PLANTATION, FL – Four months; not five weeks. That’s how long Thoroughbred fans must wait to find out whether Tiz the Law rules in this country or throughout the racing world.

Of course, this idea is absurd given the reality of the new world order—small w, small o. But the Constitution did send a two-word message that was loud enough to be heard in Arcadia: “Bring it!”

Under confident and flawless handling from partner Manny Franco, Tiz the Law not only delivered on his promise but, as he strode through the finish line at Gulfstream Park, indicated that there just might be more to come.

With a performance that assured he may be capable of handling any challenge thrown at him between the fences, Tiz the Law got stronger as the distance got longer, winning the 69th Florida Derby with utter authority.

Time will tell–when and if given that opportunity in this uncertain, liquified environment–whether his ascent to greatness is truly for real.

Certainly, there is more to prove, but until chinks in his armor beyond youthfulness are revealed, he remains ascendant. Indeed, just might be “one of the ones,” the kind that horsemen and Thoroughbred racing dream about.

Brilliance in the Thoroughbred is defined by performances made to look easy. While he had to effort passed a speedy upstart that outran his pedigree and portfolio, once done, the power within him continued to surge.

Alas there will be no measuring stick on display next Saturday at Santa Anita, where not only racing without fans was halted this week but where jockeys and their agents no longer are not permitted on the backstretch during training hours.

The next target for prime time three-year olds should be, assuming no further pandemic escalation–a sizable if–is May 2 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It would be a Derby without the same cache, without roses, but one that could be as memorable as any run in Louisville, Kentucky.

For now, as the scourge of 2020 continues to play itself out, lending new life perspective with each passing moment, enjoying this instant is more essential than ever.

It will be a while before we learn whether Tiz the Law will become the 45th Florida Derby performer to become the 60th winner of a Triple Crown event: a 25th Derby; a 20th Preakness; a 17th Belmont.

Thoroughbred racing is a game built around all the tomorrows ahead. But as a wise man said, tomorrow is guaranteed no one. For now, we must settle for “I remember the day Tiz the Law won the Florida Derby.”

Aqueduct Hospital by the Bay

The New York Racing Association made it official Saturday, the day after New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the state would seek required federal approval to construct a temporary hospital to serve the borough of Queens with a 1,000-plus patient facility.

Aqueduct Racetrack canceled the remainder of the winter and spring meet when the state gained approval Saturday. “The governor’s ability to quickly marshal all available resources is saving lives and inspiring action both here and across the nation,” said NYRA President David O’Rourke, then added:

“NYRA is continuing to strategize the safest options for a return to racing at Belmont Park… A revised live racing schedule is an ongoing consideration but secondary to our primary commitment to the health and well-being of the community.”

The Wood Memorial, previously slated for April 4 at Aqueduct, has been postponed to a date yet to be determined. The 152nd Belmont Stakes is currently scheduled for June 6. The term “uncharted waters” has been overused recently, but never has it been more apt.

Meanwhile, in Saratoga…

Received a personal email yesterday from a friend of 40+ years, a Saratoga native who still lives there with his family, bringing me up to speed on Spa City developments. His thoughts below:

“…I saw you asked one of your correspondents some information about how things are in SS. Here goes:

“Saratoga Springs, the dynamic and energetic small tourist/racing city is in near total shutdown. Restaurants are take-out only. Supermarkets are on reduced hours. Almost all retail is shuttered until further notice.

“The Oklahoma Training Track will not open this spring, and regardless of NYRA’s recent press release, the summer meet is very much up in the air. 

“Gov. Cuomo is hoping the best-case scenario is three more weeks until the pendulum swings in the other direction. If that holds, it does NOT mean things return to normal in three weeks. 

“Downtown is a ghost town. Before it shuttered completely, the Adelphi was off 90 percent. 

“[My wife] and I continue to walk downtown, and I continue to bike around. We’ll see very few people, although interestingly the State Park is crowded with folks seeking fresh air, and good for them.

“Our health and that of most Saratogians is good. But we are doing our best to stay indoors unless it is absolutely necessary to go shopping or to the drug store. Washing hands dozens of times each day.

“Most medical offices are closed and calling their patients for re-scheduling later in the year. For example, my semi-annual dermatology appointment for April has been pushed to December.

“As far as racing, I would hope (with no inside information) that the leaders of NYRA, Keeneland and CD are communicating with each other with what, in my view, is a looming collision of making up dates.

“We know the Derby has declared for Labor Day weekend. As Tom Jicha pointed out, this is typical CD arrogance. What input does NYRA and the Maryland Jockey Club have for the Belmont and Preakness? 

“Keeneland weeks ago canceled its spring meet. Very thoughtful by a first-class organization and forward thinking. NYRA took it as far as they could. And it was a bad look, as was SA, just inviting the CHRB to step in.

“After all, how bad could SA look in 2019 with the deaths in January? Not to mention the slimy Justify TC. (won’t that be fun when he is Hall of Fame eligible!!!)

“What really intrigues me is whether Keeneland will try and make up dates this summer, possibly in competition with Saratoga. Wow. 

“I was thinking this morning about whether or not Saratoga 2020, if it occurs, can possibly be normal. 

