Sackatoga Stable’s Funny Cide may have arrived at Churchill Downs under the radar screen before winning the 2003 Kentucky Derby, but should things go well over the next few months, the ownership group’s current 3-year-old standout Tiz the Law surely won’t.
Already considered one of the leading Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve prospects after winning two of three starts as a 2-year-old, including the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes, Tiz the Law enhanced his reputation with a three-length victory over Ete Indien Feb. 1 in the $250,000, Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
From the get-go, Tiz the Law had his mind on running. He out-broke his six opponents and wanted to go to the lead, but jockey Manny Franco had other ideas. He took a hold of his mount, seeking to get him to settle from off the pace, and the colt laid off early leader Ete Indien, who set an opening quarter-mile in :23.31 in the 1 1/16-mile race.
As the field traveled down the backstretch, Relentless Dancer and Clear Destination advanced, momentarily pinning Tiz the Law inside. So Franco wrangled him back into fourth after a half-mile in :46.60, a move that allowed him to angle the colt outside them. Then Tiz the Law did the rest.
The Constitution colt engaged 4.20-1 shot Ete Indien on the outside and pulled within a length of the pacesetter, who hit three-quarters in 1:10.96. Tiz the Law gradually pulled ahead while drifting toward the inside down the stretch. He finished in 1:42.04, returning $4.60 as the 13-10 favorite.
“When I saw those guys putting pressure on, I was able to drop back and get outside where I wanted to be. After that, he jumped in the bit, and I was traveling like I wanted,” Franco said.
Winning trainer Barclay Tagg said the jockey was riding to instructions.
“We told [Franco] to stay off the rail, no matter what you have to do. Lose the ground and go around them. It worked out perfectly,” he said.
Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard
Toledo, the 9-5 second choice, ran third. He was never a threat to the top two and finished 11 1/2 lengths behind the runner-up. Toledo was followed by Relentless Dancer and Mayberry Deputy.
Last year, Tiz the Law went 2-for-2 on fast tracks, winning an Aug. 8 maiden race at Saratoga Race Course before the Oct. 5 Champagne at Belmont Park. Then, on a sloppy track in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes Nov. 30 at Churchill Downs, he disappointed as the 3-5 favorite, finishing third. Hemmed in traffic until the stretch, he failed to accelerate the same way he had in his previous starts and came up short, beaten three-quarters of a length by Silver Prospector.
“I think he proved today he’s the horse we saw in the Champagne,” Sackatoga Stable’s Jack Knowlton said.
In light of the Kentucky Jockey Club result on an off track, Tagg was admittedly a bit anxious about the weather Saturday. It rained overnight in South Florida but cleared during the day, leaving the main track fast.
“You couldn’t tell if he didn’t have the kick [on a sloppy track] last time or whether they just kept him in and crowded so much that he couldn’t get away,” he said. “I think it was more that than it was the track.”
Tiz the Law, out of the graded stakes-winning Tiznow mare Tizfiz, is one of three winners for his dam. The best of his siblings is Awestruck (by Tapit), who had four stakes placings from 2018-’19.
Tiz the Law earned 10 qualifying points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series to bring his total to 22. That ties him with 2-year-old champion Storm the Court, though the latter is ranked first because he has higher non-restricted stakes earnings.
Tagg said he would like to stretch the colt out and mentioned the $1 million TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby Mar. 21 at Fair Grounds as a possibility. That race was extended this year to 1 3/16 miles.
Coincidentally, Funny Cide raced in both the Holy Bull (fifth) and Louisiana Derby (second) at 3. He later ran second to Empire Maker in the Wood Memorial Stakes before turning the tables on him in the Derby.