triple Crown schedule seems less rigorous than its usual schedule, where all three races are held in a span of five weeks, it requires the horses to remain fit, sound, and at the top of their game over a longer period of time. At post time for the Belmont Stakes, Tiz the Law was unsurprisingly the heavy favorite. While he would have to fend off strong competitors like Tap it to Win, Max Player, and Dr Post, Tiz the Law seemed almost unbeatable. This time Tap it to Win went out to the lead to set a strong pace with Fore Left chasing him in second and Tiz the Law following behind them in third. As the field neared the end of the far turn, Tiz the Law swallowed up Fore Left and bore down on the pacesetter. When the horses straightened up for the long stretch run, Manny Franco asked Tiz the Law to go and he rocketed down the middle of the stretch, easily opening up a commanding lead. He crossed the wire 3 ¾ lengths in front. The win was special for a number of reasons; it was sweet revenge for Sackatoga Stables, who faced bitter defeat when they brought Funny Cide to the Belmont Stakes in 2003 with hopes of winning the elusive Triple Crown. It was also a special moment for New York racing: Tiz the Law was the first New-York Bred horse to win the Belmont Stakes since 1882. For Manny Franco, the win in the Belmont Stakes was his first time winning any Triple Crown race. [Video: Watch Tiz the Law (#8) win the Belmont Stakes]
Shortly after the Belmont victory, it was announced that Tiz the Law would be standing at Ashford Stud in Versailles, Kentucky upon his retirement. He had done enough to earn himself a stall alongside Triple Crown winners American Pharoah and Justify - the dream was that he could become one of them too.
Sackatoga Stables decided to take advantage of the two month gap between the two Triple Crown races by sending their colt back to Saratoga, the track he broke his maiden at, for the prestigious Travers Stakes (G1), which is typically one of the year’s biggest races for three-year olds after the Triple Crown series. The town of Saratoga was bursting with cheer - their hero was coming home. The locals enjoyed "Tiz the Law" ice cream from Stewart’s and resident Bob Giordano even added a “Tiz the Law” sign to a stop sign in the city, which circulated all around social media.
The Travers was the Sackatoga colt’s race to win. Tiz the Law had already beaten many of the horses who were also slated to run in the Travers, but Bob Baffert sent his undefeated Los Alamitos Derby (G3) winner Uncle Chuck across the country to challenge the Belmont Stakes winner. Saratoga isn’t nicknamed “The Graveyard of Favorites” for no reason and Uncle Chuck seemed to be the only thing standing in the way of Tiz the Law becoming a Travers winner.
At the start, Uncle Chuck’s jockey Luis Saez hustled him onto the lead while Tiz the Law sat close by in third. He remained there until the horses approached the start of the far turn; Tiz the Law easily put away Shivaree the moment Franco asked him to and set his sights on Uncle Chuck, breathing down the California colt’s neck. Knowing the danger of Tiz the Law’s talent, Saez urged his mount to pick up the pace. Tiz the Law lined up eye to eye with Uncle Chuck, seemingly taunting his tiring rival as they came into the stretch. Uncle Chuck gave way, Baffert’s scary colt soundly defeated, and Tiz the Law zoomed home to win by 4 ½ lengths. [Video: Watch Tiz the Law (#6) win the Travers Stakes]
"He gave me chills," Manny Franco told BloodHorse. "When I pressed the button, he just took off. He accelerated really hard. After that, I took a peek back and he was going away, and I just saved horse. I'm looking forward to the next race." Hopes were high heading into the Kentucky Derby. Tiz the Law had dominated his last four races and had almost an entire month to recoup between the Travers and the Derby. He was training well in Kentucky and seemed almost impossible to beat, especially when Blue Grass Stakes winner Art Collector was forced to scratch from the run for the roses with a foot issue. Whispers of the possibility of Tiz the Law being the next Triple Crown winner began to circulate throughout the horse racing community (as well as whether or not his win would be valid if he did, considering the changed schedule).
While there were many formidable foes in the race, like Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Honor A.P., it seemed like this was Tiz the Law’s race to win. But while Tiz the Law had been dominating the East Coast, a tall son of Into Mischief was making waves over in California. Authentic, trained by Bob Baffert, broke his maiden at Del Mar in Feb. ‘19 and then won the Sham Stakes (G3) and San Felipe Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita. He faced defeat for the first time when Honor A.P. beat him to the wire in the Santa Anita Derby. Bob Baffert then shipped the “quirky little guy” to Monmouth Park in New Jersey to run in the Haskell (G1), where he held off closing kick from Ny Traffic.
The Kentucky Derby is known for its hectic starts and even with the new starting gate introduced for the ‘20 Derby, there was still trouble when the gates swung open. Ny Traffic broke sideways and rammed into Honor A.P., effectively ruining his chances to win. Authentic also broke a tad slow while Tiz the Law had been able to get away cleanly. Though Authentic broke a bit slow, his jockey Johnny Velazquez was able to hustle him to the lead before the got to the first turn. Tiz the Law settled on the outside in fourth position.