“Without doubt, hundreds, if not thousands, of regular fans are unemployed. Business owners are taking massive hits. 

“Will they be able (or willing) to pay Saratoga prices for reserved seats, clubhouse boxes, Turf Terrace luncheons (an item which starved last year), Saratoga hotel prices, and so forth?

“Owners are also taking big time hits without racing’s daily purses. Will NYRA and others pay out what is left in the account when they resume? The loss from Genting must be staggering. 

“Even in Saratoga, the impact of the casino being closed is major. Some 300 employees, the cut to the harness racing side, the tourism of the hotel, and the simulcast parlor are all now into their 3rd week of no action. 

“The Saratoga tax base is taking a major hit from that alone, not to mention the State of New York most likely taking casino revenue earmarked for cities back to the state. That is a big number here and taxes are going to go up bigtime in 2021.

“So the Coronavirus is a killer, both literally and figuratively. I also wonder how long the owners and trainers can afford to keep the stable help on the job with no racing.

“Enjoy the Florida Derby. Even as a friend of Jack Knowlton, an admirer of Barclay and a believer that Tiz the Law is potentially a killer/monster of a colt, I simply do not have my normal enthusiasm.”

Who could? On every level, the scourge of 2020 continues to take an emotional toll on us all.

COMING TUESDAY: Observations on Florida Derby Day racing…

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12 Responses

  1. JP–
    Sorry not to have responded sooner to your request for an update on what life is like back here in ‘toga. Your correspondent nailed it–especially the observation that Broadway is a ghost town. In fact I think there will be sightings of tumbleweeds blowing down the main drag before long!
    The only point that I might take a more optimistic view about is the opening of the Oklahoma Training track. Since a number of the local trainers (who have been growing in numbers over the years) depend on it, I think it will open next month. However, with the outbreak of coronavirus at Belmont, there may be restrictions on shippers from downstate…..so we will have to see how it plays out.

    Stay hopeful and healthy!
    Chuck from Saratoga

    1. Well, the reopening of Oklahoma might give some of the Florida horses a place to go but that’s just a guess depending on restrictions in place. Guess I’d be worried more about backstretch workers shipping north from Belmont. I don’t know what one does about workers co-habitating in dorms, unable to afford independent housing. Thanks for the update. Stay safe please and only good thoughts for all my old neighbors…

  2. JP–
    One comment on yesterday’s results at GP. The Sand Springs was 1,2 for Brendan Walsh with his longer price (5-1) beating his other filly (3-2). The Pan American was 1,2 for Mike Maker with his longer price (9-1) beating his other horse (3-5). The Appleton was 1,2 for Todd Pletcher with his longer price (6-1) beating his other horse (4-1).
    The “other” angle was alive and well in the stakes at GP yesterday!!
    Chuck from Saratoga

    1. I noticed. Here I thought I was on to a burgeoning trend and here you have to go pull a Ralph Cramden: “I’ve gotta’ BIG MOUTH.”

  3. Not just “other” Wins, but “other” Exactas; and all in the P6 sequence.

    Other “angle” or other “odor?” LOL

    Alpha Zulu lost more ground on the turn than he finished behind his stablemate, and probably surprised
    Maker (16% winners) as well.

    Social Paranoia lived up to his class promise for Pletcher (22%) while
    Sombeyay beat all former rivals despite getting an outer post and +6lbs.
    March to the Arch was better than his placing.

    La Signare appeared to be improving under Walsh (14%) in 4th race off a layoff,
    but it was his Zofelle who took most of the money after ML favorite scratched.
    P6 leg 1 was tough race to handicap for me!

    I guess it will be awhile before we see a card as interesting as that one.

  4. I, think I’ll just say yes to all of the above. However, no sympathy for Zulu. Current was a horse to watch for me out of Tampa return. Chase the pace all the way going a mile and a half and battled favorite right to the end, both beaten by the perfect-tripping other half. Beaten a neck and a head at 37-1. Heart-breaking and score busting result!

  5. I have a serious question. Are backstretch personnel eligible for the stimulus checks the government is sending out?

    Are they eligible for unemployment plus $600?

    I can’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be. If they are, the fears of losing them during a shutdown should be mitigated.

  6. I just second-guessed myself.

    If they are eligible for super employment it might be tough to keep them from taking that option.

  7. Aqueduct has always been an asylum! What, yous all forgot the inner track months with its cheap, slow races bet by mostly degenerates of all types?

  8. John: I’m not sure if you saw Mike MacAdam’s piece in the Daily Gazette but it contains some sobering opinions about whether or not the Saratoga meet will even be conducted this year. When you read that both Paul Matties and Ed Stanco have less than optimistic views as to a Saratoga summer, then one must have serious doubts about racing this summer.

    However, the more sobering thoughts were provided by Todd Pletcher and Jim Bond. John, if we don’t race at Saratoga this year, what is to become of the future of NY racing? I know that its just a very low priority when considering that, perhaps, millions of lives are are the line, but if trainers and owners cannot pay to take care of the horses, what will be left of the sport?

  9. Fram, at this point I’m concerned about everything, but given how overarchingly important Thoroughbred racing is to that region, I must have faith that all efforts will be made.

    Personally, I’m not going to handicap this situation. All I can do is follow the facts on the ground, wait, and see…

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