Tiz The Law wins Belmont Stakes, in Triple Crown upended by the pandemic

Tribune Content Agency

The Belmont Stakes debut as the first race in the Triple Crown had little of the suspense that normally accompanies the Kentucky Derby. Instead, the only Grade 1 winner in the watered-down 10-horse field, Tiz The Law, erased any doubt of being much the best by winning by 3 3/4 lengths.

Saturday’s race set up just as expected with Tap It To Win going to the front and joined by Fore Left, the other front-runner in the race. Tiz The Law was sitting comfortably in a stalking position in third. When it came to exiting the far turn, jockey Manny Franco looked under his arm to rest of the field, a sign that he had plenty of horse left and planned to use it.

“I was pretty confident when I hit the 7/8 pole,” said Franco, who won his first Belmont Stakes in his first appearance. “He was relaxed for me. He was so comfortable. … I think that was the key for the victory.”

Tiz The Law paid $3.60, $2.90 and $2.60 as the heavy favorite. Dr Post was second, followed by Max Player, Pneumatic, Tap It To Win, Sole Volante, Modernist, Farrington Road, Fore Left and Jungle Runner.

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 1 1/2 miles.

But there is no way the race could be that long when no 3-year-olds have even gone the Kentucky Derby distance of 1 1/4 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 winning, Tiz The Law became the first New York-bred horse to win the Belmont since 1882. It was also a special victory for the owners, who so desperately wanted to win this race. Sackatoga Stables, six high school friends whose dreams exceeded rational expectations, had purchased a yearling for $22,000. Two years later, in 2003, Funny Cide had won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and needed a Belmont win to take the coveted Triple Crown. Funny Cide finished third after leading for the first mile.

Barclay Tagg, 82, was the trainer for both Funny Cide and Tiz The Law.

“I’m just glad I’ve lived long enough to have a horse like this,” Tagg said.

The Belmont looked to be a great opening race of the three-race series as Nadal, the top-rated 3-year-old in the country, was scheduled to run for Santa Anita-based Bob Baffert. But he suffered an injury during a workout and was retired. Baffert, having a deep barn, was then going to send Charlatan, another undefeated 3-year-old. He too suffered an injury but hopes to return possibly for the Preakness.

Maxfield, one of the best horses racing in Kentucky, also took a pass on the race because of an injury. What was left was Tiz The Law and everyone else. He had won two Grade 1 races, while no other horse had won even one.

Tiz The Law had won four of five races before Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. His only loss had come over a sloppy track in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. His first Grade 1 win was in the Champagne Stakes as a 2-year-old over the same Belmont dirt track. He also won the Florida Derby this year.

Normally, the entire Triple Crown is conducted in five weeks instead of five months. Tiz The Law might look for a race before the Kentucky Derby, possibly the Travers Stakes on Aug. 8.

“I got the horse for the race,” Franco said. “I’m very happy with the opportunity owner Jack Knowlton and the trainer have given me. They know what they are doing, and the horse is very good.”


(Cherwa is a Los Angeles Times special correspondent.)


©2020 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.