Trainer Barclay Tagg cashed in on his consummate horsemanship during the 2003 Triple Crown campaign, saddling a headstrong New York-bred gelding for victories in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1).
Tagg's proven record on the 2003 Triple Crown trail with Funny Cide can only serve him well this year as he oversees the training of Tiz the Law, the Grade 1-winning colt who stamped himself as an elite 3-year-old with a three-length victory in Saturday's $250,000 Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
Like Funny Cide, Tiz the Law is a New York-bred owned by Jack Knowlton's Sackatoga Stable, but unlike Funny Cide, the son of Constitution is a colt whose behavior has been exemplary.
“He's just been a dream. He's got energy – a big strong horse, not a real big horse, but he's big in a lot of ways,” Tagg said. “He's always trained perfectly. He's always done everything we've asked him to do. He's been flawless and his races have been exciting.”
Tiz the Law garnered 10 points with the Holy Bull win, placing him second on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard with 22 points. He previously acquired 10 points by winning the Grade 1 Champagne in October at Belmont Park, and two points from a close third-place effort in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs – his lone loss in four career starts.
“It's hard to believe that we're in the same position after all of the success that we had with Funny Cide. It was a once in a lifetime experience,” said Sackatoga's managing partner Jack Knowlton.
Bred in New York by Twin Creeks Farm, Tiz the Law dazzled in his Saratoga career debut against his Empire State-bred counterpart, registering a 90 Beyer Speed Figure while defeating subsequent dual stakes winner Dream Bigger in the process.
“Last summer at Saratoga he ran brilliant in his first start,” said Knowlton. “He won the Champagne and all of a sudden he's a horse that's a leading contender for the Derby. We were a bit disappointed in the race in Kentucky but that happens in racing. Things don't always go your way.”
Franco was instructed to keep Tiz the Law off the rail in the early stages of Saturday's race, but heading into the first turn he found himself tracking the pace to the inside. Franco was able to maneuver Tiz the Law three-wide with about half the journey covered.
“He probably lost three to four lengths in doing so but Manny knew what he was doing,” Knowlton said. “He flew down twice to work him and his last work at Palm Meadows [a half-mile work in 48 flat on January 26] was brilliant. He galloped out like a good horse.”
Tiz the Law will likely follow a similar path to the First Saturday in May that Funny Cide did and target the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby on March 21 at Fair Grounds Race Course. Funny Cide was third in the Louisiana Derby following a fifth-place finish in the Holy Bull.
“That's on our radar screen,” said Knowlton, noting that the long stretch at Fair Grounds and the 1 3/16-mile distance are factors in pointing to the Louisiana Derby.
Knowlton said Tiz the Law would not have a start in between the Holy Bull and Louisiana Derby, which are seven weeks apart.
“We're going to follow the trend that less is more and to space your races out,” Knowlton said. “We want to have a nice horse that will hopefully run through the Triple Crown series as well as Saratoga in the summer.”
While Tiz the Law will likely take the same path that Funny Cide did towards the Kentucky Derby, their 2-year-old campaigns were quite different. Unbeaten during his freshman campaign, Funny Cide won the Bertram Bongard and Sleepy Hollow against New York-breds and never faced graded stakes company, while Tiz the Law became a Grade 1 winner in only his second start.
“Funny Cide had brilliant speed. He won the Bongard with a triple digit Beyer,” Knowlton said. “Both had tactical speed and we saw that yesterday. He shot right out of the gate. He loves having a target to run at. His running style is stalk and pounce. Tiz the Law has that burst we saw in the Champagne and at Saratoga.”
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