There’s at least one definite in horse racing right now – Tiz the Law rules and has to be considered the favorite for the Kentucky Derby (G1) whenever they Run for the Roses.
Seizing the lead around the final turn, jockey Manny Franco gave Tiz the Law a little nudge and that was that – the 3-year-old colt pulled away from his rivals and won the $750,000 Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park on Saturday by 4 ¼ lengths.
Shivaree, an 80-1 long shot who set the pace with Ete Indien in hot pursuit, wound up second, three-quarters of a length ahead of third-place Ete Indien.
It was an odd day of racing, indeed. With no spectators, and most tracks around the nation having canceled live racing due to the coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19), the Florida Derby drew a field of 12 but four horses were scratched – rare for a Grade 1 dirt race under perfect weather conditions.
No matter. Tiz the Law, purchased by Sackatoga Stable for $100,000 and trained by Barclay Tagg (both of Funny Cide fame), stole the show. Sent off as the 7-5 favorite, Tiz the Law ($4.80 for a $2 win bet) more than lived up to his billing, stalking the pace before taking command in the stretch. He’s now 2-for-2 this year, and earned 100 Derby qualifying points to take over the top spot on the leaderboard with 122.
“All we know is that we’ve got a horse that’s very special, and it’s pretty exciting for us. Unfortunately none of us could be there today. We were all watching it on TV from coast to coast,” said Knowlton, who couldn’t be in attendance due to health and safety protocols that prohibited spectators, even owners, from attending the races.
Winning time for the 1 1/8 miles was 1:50.00.
Tagg, who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness with Funny Cide in 2003, said he was “ecstatic” with the way Tiz the Law performed.
“I was very impressed, but I’ve been impressed with everything he’s done,” Tagg said. “He just surprises me, everything he does. He just kind of rises to the occasion and does it with aplomb.”
For now, there’s no telling what’s next for the son of Constitution, other than remaining in Florida for the time being and see what happens in the months rather than weeks before the Kentucky Derby – rescheduled from May 2 to Sept. 5.
Ete Indien, who won the Fountain of Youth (G2) on Feb. 29 after finishing second to Tiz the Law in the Holy Bull, was third as the 5-2 second choice. Trained by Patrick Biancone, Ete Indien earned 20 Derby qualifying points to move to No. 3 on the leaderboard with 74 points. Shivaree, trained by Ralph Nicks for Jacks or Better Farms, moved in at No. 11 with 40 Derby points.
Gouverneur Morris was fourth (10 points to move to 24 Derby points), followed by Independence Hall, Candy Tycoon, My First Grammy, As Seen on Tv, and Rogue Element.
Disc Jockey, Sassy But Smart, Soros and Aljaaweed were all trainer scratches, allowing also-eligible Rogue Element to get into the field.
The only Derby prep race remaining (at least for now) is the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park on May 2, rescheduled from April 11.
“He is something special. It would be a lot of fun going to Kentucky in five weeks, but that’s not happening, obviously,” Knowlton said. “Now we get to run some more races. Maybe the Wood will come back in play. Maybe we can do a Travers-Derby double. Right now it’s a blank slate. Nobody knows what’s going to happen where or when with all that’s going on in the country.”
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Over the years while working at The Associated Press, Rich Rosenblatt became a familiar name to legions of the horse racing fans and industry insiders with his award-winning articles on horse racing and his stories from the backstretch.
In addition to being an astute observer of sports, Rosenblatt is the co-author of The All-American Chili Cookbook. His work has been seen in just about every publication in the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time Magazine.