Another lengthy layoff awaits Tiz the Law before the Belmont Stakes’ winner gears up for the rest of his Triple Crown run as the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the horse racing calendar.
Jack Knowlton, the operating manager of Sackatoga Stable and one of the New York-bred Tiz the Law’s 34 co-owners, has no qualms about that.
Knowlton and trainer Barclay Tagg, who missed out on a Triple Crown in 2003 when Funny Cide ran third to Empire Maker at a rain-soaked Belmont, have Tiz the Law pointed next toward the Grade I $1 million Travers at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 8.
“The fact that he hasn’t been overraced bodes well for us when the races get closer together,” Knowlton told Newsday on Sunday. “We campaigned him in Florida. We just ran the two races thinking he’d have a five-week gantlet with the Triple Crown races. We had a long break instead. He’s run off two long breaks and now it will be off three long breaks. It’s seven weeks to the Travers. I know we’ll have him ready.”
Tiz the Law pulled away for a 3 3/4-length win in Saturday’s 152nd running of the $1 million Belmont Stakes, contested at 1 1/8 miles instead of its usual 1 1/2-mile distance, to become the race’s first New York-bred winner since Forester in 1882. It continued Tiz the Law’s winning streak after finishing first in the Grade I, 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby on March 28 and the Grade III 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull at Gulfstream on Feb.1.
Tagg kept Tiz the Law training at Belmont during that layoff.
“Anybody who looks at it, it could’ve been a mile and a half and who knows how much he would have won by,” Knowlton said as Tiz the Law stalked Tap It to Win and Fore Left’s early speed on the backside before making a move on the race’s lone turn.
The Travers will serve as a warm-up for the Kentucky Derby, with both races at 1 1/4 miles. The Derby was pushed back to Sept. 5 from May 2 and the Triple Crown series concludes with the Preakness on Oct. 3 after it was originally scheduled for May 16.
“A lot of people were skeptical of Barclay’s management of him, running him off an 11-week layoff,” Knowlton said. “But other than shipping him to Arkansas [for the Grade I Arkansas Derby on May 2], which we never gave the remotest thought to, where was he going to go? We’re going the New York route.”
Running a Triple Crown contender at their home track in Saratoga will be special for the Sackatoga Stable investors, even if it’s possible tracks will still be closed to fans and owners. Knowlton watched Saturday’s Belmont with some of his fellow co-owners at a restaurant in Saratoga.
NYRA will begin its summer meet at Saratoga on July 16 without fans, though that restriction could be eased over the 40-day meet based on New York state guidelines.
“Hopefully, it will be in front of our home crowd,” Knowlton said. “We’re hoping to get all our owners in there. The biggest disappointment we had with Funny Cide, other than not winning the Triple Crown, was he was not able to run in the Travers. He got sick a couple days before the race.”
Knowlton said Tagg will keep Tiz the Law at his Belmont Park stable until he heads to Saratoga, probably on July 12 or 13.
Tagg said the immediate plan is to walk Tiz the Law for three or four days before jogging him. Tagg said he would breeze Tiz the Law over a half mile in 10 days if all goes well.
“I’ve never won the Travers and I want to win it,” Tagg said Sunday at Belmont. “It’s very important to me.”