SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – The small town erupted into raucous overtures as locally-based Sackatoga Stable’s Tiz the Law posted the second-fastest time in over 30 years while taking Saturday’s $1 million Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1).
Tiz the Law broke from gate 6 as the 1/2 favorite under regular rider Manny Franco, who put Tiz the Law into his usual spot of closely stalking the pace while positioned wide in the clear.
With the betting favorite stuck three-wide heading into the clubhouse turn, Uncle Chuck – the 5/2 second choice on the morning line – took a slim lead over Shivaree before setting opening fractions of :23.65, :48.36, and 1:11.95.
Shivaree dropped anchor heading into the far turn, allowing Tiz the Law to angle over slightly while ranging up to apply pressure along Uncle Chuck’s right hip. Doing so caused jockey Luis Saez to put the leader under an early drive, a move that gave Franco confidence.
“When I came up to (Uncle Chuck) at the 1/2-mile pole, going to the 3/8, I was trying to wait more because I knew I got him,” Franco said. “(Saez) was riding and trying to keep up, so I was a little bit worried about the horses behind me. I was trying to save more horse before I made my move.”
Tiz the Law poked his head in front halfway through the far turn, with Franco remaining chilly while Saez and Uncle Chuck were all-out to keep up. Franco took a quick peek back at any possible challengers as he passed the 1/4 pole, but nobody was there.
Franco shook the reins at the stop of the stretch, and Tiz the Law shot into high gear.
“He gave me chills,” Franco said. “When I pressed the button, he just took off. He accelerated really hard. After that, I took a peek back and he was going away and I just saved horse.”
The Barclay Tagg trainee drew off in the stretch before finishing a wrapped-up 5 1/2 lengths clear in a final time of 2:00.95. Aside from Arrogate’s track record-breaking 1:59.36 in the 2016 edition, it was the fastest since Easy Goer won the 1989 edition in 2:00.80 and the fifth-quickest ever since the race became 1 1/4 miles long.
“I didn’t expect a race like that, but we’ll take it,” Franco said. “He ran huge. He was there the whole way for me and I was just waiting for the moment because it is a long way to go – a mile and 1/4 – and he hasn’t gone that distance before, so I’m trying to save as much horse as I could before I made my move. I had a lot in the tank and I was just trying to save horse, because there’s still three or four more races to go, so I have to save some horse.”
While no match for the winner, Caracaro was a rallying second in his second start back after a lengthy layoff. He returned from six months away to finish second, beaten just a neck, in the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan Stakes (G3) over this course last month.
Max Player was similarly rallying past tiring foes, repeating his Belmont Stakes (G1) effort by once again finishing third behind Tiz the Law. This was his second start back since winning the Withers Stakes (G3) in February.
South Bend was fourth in his first start for new trainer Bill Mott, 1 length ahead of the Peter Pan victor Country Grammer. Uncle Chuck gave up the ghost in the stretch and finished sixth ahead of only Shivaree to complete the order of finish. First Line, a recent maiden-breaker at the end of July, was scratched.
The Travers is part of the Road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Tiz the Law earned 100 points for the win, with Caracaro receiving 40 for second, Max Player 20 for third, and South Bend 10 for fourth.
“He became part of my family, this horse,” Franco said. “He’s unbelievable and I’ve never been on a horse in my career like this one.”
Tiz the Law’s win was his fourth straight and made him the first horse in history to win the Champagne Stakes (G1), the Florida Derby (G1), the Belmont, and the Travers. The 3-year-old Constitution colt now sports a record of 7-6-0-1 (his lone defeat came in last November’s Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes [G2]) with $2,015,300 earned.
“I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve always wanted to win the Travers,” Tagg said. “This has been in my head my whole life, and now it happened, so it couldn’t be better. You always have some doubt because many different things can happen. That’s always in the back of your mind, but I was very confident in the horse.”
For Tagg and Sackatoga Stable, Tiz the Law helps complete a puzzle left unfinished since 2003, when they campaigned Funny Cide to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness before losing the Belmont (he did not enter the Travers).
“It’s fabulous; we’re getting redemption 17 years later,” said Knowlton, who signed the $110,000 check while Tiz the Law was just a yearling. “It’s quite an accomplishment for our little stable of New York-breds, for Barclay Tagg training our New York bred to win the biggest races in New York. We’re just thrilled to death. We’re the third New York bred to win this race, the first New York bred in 138 years to win the Belmont Stakes. It says to me that this accomplishment is something that is pretty spectacular. Barclay, Robin, and the whole team, they made it all happen.”
Tiz the Law returned $3 to win, $2.40 to place, and $2.10 to show. Caracaro brought back $6.40 to place and $4 to show, while Max Player paid $3.70 to show.