SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — The Belmont Stakes champion Tiz the Law added the Travers Stakes to his winning résumé on Saturday, making him the favorite to win the postponed Kentucky Derby next month and then possibly to claim the sport’s 14th Triple Crown with a Preakness victory in October.
A New York-bred son of Constitution, Tiz the Law ran away from Caracaro down the stretch of what is known as the Mid-Summer Derby, winning by five and a half lengths at Saratoga Race Course.
Tiz the Law, ridden by Manny Franco, covered the mile-and-a-quarter distance in two minutes and 95-hundredths of a second, paying his backers $3 on a $2 bet. It was the sixth victory in seven starts for Tiz the Law, and the $535,000 first-place check pushed his career earnings past $2 million.
The “Graveyard of Champions,” as Saratoga is called, truly felt like a cemetery on Saturday as spectators were barred from the grounds. Instead, people tailgated in makeshift party lots near the track or watched the Travers from the porches of nearby bars.
Tiz the Law’s victory and his jockey were especially popular at the Horseshoe Bar across the street from the clubhouse turn and with the grooms, hot walkers and other members of thoroughbred racing’s invisible work force.
The colt’s trainer, the 82-year-old Barclay Tagg, entrusted a horse of a lifetime to Franco, 25, who gave Tiz the Law an inexperienced ride last fall in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. Franco got stuck inside in traffic and could not get out of it in time, finishing third.
“The Kentucky jockeys kind of schooled Manny in that one,” said Jack Knowlton, the managing partner of Sackatoga Stable, which owns Tiz the Law.
More seasoned riders wanted the mount on Tiz the Law, but Tagg and the Sackatoga partners stayed with Franco, who rewarded their faith by working harder at his craft.
“They made me a better jockey,” Franco said.
The Travers victory validated Sackatoga Stable’s ambitious schedule for Tiz the Law, one that mirrored itineraries of some of the sport’s greatest horses.
The Triple Crown champions Sir Barton (1919), Omaha (1935), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943) and Citation (1948) each competed in a race between the Preakness and the Belmont, typically the final two races in the series. All but Omaha were victorious.
The coronavirus pandemic, which has reshuffled seasons for many sports, has thoroughly upended the thoroughbred racing calendar. Instead of the Kentucky Derby serving as the first leg of the Triple Crown on the first Saturday in May, the Belmont Stakes took the leadoff spot for the first time in history, on a Saturday in June.
Tiz the Law’s victory in the Travers was particularly sweet for Knowlton. In 2003, he oversaw a New York-bred gelding, Funny Cide, who made the Sackatoga partnership semifamous by winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.
Knowlton, who lives in Saratoga Springs, and many of his partners were heartbroken that year when Funny Cide got sick and was scratched the day before the Travers.
Saturday’s victory was just the latest bit of consolation. After the Belmont victory, Knowlton and his 34 current partners sold Tiz the Law’s stallion rights in an eight-figure deal with Coolmore America’s Ashford Stud. Knowlton would not reveal the exact price, but he acknowledged that Sackatoga would receive bonuses if Tiz the Law were to win the Travers, the Derby, the Preakness and the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which is scheduled for November.
Now Sackatoga, Tagg and Franco will head to Kentucky with a colt that has been the best 3-year-old in the nation.
“It’s just so exciting,” Knowlton said. “When I saw this performance, it blows me away.”