Of course, the horse made it possible, and the horse always comes first. Talent notwithstanding, it’s horsemanship that allows God-given ability to develop.
Racing analyst Andy Serling said it best: “Barclay Tagg has never met a horse that couldn’t go longer.”
The run made by New York-bred Tiz the Law was the kind of performance that at first leaves the viewer stunned and amazed. Simply stated, there are no words for what occurred Saturday at Saratoga Race Course; only seeing was believing.
And that wasn’t the only latter-day performance worthy of a time capsule in a racing year like no other, just one crest in a wave that only the promise of “a chance of a lifetime in a lifetime of chance” can bring.
Travers Day 2020, a day that will live in storied triumph in the eerie quiet of Saratoga Race Course. In that, the horse, the connections, and the sport, deserved better.
When we first wrote–even after American Pharoah had broken a 37-year drought–that the Triple Crown should be lengthened from May’s first Saturday to Memorial Day to Independence Day, envisioning America once again celebrating horse racing, the outcry was loud and clear:
“Five weeks is what makes it special,” it was argued. “A lengthened schedule disrespects the greats of the past.” Racing can’t hold the public’s attention that long without a short, intense bright light, they’d lose interest.”
Now that Tiz the Law is the only Thoroughbred eligible for a Quad Crown, we’re about to learn that’s not true, especially if her were to win the Kentucky Derby.
The thought of it is playing out on TV with expert analysts, former practitioners, and active horsemen marvel at the challenge of what lies ahead.
If–and it’s a big if—one horse could run a gauntlet spanning a June 20th Belmont, an August 8th Travers, a September 5th Kentucky Derby and an October 3rd Preakness, it would be a sweep of America’s most prestigious three-year-old events while holding form for 106 days.
By definition in this era, it would represent the unthinkable. No mile and a half event? Sure. So how does that stack up with two mile and a quarters? Not knowable. And does one even dare think Breeders’ Cup Classic against older 35 days after that?
Its only true competitor in three-year-old history would be mighty Secretariat’s Triple Crown campaign of 1973 which also included victories the Arlington Invitational, Marlboro Cup, Man o’ War and Canadian International.
But it must be noted that Secretariat lost thrice that year, in the Wood Memorial, Whitney, and Woodward while a table sweep by Tiz the Law would end a three-year-old year that also included wins in the G2 Holy Bull and G1 Florida Derby, America’s leading Kentucky Derby prep.
On balance, these imaginings unfair to Tiz the Law’s connections. But in troubled times when Thoroughbred racing has enjoyed something of a renaissance, could the sport have better representation than Tagg, Robin Smullen, and Saratoga syndicator Jack Knowlton?
The nuts and bolts are these of the 2020 Travers are these. Tiz the Law won the race by 5-1/2 lengths in 2:00.95, completing an eased-up final quarter mile in 24.53. History will remember it this way, in the official Equibase chart footnote written by Dan Kulchisky:
“TIZ THE LAW away well, raced forwardly placed three wide through the opening bend before settling under a firm hold perched three wide outside the top pair, remained on hold and patiently handled steadily advancing on the leader into the turn as SHIVAREE bowed out at the nine-sixteenths, remained three wide through the far turn, the riding remaining statuesque in stark contrast to his main rival and the leader UNCLE CHUCK who came under a drive three furlongs from home, assumed command nearing the quarter pole, the rider sneaking a peak back to asses any danger, got roused three then two wide, straightened away into upper stretch, drifted out under cross-reined encouragement and was corrected with a lone off sided stick while drawing clear, then got geared down just outside the sixteenth pole to cruise home in impressive fashion.”
Thoroughbred racing poetry. Somewhere Don Fair and Jack Wilson are smiling, knowing that a “trackman” also rose to meet the moment.
Tiz the Law is the sport’s “now horse,” and he’s as old school as his trainer. He breaks, settles, and runs you down. It’s as simple as that, and he makes it look easy. Once the challenge is met, he gets bored and drifts around, as if looking for fresh challengers.
Tagg, of course, has been winning races since before I get my first newspaper job in 1970. Once he gets his hands on a good one, he develops them slowly, and those types stick around year after year.
The Travers dye was cast when Tagg won the Travers Day opener with the gelded five-year-old Doswell who clearly has had his issues. After making debut on July 14, 2017, he didn’t return until Jan. 6, 2019 at Gulfstream, a 541-day break, then 159 days later, Belmont Park.
Yesterday, making his first start after four runs for Chad Brown, Doswell broke maiden by a never threatened 2-1/2 lengths with a final sixteenth in 05.97, coming off a layup of 341 days.
No need to meet the new boss, the old boss is doing fine, thank you.
There were several extraordinary performances on the Travers undercard. We’ll look at the most notable developments here Tuesday