At the top of the stretch, Tiz the Law was looming close to Authentic, threatening to take over the lead. Authentic had set a fast pace and many people had assumed that wasn’t going to be able to maintain his speed over the Kentucky Derby’s distance, so the racing world waited eagerly to watch Tiz the Law run by Authentic just like he had run by almost every other horse who had faced him. But Authentic was not going to give way to the colt on his outside; Johnny Velazquez asked Authentic for more and he responded, digging in to fight Tiz the Law. They flew down the stretch side by side, but as the wire grew closer and closer, it became clear that Tiz the Law was not going to be able to get past Authentic. The Belmont Stakes and Travers winner had been defeated.
[Video: Watch Tiz the Law (#17) finished second in the Kentucky Derby]
It was a heartbreaking loss for Sackatoga Stables, but a moment of intense joy for all the racing fans who owned micro-shares in the newly minted Kentucky Derby winner through MyRacehorse. The decision was made to keep Tiz the Law out of the Preakness Stakes and instead train him up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland in November.
Meanwhile, Authentic shipped to Pimlico in Baltimore to contest in the Preakness Stakes. His toughest competitor appeared to be Art Collector, who had scratched from the Kentucky Derby and was back to prove himself against Authentic. He also had to face Swiss Skydiver, a tough filly whose owners had considered running her in the Kentucky Derby, but opted to run her in the Kentucky Oaks where she finished second. In the end, an exhilarating, head to head stretch duel between Authentic and Swiss Skydiver commenced and ended with the filly beating the Kentucky Derby winner. Meanwhile, Tiz the Law had been training exceptionally well in Kentucky and was ready to rematch the Kentucky Derby winner in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. It wasn’t going to be an easy race for either of them; in addition to Authentic, Bob Baffert was bringing his tough four-year old Improbable, who had come into his best form with three consecutive Grade 1 wins before the Breeders’ Cup, and Maximum Security, the four time Grade 1 winner who had a career surrounded by controversy. Also running was the tough “old man” Tom’s d’Etat and talented horses like By My Standards and Global Campaign.
It was going to be a tough and exciting race, a chance for Tiz the Law to prove that he was still the king.
The fans and betting public also believed that the Breeders’ Cup Classic would be Tiz the Law’s chance to shine and made him the favorite - Authentic was the third-choice behind Improbable. The horses loaded into Keeneland’s starting gates for a chance to prove themselves on racing’s biggest stage. The minimal crowd in attendance and the millions of people watching at home waited anxiously for the moment that gates would open and the horses would rocket out of them.
Tiz the Law had drawn an inside post, forcing Manny Franco to find him a spot on the rail as soon as the gates had opened. This could be a dangerous spot; memories of Tiz the Law getting stuck behind horses in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes still haunted his fans and connections. Authentic had drawn the outside post and was able to use his speed to get to the lead, settling in front of Tiz the Law. The horses glided around the first turn, Authentic setting a fast pace with his ears pricked.
Tiz the Law allowed Maximum Security to put his head in front for second, opting to conserve some fight for the stretch. When the field began to near the far turn, it became clear that Tiz the Law was in danger. Global Campaign and Improbable had come up alongside Maximum Security and then moved up beside Authentic, creating a wall in front of Tiz the Law. By My Standards had inched up beside the Sackatoga colt - Tiz the Law had nowhere to go.
Manny Franco urged Tiz the Law to move to the outside, pushing By My Standards right along with him. But by the time they reached the top of the stretch and there was clear running room, Tiz the Law was exhausted. He fought on, but couldn’t gain ground on any of the leaders. Authentic bounded clear of his competition to win by 2 ¼ lengths; Tiz the Law finished a well beaten and tired sixth.
The loss stung. Tiz the Law had once been the king of the three-year olds. He looked like a “sure thing”, but nothing is sure in horse racing. Tiz the Law had been defeated in two of the most important races for Thoroughbreds and just like Jack Knowlton had sort of predicted earlier in the year, his undoing came from a Bob Baffert colt. He just wasn’t the same horse that he had been earlier in the year. Despite the loss, Sackatoga and Barclay Tagg decided to get their horse ready for a 2021 campaign with hopes of coming back better than ever.
However, a four-year old campaign wasn’t to be. Almost two months after the Breeders’ Cup, Tiz the Law seemed a bit off during training. X-rays revealed severe bone bruising. If he were to race again, the result could be catastrophic. The vet recommended that Tiz the Law should be retired and thus the handsome bay colt left the racetrack and came home to Ashford Stud. He will be standing his first season for a stud fee of $40,000.
While it is heartbreaking to have to wonder what could have been if Tiz the Law had remained healthy and sound for a four-year old campaign, we should feel relieved that his injury was caught before it could become a threat to Tiz the Law’s well-being. We now get the opportunity to see what his foals will accomplish when they begin their racing careers a few years from now. Maybe even one of them will get revenge for their sire and win the Kentucky Derby.
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