Tiz The Law leaves little doubt in cruising to victory in Belmont Stakes
The Belmont Stakes’ debut as the first race in the Triple Crown had little of the suspense that normally accompanies the Kentucky Derby. Instead, Tiz The Law, winner of the Florida Derby, erased any doubt of being the best thoroughbred currently running by winning by 3¾ lengths.
The race in Elmont, N.Y., was run without spectators and went pretty much to form as Tiz The Law sat third off the front-running Tap It To Win and Fore Left. But by the time they hit the top of the stretch it was clear who was going to win. Jockey Manny Franco even tipped his hand entering the short Belmont straightaway, looking under his arm to see whether anyone looked as if they might challenge. There wasn’t anyone.
“It looked to me like everything just went like clockwork,” said Barclay Tagg, the winning trainer. “That’s the way the horse likes to run, and that’s the position the horse likes to be in. Manny knows the horse very well. We discussed it quickly before I put him up on the horse, and I felt very confident Manny would ride him that way. I felt pretty solid about halfway down the lane. It’s a good feeling.”
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The Belmont was thrust to the front of the line when Churchill Downs moved the Kentucky Derby to Sept. 5 after the COVID-19 pandemic played havoc with all live sports. The Belmont is normally third in the rotation and at the grueling distance of 1½ miles.
But there is no way the race could be that long this year when no 3-year-olds have even gone the Kentucky Derby distance of 1¼ miles. Instead, the race was shortened to 1 1/8 miles, the distance normally associated with the final prep race before the Kentucky Derby.
In some ways, Saturday’s Belmont victory was vindication for Tagg, 82, and Sackatoga Stables, which flirted with history in 2003 when Funny Cide won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and was looking to be a Triple Crown winner if he could take the Belmont. Funny Cide finished third.
“Before that, I was hoping to win the Belmont,” Tagg said. “Funny Cide got us close, anyway, and we topped it off with Tiz The Law here [Saturday].”
Sackatoga Stables was one of those made-for-Hollywood stories of a group of six high school friends who decided to get into horse racing and bought a yearling for $22,000. It was Funny Cide.
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“It’s tremendous [to win the Belmont],” said Jack Knowlton, the operations manager for Sackatoga Stables. “We’ve been with Barclay Tagg for 25 years, and I keep telling everybody: ‘Barclay doesn’t get a lot of big horses, big opportunities, but when he does, he knows what to do.’ ”
Tiz The Law, the first New York-bred horse to win the Belmont since 1882, paid $3.60, $2.90 and $2.60. Dr Post was second, followed by Max Player, Pneumatic, Tap It To Win, Sole Volante, Modernist, Farmington Road, Fore Left and Jungle Runner.
It was also the first Belmont Stakes start and win for Franco.
“I’m not going to lie. I was little bit nervous [in the gate], but at the same time I was confident because I know what I have under me,” Franco said. “Like I said, I’m in good hands with Barclay.”
Strictly Biz, a 4-year-old colt, sustained a knee fracture during a race and was euthanized, becoming Santa Anita’s 15th fatality of the meeting.
The race lost a lot of its luster when Nadal, Charlatan and Maxfield, all considered top-flight colts, backed out of the Belmont after injuries. Nadal, who was the top-ranked 3-year-old, was retired, while Charlatan and Maxfield hope to return to racing. Tiz The Law was the only Grade 1 winner going into the 10-horse race.
With such a long wait before the Kentucky Derby, Tagg plans to keep Tiz the Law in New York.
“The long-range plan would be the Travers [at Saratoga on Aug. 8], the Derby and then the Preakness [on Oct. 3],” Tagg said. “After that, they’ll probably want me to take him to the Breeders’ Cup.”
Saturday’s win was Tiz The Law’s fifth in six starts. His only loss was on a sloppy surface in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby.
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