Jack Knowlton says he isn’t quite ready to bring the school bus out of the garage, though a fleet of stretch limos would have come in handy on a fall day when memories of the dual spring classic winner Funny Cide were rekindled at Belmont Park.
Sixteen years after managing partner Knowlton and his numerous Sackatoga Stable partners and trainer Barclay Tagg won the first two legs of the 2003 Triple Crown with the New York State-bred Funny Cide, only to fall short of a sweep in the Belmont Stakes, the stable’s colors were on full display Oct. 5 in the Belmont Park winner’s circle after a major Grade 1 stakes.
This time it was their new state-bred star who scripted a new memory for the stable as Tiz the Law pulled away to a four-length victory over favored Green Light Go in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes for 2-year-olds.
“It’s sweet revenge getting the Grade 1 here,” Knowlton said.
Knowlton said he has about 30 partners in Tiz the Law, a son of first-year sire Constitution, and there was a fan club of about 50 on hand for the victory, but only he and longtime friend Lew Titterton remain from the Funny Cide group.
The new partnership also hopes to make the spring classics with another Tagg runner, but they most likely will not be following the traditional path for a Champagne winner. The decisive victory earned Tiz the Law a free spot in the $2 million TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park, but Knowlton and Tagg said traveling to California for the World Championships with a horse who has only started twice was “highly unlikely.”
Actually, Knowlton said it was “highly, highly, highly unlikely that we would go.”
Tagg also downplayed the Breeders’ Cup in favoring of focusing on either the $150,000 Nashua Stakes Nov. 3 at a one-turn mile or the $250,000, Grade 2 Remsen Stakes Dec. 7 at 1 1/8 miles in Tiz the Law’s third and final start at 2. Both of those stakes are at Aqueduct.
“It’s very, very doubtful,” Tagg said about the Breeders’ Cup. “It’s a little close [four weeks away and I think it will be pushing him.”
Knowlton was much happier to collect 10 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, which awarded 10-4-2-1 to the top four finishers in the Champagne.
“It’s a long way to Louisville, but 10 points today is a good start,” he said.
Running in the one-mile Champagne seemed ambitious as the colt out of the Tiznow mare Tizfiz had only started in a 6 ½-furong state-bred maiden race Aug. 8, winning by 4 ¼ lengths. Though a state-bred stakes was an option, Tiz the Law’s Beyer Speed Figure of 90 put the Champagne in play.
“They’re all 2-year-olds and only a few have had more than one or two starts,” said Tagg after his first Grade 1 win since 2010 when Jersey Town captured the Hill ‘n’ Dale Cigar Mile. “It wasn’t the most cautious thing, but I thought he was good enough to handle it. If he wasn’t, he would show us and if he was, he’d show us.”
Or as Knowlton put it, “His numbers showed he belongs. Other [2-year-olds] who have run a 90 Beyer have won the big race in California [Breeders’ Cup] and the big race in Kentucky [Kentucky Derby]. So why not us? No one who was going to be here ran as fast as us at Saratoga and he never got asked in that race. He got a great education at Saratoga and it gave us a lot of confidence that he’s a horse who can handle just about anything.”
The 148th Champagne unfolded with Stronach Stables’ Green Light Go, the 6-5 favorite, and Zayat Stables and Gary Barber’s Gozilla dueling for the lead through quarter-mile splits of :22.57 and :46.15. Jockey Manny Franco had Tiz the Law fifth in the field of six at that point. Leaving the quarter pole, Tiz the Law cruised into contention and opened a length lead at the eighth pole that only grew in the final furlong.
“It’s unimaginable that we have a horse who wins a New York-bred race and then a Grade 1 at Belmont,” said Knowlton after the stable’s first Grade 1 win since Funny Cide prevailed in the 2004 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. “We’re excited but we’ll try to stay grounded.”
The 7-5 second choice ($4.80) covered the mile in 1:35.41.
“I was just waiting for the moment. I didn’t want to move too early because I knew I had a lot of horse under me. I was trying to wait as long as I could. He lugged in a bit, he’s still a little green. I had a lot of horse at the end. He’s a nice horse,” Franco said.
Arklow Surges Late to Earn First Grade 1 in Joe Hirsch
Then, in deep stretch, the 5-year-old son of Arch found that final, elusive gear, surging past 2018 Joe Hirsch winner Channel Maker to secure the first Grade 1 victory of his career in the 1 1/2-mile test for 3-year-olds and older on the turf.
Winning trainer Brad Cox was thrilled to see Arklow prevail.
“It’s been a long journey to get there, but he finally got it done,” Cox said. “He’s had enough seconds in a row. He’s a cool horse. He’s a hard knocker for all of us. It’s fun.”—Frank Angst
Neptune’s Storm Ships in to Win Hill Prince
There’s no telling where an opportunity can present itself and for the California-based owners of Neptune’s Storm, Elmont, N.Y., was the place to be Oct. 5.
While original plans called for the 3-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic to be kept in California for the $200,000, Grade 2 Twilight Derby Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park, trainer Richard Baltas believed Neptune’s Storm was so eager to run that he should be shipped cross-country to run in the $401,200, Grade 2 Hill Prince Stakes at Belmont.
“There was really no 3-year-old races for him in California for him until the Twilight Derby and he had been training great. Richard said he was in great condition, so here we are,” part-owner John Rochfort said.
That “here” proved to be the winner’s circle as Neptune’s Storm closed nicely in the final sixteenth to register a three-quarters-of-a-length victory over A Thread of Blue in the 1 1/8-mile turf stakes for 3-year-olds Oct. 5.—Bob Ehalt
Alms Rallies to Matron Stakes Score
The City Zip bay arrived at the six-furlong event for juvenile fillies off a maiden victory at first asking Sept. 19 over Belmont's Widener turf course.
Alms 1 ¼-length win gave Godolphin and winning jockey Jose Lezcano a stakes double after the owner-jockey combo notched a win in the Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational Stakes with Final Frontier. Lezcano said he wanted to urge Alms into a winning rhythm early.
“At the three-eighths pole, I had to start asking her. She's still young and a little bit green,” Lezcano explained. “I wanted to ask her a little bit earlier because I know the turf is playing a little bit fast today and I didn't want to fall too far behind. Once I asked, she went on well to win the race. I think she can go longer.”