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.
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.