Tiz the Law finishes the job in Belmont for Tagg, Sackatoga Stables
June 20, 2020
ELMONT, N.Y. — Trainer Barclay Tagg enjoyed the sounds of silence Saturday at Belmont. He enjoyed the sights even more.
On a Saturday that Tagg said was unlike “any other Saturday at the track that I’ve ever known,” he completed his own personal Triple Crown by winning the 152nd Belmont Stakes with Tiz the Law, who as the 4-5 favorite dominated the race by 3 3/4 lengths.
The win came 17 years after Tagg watched Funny Cide come up short in his bid to win the Triple Crown when he finished third before 101,864 at the Belmont Stakes.
Saturday, the official attendance will read 0 as neither fans nor owners were allowed to attend the race due to rules put in place by New York government and health officials due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic, which shut down New York racing for 80 days, revamped the entire Triple Crown, as the Belmont, shortened from 1 1/2 miles to 1 1/8 miles, became the first and shortest of the three races rather than the last and longest.
Now, Tagg will have to pursue a Triple Crown that will consist of the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5 and the Preakness on Oct. 3.
“A lot longer than that I was hoping to win the Belmont,” Tagg said when asked about the 17 years between Funny Cide and Tiz the Law. “Funny Cide got us close, anyway. I was glad to top it off with this one today.”
In winning Saturday, Tagg, at 82, became the oldest trainer to win the Belmont Stakes, surpassing Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, who was 81 when Nashua won the 1955 Belmont.
Tagg said he was okay with the unusual circumstances surrounding the Belmont; specifically the lack of a crowd. Only trainers, their staff, racing officials, NBC, and a small group of print media were on-track on a warm first day of summer to witness the race.
“I’m not trying to be a jerk about it, but I thought the quietude was very nice,” Tagg said. “I’m not against [fans], not at all, that’s what makes our business go, but just for a change I didn’t have any qualms about it.”
Tagg said horses can often react to a large crowd and perhaps lose their mind in the paddock. None of that was in play Saturday as the paddock sounded more like a library than a racetrack.
The race went pretty much went the way it figured to play out on paper. Tap It to Win, breaking from the rail under John Velazquez, jumped out to the lead, stalked by Fore Left with Tiz the Law in third. They were 1-2-3 through a quarter in 23.11 seconds, a half-mile in 46.16 and six furlongs in 1:09.94.
Coming to the five-sixteenths pole, Tiz the Law moved into second under jockey Manny Franco, who took a peek behind him. As he inched closer to Tap It to Win, Franco took another peek behind him. Straightening away in the lane, Franco asked Tiz the Law to run and he quickly opened up and ran away from the rest of the field from the three-sixteenths pole to the wire.
Tiz the Law, a New York-bred son of Constitution, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:46.53 over a fast track. Tiz the Law, who returned $3.60 as the 4-5 favorite, earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort, his third consecutive graded stakes win this year. In January, he won the Grade 3 Holy Bull, in March the Grade 1 Florida Derby.
“When I take a peek back by the five-sixteenths pole I don’t want to move early, I knew I had horse under me. He just was waiting for the moment and the right time to move,” Franco, 25 and riding his first Belmont, said.
Tagg watched the race from a box seat, socially distanced from his assistant and partner Robin Smullen.
“I thought if he is what we think he is, this is right where I’d like him to be and right where I’d like him to move and it worked out to perfection,” Tagg said.
Jack Knowlton, the managing partner of Sackatoga Stable which owned Tiz the Law and Funny Cide, watched the race at an upstate New York restaurant with stable partners, friends, and family.
“It’s tremendous,” he said. “We’ve been with Barclay Tagg for 25 years and I keep telling everybody, Barclay doesn’t get a lot of big horse, big opportunities, but when he does he knows what to do. He’s got his and Sackatoga’s got theirs. Triple Crown, two different horses, and not a lot of people can say that.”
Dr Post, who was sixth early, rallied in the lane to be a clear second, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Max Player, who rallied from ninth to get third over Pneumatic.
Though Dr Post gave trainer Todd Pletcher his sixth second-place finish in the Belmont Stakes — to go along with three victories — he was happy with the performance for the colt’s first try at this level.
“You got to take your hat off to the winner. I thought Dr Post ran a fantastic race for his fourth lifetime start,” Pletcher said. “Hopefully, it continues to bring him forward. I’m very pleased with his effort.”
On a track that wasn’t kind to closers, Max Player was ninth, 10 lengths out of it early, but made a decent run to be third in his first start off a 140-day layoff.
“He got shuffled back a little bit from the gate. Joel [Rosario] said when he got some kickback in his face he lost a little momentum, got his head up in the air a little bit and was a little wide at the quarter pole,” trainer Linda Rice said. “All in all he was running at the end of it. It was a good effort.”
Pneumatic finished fourth and was followed, in order, by Tap It to Win, Sole Volante, Modernist, Farmington Road, Fore Left, and Jungle Runner.
Tiz the Law earned 150 qualifying points to the Derby while Dr Post earned 60, Max Player 30, and Pneumatic 15.
Tagg, Pletcher, and Rice will have 11 weeks and plenty of options from which to choose to get their horses ready for the Kentucky Derby.
Tagg said he would like to run Tiz the Law in the Grade 1, $1 million Travers on Aug. 8 at Saratoga.
For now, the Saratoga meet is expected to be run without fans so it may be quiet again in seven weeks. Just the way Tagg likes it.