June 20 (UPI) — Tiz the Law confirmed his status as this year’s Kentucky Derby — and perhaps Triple Crown — favorite with a romping victory in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.
With Manny Franco riding, the New York-bred sat just off the pace, rallied to the front entering the stretch and kicked away smartly, winning by 3 3/4 lengths over Dr Post. Max Player was third.
After chasing a solid pace, Tiz the Law finished the 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1: 46.53, just a shade more than 1 second off the track record set by Secretariat in the 1973 Marlboro Cup.
“I was pretty confident when we got to the seven-eighths pole,” Franco said. “He was so kind and relaxed for me. He was so comfortable and never got keen, so I think that was the key.”
Asked about his chances in the Kentucky Derby, the next event in this year’s scrambled Triple Crown schedule, he added, “Man, I’ve got the horse for the race. This horse is really, really good.”
The Belmont, normally the final leg of racing’s Triple Crown, this year was shortened from 1 1/2 miles to 1 1/8 miles and serves as the first race in the series that will continue with the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby and conclude Oct. 3 with the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course.
The nationally televised Belmont also was the first major U.S. sports event since the COVID-19 shutdowns hit and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said by remote hookup his state was proud to lead the way in a move toward reopening the economy, although the race was run without fans in the grandstand.
Cuomo ordered “riders up” before the strains of Frank Sinatra‘s “New York, New York” echoed through the empty Belmont Park grandstand.
Tiz the Law, a son of Constitution, is owned by Sackatoga Stable, a 35-member syndicate, and trained by Barclay Tagg — the same team that campaigned Funny Cide to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2003, only to see him fall short of the Triple Crown on a rainy day at Belmont Park.
Tiz the Law won his first start last summer at Saratoga, and then moved right into Grade I company, winning the Champagne Stakes at Belmont on Oct. 5.
He suffered the only loss of his career in his next start, finishing third in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club over a sloppy Churchill Downs track Nov. 30.
Tagg brought the bay colt back Feb. 1 to win the Grade III Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park and he followed that with a 4 1/4-lengths victory in the Grade I Florida Derby on March 28.
Tagg, who said it was “very nice” to enjoy a quiet day at Belmont Park, outlined Tiz the Law’s likely campaign for the rest of the year, starting with the $1 million Grade I Travers — the “Midsummer Derby” — at Saratoga on Aug. 8.
“The long-range plan would be the Travers, the Derby and then the Preakness,” Tagg said. “After that, they’ll probably want me to take him to the Breeders’ Cup.”
Tiz the Law already was the leader on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” leader board used by Churchill Downs to determine the makeup of the 20-maximum field for the Run for the Roses.
He earned another 150 points for the Belmont win, boosting his total to 272. The closest competitor still pursuing a Derby start is Santa Anita Derby winner Honor A.P., with 120 points.
Dr Post now is No. 8 with 60 points and Max Player No. 12 with 40.
Sackatoga’s mentor, Jack Knowlton, bought the colt at the Fasig-Tipton New York-bred yearling sale in August 2018, paying $110,000, with little expectation of a Triple Crown contender. No New York-bred has won the Belmont Stakes since Forester in 1882.
“It’s tremendous,” Knowlton said of winning the Belmont with a state-bred horse. “We buy New York-breds. That’s our game, and we don’t spend a lot of money.
“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.”
Jockey Manny Franco celebrates after he and race horse Tiz the Law win the Belmont Stakes. Next up: the Kentucky Derby, scheduled for September 5. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo