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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


It didn’t take long for some interesting questions to arise in the aftermath of Derby-146, such as was it the jock’s fault? Was the racetrack to blame? What about the shorter spacing between starts? How much does “the Baffert effect” color the results?

The one factor the majority of Racing Twitter respondents failed to consider was to blame Authentic, who proved best on the first Saturday in September.

The pleasant surprise as I checked my Sunday morning feed revealed that most of the fans upset by Tiz the Law’s Derby defeat were reasonable in their assessments of how it all went wrong.

Many thought, for instance, that Manny Franco should have moved sooner, been more aggressive, establishing a more forward position into the backstretch, applying greater pace pressure on the leader during the backstretch run.

But even if we assume that presumption is correct, what cannot be assumed is that it would have magically altered the outcome. For one thing, it’s 2020, for another, it’s the reason why horse races aren’t run on paper.

You dance with the one that brought you and it seems that Tiz the Law prefers running outside of horses. Is that his Achilles heel?  

Perhaps, but he wouldn’t be the first. Every observer believed only horrendous racing luck would deny him a Kentucky Derby victory. Franco did his job.

It is more reasonable to believe that the Churchill surface proved his demise—and didn’t help Honor A.P. any, either. Note that in an eight-race career, Tiz the Law’s only defeats came on the Churchill surface.  

American dirt horses fall into three categories: A Horse for Course, a Horse for All Courses, or a Horse On Any Other Course But this one… Need convincing?

Try asking Saratoga race fans why they consider Fourstardave and Quick Call local equine legends.

Was the four-weeks spacing a factor? It didn’t look that way in Tiz the Law’s post-Travers workouts. But horses fool observers, including their handlers, all the time. There is good reason to believe that Tiz the Law regressed.

Whether or not one ascribes to “bounce theory,” Tiz the Law was flat. He ranged up alongside Authentic as if to blow by but didn’t. Was it the strip? Probably. But at no point did he appear in attack mode.

Tiz the Law needed his A+ game on Saturday and, for whatever reason, didn’t bring it.

The name of Bob Baffert and medication, legal and otherwise, have been used in the same sentence before. Lacking proof, I will not go there now.

But that is why an independent oversight panel combining horsemen and federal officers–not political appointees–must adjudicate issues like this on a national level.

When it comes to Baffert, I’ve been both fan and critic. But to deny him due as a top horseman is unreasonable and unfair.

If one wants to see the latest example of his skill in preparing a horse for a peak effort on the day, call up Authentic’s post-Haskell workouts on XBTV and decide for yourself.

An item of note in the Churchill Downs press release quoted Baffert directly when he stated that Authentic, who ran the seventh fastest Kentucky Derby in history, “wasn’t even tired… I couldn’t believe it.”

Baffert added that both Authentic and Thousand Words would remain at Churchill in the care of “this Wayne Lukas guy” and, if all went well both would run race at Pimlico on OCT. 3, the final jewel of the 2020 Triple Crown, asterisk no longer at issue.

As for Tiz the Law’s Preakness prospects, he returned to Belmont Park today and will be evaluated by Barclay Tagg before determination would be made on when and where he will race next.

Derby Winner Authentic Baltimore Bound; What of Tiz the Law?

Sackatoga Stable’s managing partner Jack Knowlton wants a revenge match next month but we think that Knowlton and Tagg should consider another alternative, one we believe would serve the game and, ultimately, their interests best.

Assume that Tiz the Law is, on balance, still the best three-year old in America, even if he is ranked second to Authentic in the latest NTRA 3YO Poll.

But more interesting–confusing?–is that the Open Poll, used as a potential ‘Horse of the Year‘ barometer, ranks Tiz the Law at #8, Authentic at #9. Go figure. Maximum Security is #1.

In this conjured scenario, there is a rematch in Baltimore and Authentic wins again, thus clinching an Eclipse title as the top three-year-old male of 2020.

But, if the colt gives Tagg an indication that longer spacing were more prudent, why would the Preakness result be any different, surface notwithstanding?  

But if Tiz the Law skipped the Preakness, he could enter the Breeders’ Cup Classic nine weeks fresh. There is less downside losing to older horses. But with a Classic win over international competition, a Horse of the Year title would be assured.

Of course, the task would be more difficult, but then the colt would have more time to develop, has proven best when fresh, and monetarily it’s not close: The Preakness purse is $1 million; the 2020 Classic is worth $7-million.

I’m not under any pressure, so it’s easy for me to say. But if I felt like I had something greater to prove, I would want to show the international racing world just how good my horse really is.

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24 Responses

  1. I would have loved for Tiz The Law to forget about the Preakness and run in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Nothing wrong with trying to beat older horses on a surface we already know he loves at a place where he is very comfortable residing as a confidence boost while going 10f.

    And in case they were not anxious to return to Kentucky again, it would give them a nice place to run for a prestigious trophy while still having time left to run somewhere the last 6 weeks of the year if he emerged fresh.

    However, I believe they greatly reduced the purse of the JCGC this year from 750k to 250k, so can’t see that happening.

    1. Doc, think you answered your own proposal vis a vis purse reduction for JCGC, Preakness also was lowered from $1.5M to $1M; sad reality of the times.

      But JCGC does not carry Horse of the Year weight, only the Classic, IMO, can do that. I’m a huge Preakness fan! But I was just playing horse owner and sport advocate. Anxious to see how it will shake out.

      BTW: I think Art Collector will have something to say about the Preakness result…

      1. Yeah the JCGC is an extremely prestigious race, and only have to go back to last year to see a horse romping in the BC Classic after running in the GC, but they cut the legs out of it this year and if Tagg thinks there is still enough juice in the lemon in 2020, there is no reason to waste a bullet for about a $138k payday going 10f.

        In fact, if he did choose to run there, I’d probably take that as a sign Tagg is trying to scoop one last pot at the session with a less than premium hand, and jam it in against Tiz.

        I’m not going to go on my usual diatribe about a great Belmont meet being once again disrespected by NYRA since this purse reduction is just a victim of 2020.

      2. Part 2:

        come to think of it, might this be a nice spot for Max Player to try to earn G1 black type at a classic distance? Given his style, it feels way more realistic of a spot than the Preakness, in my opinion he isn’t BC Classic level, and Asmussen has about 431 horses that would make a more than sufficient rabbit over Big Sandy.

        1. Doc, I love Max Player – he’s a very cool, talented and consistent colt. I think he could easily improve enough to be a leading older horse next year, but I’m inclined to agree with you about the Classic. His interfering owner, however, might not. I think the Gold Cup would be perfect for him as well.

          1. You guys could be my stable manager; would seem that the JCGC is a good spot to meet older over a track he likes.

  2. If Tiz were to return to KY it would be to Keeneland for BC and not Churchill. Pretty sure he’ll show up there. Determines a lot of the end of year voting, etc. I wasn’t crazy about Manny ride, either. But, as JP points out, it’s all Monday Morning Quarterbacking, in a sense. Plus, Authentic had trouble free, clear sailing all the way. Nothing wrong with Post 18, IMO.

    1. C, one starting gate mitigates wide draw in Derby to a large degree; rather be out there than inside, all else being equal.

      Last published quotes from Jack Knowlton, and earlier ones too, mentioned Preakness but no Breeders’ Cup. They want to have a fresh 4YO. Meanwhile, there is almost three months from BC Classic to Pegasus.

      Again, if he were mine, I would never support races run in Saudi Arabia or UAE. Sadly, the 1% will always follow the money and our enemies know it. UAE is an ally in name only…

      And I don’t like the impact they have on the American racing schedule.

  3. Very reasonable observations. I think it is good for racing that we are having this conversation. Really appreciate Johnny V’s ride. Nice to see a jockey get credit. Surprised the Cordero/Franco connection wasn’t played up a little more.

    1. Mainstream racing media not known for stirring up any pots that might be perceived as negative.

      And, yes, conversations like these are good for racing. What would Rep. John Lewis have called it. Maying “good trouble”?

      Finally, speaking of agents, how about the job Kairan McLoughlin and Matt Musikar are doing for Luis Saez and Tyler Gaffalione?

      BTW, it was great to see how well Angel was looking when he presented the Spa riding title award to Irad. Sad that so many positive things have gotten lost this summer. The racing has been outstanding virtually everywhere.

  4. Never before have I read so much verbiage about one race lasting a couple of minutes. Would like to read just how much the commentators’ won on the race. Ya’all could have done probably better (cashed a ticket, Alice) on a race at any of the twenty-plus other racetracks in the country operating Saturday

    Mr. Jicha, please come back; give me something to comment on.

  5. Apparently Mr. Jicha has lost all his passion for the game, at least for this space it would seem, anyway.

    Ad to think he has said many times here that the Kentucky Derby was his favorite racing event.

    Racing fans apparently have some interest in the sport. Thoroughbred racing has a great history. Sorry you choose not to enjoy it.

  6. Enjoy what, Mr. Pricci? Talk about a few races per year that are over-blown; involve a handful of trainers that are way overrated, and who seem to win them consistently (and laugh all the way to the bank), while bettors collect peanuts on a win ticket (having to rely on an exotic bet to make a score, which is seldom).

    Surprise! I very much enjoy Thoroughbred race, and have for six decades. My enjoyment is cashing tickets, not discussing prior races that mean nothing to me once the plodders cross the finish line. Take away the ability to bet on a plater and you will see how ‘racing fans apparently have some interest in the sport (sport? Alice).

    1. The trainers, like BB, win with such regularity that even Alice would agree they are worthy of praise. I mean, c’mon. Authentic may not have been able to win “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports” on Saturday had he not been trained by Baffert. This guy is a miracle worker. And Asmussen and the others are right behind him in notching win after win in important races. Look, I liked Dainty Dotsie (1978) and what she was able to do at Philly Park (also at Penn and Meadowlands) but she was a speed freak like Serengeti Empress and Baffert took Authentic and got him to roll at a mile and a quarter. After the race he was interviewed and said, about Authentic, “I looked at him and he wasn’t even tired.” Props to Team Baffert for a big win.

      1. As stated, I am a fan and a critic and need to stay objective when it comes to assessing what his horses will do in any given scenario. But in this instance, he did put on a training clinic on how to get one ready for a trip that the majority observers believed was not in Authentic’s scope.

  7. John: You have been watching and analyzing races since the glorious 60s. I am only one decade behind you as I made my first visit to the Big A during the heydays of Stevie Cauthen dominating the Inner Track. However, what has always been true, and will be true until the end of time, is that all of the people can’t be right all of the time. John, I was very concerned last Saturday when I saw that everyone on Fox and almost everyone on TVG picked Tiz to win. It was too much weight for any horse to carry-even the greats Kelso and Forego. How we forget that even Big Red had his less than stellar moments- that it was the Chief who did him in, twice, mind you- only demonstrates that these are flesh and blood animals, and not Robots. All of this sturm and drang is nothing but the quintessential losers lament. Authentic was the better horse last Saturday. Closed Case.

    However, every big Triple Crown loss, always brings me back to the loudest, most egotistical trainer of them all. Buddy Delp never hesitated to tell everyone within earshot, or 100 miles, whichever was further away, that Spectacular Bid was the “greatest horse to ever look through a bridle”. John, like you, I was at Belmont that day, and I have never believed that absurd story of “The Pin”. Ronnie Franklin lived with Delp, and had to listen to Delp every day tell him that Bid was the greatest horse ever. Franklin was just riding to his instructions when he got into that front end battle with Gallant Best. After all, Secretariat ran Sham into the ground after 3/4 in 9 and change, so how could Bid not do the same thing to any of the mere mortals in his Belmont? Well, Bid was no Secretariat, Slew or Affirmed. Not many are. Last Saturday, we learned that Tiz is not a Slew or Big Red either. It doesn’t diminish his accomplishments nor does it mean that somehow Manny Franco was the guilty party. For that matter, Ronnie Franklin wasn’t the guilty party back in 79, either.

    1. Franco’s numbers are comparable to Dylan Davis who by the way was in some 25-30 less rides than Franco and still only had one less victory than him. Same with the Belmont numbers.No matter how you cut it Franco does not belong with the top echelon of the New York jockey colony.Being only some 34 % in the money is another critical spot. Numbers are facts especially when we compare them with other riders who have been active in both Belmont and Saratoga.His mounts don’t change any odds or possibilities of winning,well, not in a positive outlook,anyway.


      1. Long time reader? First time commenter, welcome.

        Why the dissing of Franco, don’t get it, really? Only the elite riders and super trainers capable of rocking the tote board, along with the last minute batch bettors enabled by the betting segment of the industry that allows special access to a few at the cost of many. (Sorry, for off-message rant response).

        Please don’t forget that Franco has several NY riding titles and when Dylan starts getting better mounts from top-percentage barns, there’s probably several in his future, too.

        I like both their riding styles. There not the Ortiz’s or Joel’s, Johnny’s or Javier’s yet, but give them time.

        Dylan had a great Saratoga, as did Jose Lezcano. On balance, best jock’s room in America, enjoy them all!

  8. IMO, he should skip the Preakness – especially since Tagg is inclined to. I don’t like it when owners won’t listen to their trainers.

    On the same subject, I listened to an interview Andy Serling did with Steve Byk. I had to laugh at Andy’s astonishment at HAP being dead last…as he said more than once, “he’s never been THAT slow”, lol. That’s what cost HAP, not the start. Andy is surprised that HAP is not – likely- running in the Preakness because essentially that’s what these races are for, it’s a Classic. Part of me agrees, but not completely because there are other options. If this were a normal year, and HAP didn’t win the Derby, I feel confident he would have skipped the Preakness to point for the Belmont… I would LOVE to see this colt in the Jockey Club Gold Cup – he’s MADE for Belmont. I know that running back to back 1 1/4 is not ideal, but Honor A.P. is big and strong; he can take it.

    1. Yeah absolutely second that thought re: HAP. I could easily see that colt becoming extremely happy in the mornings with the massively wide turns and the surface of Belmont Park, along with the crisp fall air in the morning in NY and feeling like a million bucks by the time the JCGC field is loading. I think he’d feel like he’s finally home.

      I’m afraid the massive Covid purse reduction this year would make that plan less likely. But he’s another colt who an early October 10f grade 1 at Belmont Park is just tailor made for.

      1. Doc, this is why I was sooo upset when Honor A.P.’s connections chose to stay in California for the SA Derby. It’s nothing against that prestigious race, but Belmont is my favorite track and the Belmont my favorite TC race, and I so wanted him to run on and in it (even though obviously I couldn’t have been there). The Belmont was far more lucrative than the SA Derby, so even though you referenced the Gold Cup being greatly reduced, I don’t think that part of it would be a deal breaker.

        What’s interesting is that Honor A.P.’s owners also own Midcourt, so I can’t see these two racing against each other. There are pretty much two choices : the Awesome Again or the Gold Cup. I guess we need to see how HAP came out of the Derby…..I’m not sure it’s a guarantee that the colt is pointed for the BC; I think a lot depends on if John believes HAP is ready or if he has to work on certain things. The horse doesn’t have enough points right now, so I don’t think training up to the BC is an option.

    2. Tiz did that, back to back 1 1/4 and he was not able to go by Authentic. Steve Hasken said Travers and then Dy may have cost him. Doubt’s TTL will go to Baltimore.

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