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.