Sackatoga Stable's Tiz the Law turned in another regular breeze at Palm Meadows Training Center May 18, but connections are now eyeing a return to New York and a major race target now that the Empire State has received the green light for spectatorless racing beginning June 3.
The 3-year-old Constitution colt trained by Barclay Tagg will aim for the Belmont Stakes, Sackatoga managing partner Jack Knowlton said Monday. Originally scheduled for June 6 at Belmont Park, the Belmont Stakes will now be held on June 20, as announced by the New York Racing Association Tuesday. Racing was halted at NYRA's Aqueduct March 19 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and on April 16, NYRA announced that the original April 24 opener at Belmont Park would be delayed.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced May 16 that racetracks in the state may begin to conduct racing without spectators June 1. NYRA followed on Tuesday with the release of their stakes schedule for Belmont Park's summer 2020 meet, which will begin on June 3. The 25-day meet, held without fans, is scheduled to end on July 12.
"Tiz the Law will ship up to Belmont in early June and we'll have him up there in time so he can get at least a work over the track up there," said Knowlton on Monday prior to NYRA's announcement of June 20 as the date for the Belmont Stakes. "It is his home track, he won the Champagne Stakes there, so it's not any question that he can handle Belmont. We don't have to deal with that. We'll just be able to walk him over from Barclay's barn to be in that race."
Tiz the Law breezed a half-mile in :50 1/5 Monday at Palm Meadows. The work followed a five-furlong move in 1:00 1/5 May 9.
"He's been doing very well. Last week he had a bullet work going five furlongs. We've kind of been alternating fast works and slow works, so we're just trying to keep him healthy and happy. Now we finally got a road map," Knowlton said Monday. "If everything goes according to our plan he'll go to the Belmont."
Churchill Downs postponed the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve from May 2 to Sept. 5, and on May 16, the original Preakness Stakes date, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced on NBC that the Preakness will take place Oct. 3 at Pimlico Race Course. This year's Travers Stakes, traditionally the major race for 3-year-olds following the Triple Crown, was scheduled for Aug. 29 at Saratoga Race Course, and NYRA did not release any information about the historic Saratoga meet when they unveiled their Belmont schedule on Tuesday. In an unrevised schedule, the Travers is currently only a week before the Kentucky Derby.
"Hopefully when NYRA comes out with its schedule.... they would move the Travers Stakes to maybe the first of August," Knowlton said. "That would be our second stop and then the (Kentucky) Derby of course.
"We found out Saturday the Preakness is going to be Oct. 3. As long as he's doing what he's been doing and stays healthy and sound those would be the four races we'd be shooting for. Then hopefully he'd be good enough to take us to the Breeders' Cup."
In a message distributed via social media April 16, Breeders' Cup president and CEO Drew Fleming released a statement that the organization remains "fully committed to conducting the World Championships at Keeneland on Nov. 6 and 7."
Tiz the Law is undefeated in two starts at Gulfstream Park this year, taking the Curlin Florida Derby and Holy Bull Stakes, and is currently second on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 122 points. Gulfstream was closed to spectators during the Florida Derby March 28.
"Not being able to watch the Florida Derby in person was a big disappointment, but we're in times where there's a lot of disappointments and when you look at the whole scheme of things that certainly wasn't the worst thing in the world that could happen," said Knowlton.
Though Knowlton does not know if or when he will be able to watch his horses run in New York, Tiz the Law's return to his home track and Belmont Stakes target are cause for excitement.
"The one thing that we do know is Barclay can have him ready to run off a layoff," he said. "We've run two races off an eight-week and a nine-week layoff. This one could be 11, 12 weeks probably, but I have no reason to think this is going to be a problem. The nice thing is we'll have a fresh horse going into all of these races."