Managing partner Jack Knowlton and his fellow Sackatoga Stable owners stepped out of a yellow school bus at Churchill Downs to gain an upset victory with New York-bred gelding Funny Cide in the 2003 Kentucky Derby. In another unexpected twist, Knowlton and Sackatoga are back on the Derby trail with another promising New York-bred, Tiz the Law.
Knowlton will take followers of America’s Best Racing on the Road to the Derby in a diary written with Tom Pedulla. Tiz the Law heads into the $250,000, Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes on Saturday at Gulfstream Park ranking fifth with 12 Derby qualifying points and $304,100 in non-restricted stakes earnings. The Holy Bull will award points to the top four finishers on a 10-4-2-1 basis.
Here is the second installment of Knowlton’s diary:
I wish Tiz the Law was coming into the Holy Bull with a perfect 3-for-3 record, and deep down I thought that would be the case. But it was not to be.
He got off a step slow in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last Nov. 30 at Churchill Downs. Before you knew it, he and jockey Manny Franco got pinned inside. The other riders knew Tiz was the horse to beat in that race after he dominated the Champagne [Stakes] by four lengths. They treated him that way.
He was stuck on the worst part of a sloppy track with a pace much slower than the one he got in the Champagne. Although he has a tremendous closing kick, we never got to see that kick in the Kentucky Jockey Club. As hard as Manny tried, he could never get Tiz in the clear to make his run and he finished third.
Of course, it was disappointing. We know Tiz is much better than that. But that is racing. Tiz, unlike Funny Cide, is not flying under the radar. He is going to have a target on his back every time he runs.
He is consistently ranked among the top Derby contenders and deservedly so. After winning the Champagne by four lengths and with the upset that occurred in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, we thought the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old was well within reach if he had won the Kentucky Jockey Club.
Despite his first defeat, he still managed to check some boxes. Trainer Barclay Tagg and his assistant, Robin Smullen, have really given him a strong foundation for his 3-year-old season. The 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club gave him a race at Churchill Downs, he has experience at two turns, and Manny assured us he can handle the slop.
The 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull is the first of two preps we plan to use if Tiz is good enough to get to the Kentucky Derby. The 1 3/16-mile Louisiana Derby on March 21 at Fair Grounds in New Orleans is the other.
Especially with young horses, Barclay emphasizes the need to give them plenty of time between starts. We like the spacing of the races we chose. The Holy Bull was pretty obvious for us because Tiz is based at Palm Meadows Training Center, a relatively short van ride away from Gulfstream. And then there is plenty of time to prepare him for the Louisiana Derby.
We think our horse is as ready as he can be for the Holy Bull. Manny flew down from New York to work him at Palm Meadows last Sunday. Tiz started behind a stablemate and easily overtook him in drilling four furlongs in 48 seconds flat, fastest of 40 horses working the distance that morning at Palm Meadows.
I watched the work and it was so impressive. He made it look easy. He was as steady as he could be down the stretch and he is always strong galloping out. He never wants to be pulled up. He always wants more.
Tiz will be a solid favorite in the Holy Bull. We respect the competition, but there are no graded stakes winners in there. We anticipate a lot of speed, so the race should set up well for him. Look for him to be forwardly placed. Gulfstream is typically a speed-favoring track. We want to be sure not to leave him too much to do because of the short stretch there.
All we ask for is a clear run. Tiz can take care of the rest.