With most of the sports world still idle in the midst of Covid-19, horse racing grabbed the spotlight Saturday evening with the Belmont Stakes serving as the opening leg of the Triple Crown for the first time in history.
And, for the first time since 1882, a New York-bred earned its way into the Belmont history books.
In striking distance throughout the 1 1/8-miles, Tiz the Law cruised past pacesetter Tap It to Win down the stretch and was never threatened by closers Dr Post and Max Player on the way to a 3 ¾-lengths victory in the 152nd running of the Belmont Stakes.
“I was pretty confident by the time we hit the seven-eighths pole,” said Tiz the Law’s jockey, Manny Franco, who secured his first career Triple Crown race win. “He was so kind and relaxed for me,” he added. “He was so comfortable and never got keen, so I think that was the key.”
Franco, 25, the New York Racing Association’s leading rider the past two years, has piloted Tiz the Law to all four of his graded stakes victories, including three in a row. “It means a lot to me,” he said. “This is my home track. I've been riding here for about six years already. One leg of the Triple Crown is the dream of any jockey. I'm happy with the opportunity that I have right now.”
Owned by Sackatoga Stable and trained by Barclay Tagg, Tiz the Law, bred in the Empire State by Twin Creeks Farm, returned $3.60 on a $2 win wager, increasing his career earnings to more than $1.5 million. The final time was 1:46.53.
“It's tremendous [to win the Belmont with a New York-bred],” said Jack Knowlton, operating manager of Sackatoag Stable. “We buy New York-breds, that's our game, and we don't spend a lot of money. We've been with Barclay Tagg for 25 years and I keep telling everybody, Barclay doesn't get a lot of big horses, big opportunities, but when he does, he knows what to do.”
Tagg, who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 2003 with Funny Cide, said his main concern leading up to the shortened Belmont was Tiz the Law’s 11-week layoff. But that proved a non-factor. “It looked to me like everything just went like clockwork,” he said. “That's the way the horse likes to run and that’s the position the horse likes to be in. Manny knows the horse very well.”
Held without spectators and owners, and with only limited media permitted to attend, Tagg thought the quietude was “very nice” and said the absence of crowd noise helped keep Tiz the Law calm, and it showed.
“About the five-eighths pole, my horse was so relaxed, so calm,” Franco explained. “From there, I knew I had so much horse to win the race. I didn't want to move early. I knew I had the horse underneath. I was just waiting for the right time to move.”
Dr Post, trained by three-time Belmont winner Todd Pletcher, finished a length-and-a-half ahead of Max Player for runner-up status. Both horses were making just their fourth career starts. The $1 trifecta returned $99.50. Pneumatic, Tap It to Win, Sole Volante, Modernist, Farmington Road, Fore Left and Jungle Runner completed the order of finish.
“He ran great,” Dr Post jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. said. “No excuse. He got beat by a good horse too. The winner is a nice horse, New York-bred and he ran great. My horse is improving. . . He just needs a little more time to figure things out.”
Linda Rice, trainer of Max Player, said: “He got shuffled back a little after the break and had a wide trip through the turn, but he was still running on at the end of it. He hasn't run in five months so it was a pretty good effort.”
Tagg said he’ll target the Aug. 8 Travers Stakes at Saratoga, followed by the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby and the Oct. 3 Preakness for Tiz the Law, who has five wins in six career starts.