TIZ THE LAW COULD BE A DERBY RULE BREAKER
Make no mistake, these are some different times we are in right now. The dominating Florida Derby win by Tiz The Law however, might have been the norm considering the past two decades of the Kentucky Derby.
For many years there were certain “rules” to follow if you wanted to win the world’s most famous race. Your horse needed to race as a two year old, not have more than four weeks rest, have at least two starts at three, don’t win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and so on and so forth. One of the most important rules was he needed to be a Kentucky-bred. But then the 21st century happened and all that went out the barn door.
Since entering the 2000’s, horses like Barbaro (2006), Street Sense (2007), Animal Kingdom (2011), California Chrome (2014), and Justify (2018) have all helped usher in a new era in which the only rule is…there are no rules. Of course one that we left off the previous list was perhaps the biggest rule breaker. Funny Cide (2003) turned the old guard upside down when he won the roses as a New York-bred gelding. What the What… a gelding…from New York?…No way…
The backyard barbecue buddies that formed Sackatoga Stables in upstate New York said “Way” when they pulled off the unthinkable. A gelding had not worn the blanket of roses since 1929 (Clyde Van Dusen) and a New York-bred had never stepped foot in the winner’s circle. That was until this son of Distorted Humor toed the track beneath those fabled twin spires on May 3, 2003.
So we fast-forward to March 28, 2020 and the boys from Sackatoga Stables are back at it again. And yes, with another New York-bred. This time, they are not coming in under the radar as they did with Funny Cide. Tiz The Law is a highly regarded son of Constitution that has displayed a ton of talent. And the fact he is a New York-bred maybe means a little more to the guys that upset the apple cart 17 years ago.
“We never dreamed of winning the Kentucky Derby when we got into the game as owners,” says Sackatoga managing partner Jack Knowlton. “Our goal was to just compete in some of the New York-bred Stakes races and have fun. Then along came Funny Cide and everything changed.”
Knowlton and his partners have been tremendous ambassadors for the sport since enjoying that day in the sun with their galloping gelding. Things have gone according to the original plan that is until this other New York-bred came along. Tiz the Law won his first two career starts, both of course in New York. The second was an arresting performance in the Champagne Stakes at Saratoga. A troubled third place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs closed his two-year old season and did nothing to tarnish his shine.
Two races as a three-year old has told everyone these boys from the Gotham state have another for real race horse. On February 1 in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park, Tiz The Law used a felonious turn of foot while cruising to a 3 length win. That race saw this Sackatoga star overcome some traffic troubles with a clear stretch run to the wire. And then came the Florida Derby.
Gulfstream Park’s million dollar springboard to the Kentucky Derby became another crime scene. The Barclay Tagg trained Law used a clear trip to completely assault a talented field. Stalking a solid early pace under jockey Manuel Franco, Tiz The Law escaped the competition at the top of the stretch. At the eighth pole they started putting up the crime scene tape as the only thing in question was how big would the margin of victory be.
The dominating 4 ¼ length win was a no doubter when it comes to measuring talent. If the Kentucky Derby was going to be run on it’s original date, this horse would have to be considered the early favorite. Given all the circumstances of performance and the abnormal being the new normal, he seems like a slam dunk. But since we now have a suspended sentence, Tiz The Law will have to keep himself in top form until September.
As for his owners at Sackatoga, they are just glad to be along for the ride.
“These horses have given us an opportunity to enjoy this wonderful sport at the highest level,” says Knowlton. “We were fortunate enough to get in on the front end of off-springs from a top-sire before he became widely recognized. We have made a tremendous amount of friends in the game and look forward to the future.”
Could that mean another New York-bred in the Kentucky Derby winner’s circle? Do the math…