Wins Going Away
By Dick Downey
A much-antipated Travers Stakes turned into an easy win for Tiz the Law as the New York-bred son of Constitution galloped home in 2:00.95 for the Kentucky Derby distance of a mile and a quarter.
Tiz the Law closely tracked pacesetter Uncle Chuck through six furlongs with honest splits of 23.65, 48.36 and 1:11.95. Shivaree separated those two for a half-mile before beginning a retreat to an eventual last-place finish.
As the far turn was ending, Uncle Chuck was running out of fuel as Luis Saez began asking him in earnest. Meanwhile, Manny Franco was, to borrow a term from the Equibase chart, statuesque on board the 1-2 favorite.
In the stretch, Tiz the Law easily separated himself from the field, led by 4 1/2 lengths at the furlong marker and won by 5 1/2 after swerving out almost two paths before being righted.
Caracaro, who was fifth by three lengths in the early going under Javier Castellano, stayed on to finish second. Another two lengths back in third was Max Player, who was sixth of the seven runners after the first half-mile under Joel Rosario. South Bend was fourth, beaten 9 1/2 lengths. The order of finish was completed by Country Grammer, Uncle Chuck and Shivaree. Recent maiden winner First Line was scratched.
The 1 1/14-mile Travers Stakes, dubbed the "Mid-Summer Derby," sets up Tiz the Law as the heavy favorite to win the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5. He picked up another 100 Derby points to run his total to 372. He's now won six of seven starts, four of them grade I races. He's undefeated this year; his only loss came in the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs last year.
Caracaro picked up 40 Kentucky Derby points and now has 60. So does Max Player, who got 20 points by finishing third. South Bend, who received 10 points, now has a total of 18.
Twin Creeks Farm bred Tiz the Law. He's out of the Tiznow mare Tizfiz. His owner and trainer, Sackatoga Stable and Barclay Tagg, are now one step closer to winning a second Kentucky Derby with a New York-bred. They had Funny Cide 17 years ago, and to this writer it doesn't seem that long ago.
Barclay Tagg, winning trainer: "I thought Manny rode him just right. Both Manny and I thought another horse would go with him, the Baffert horse. Manny rode him perfect. It's the way I thought he would be all along. I thought he'd have to come to Uncle Chuck into the stretch and he would go by him if he quit. It went so easy for him, which is fine with me, too. The easier, the better. I've been doing this a long time, and I've always wanted to win the Travers. This has been in my head my whole life. And now it happened so it couldn't be better. You always have some doubt because many different things can happen. That's always in the back of you're a mind, but I was very confident in the horse. I don't think we'll change a whole lot. We'll give him 10 days of easiness and then get a few more breezes in him before we go out there. That's about all we can do.
"Juan (Barajas Saldana, the groom) has been with us for about 20 years. He's a fabulous person. The day this colt walked into our barn, he just took over. He hasn't left his side since. He makes sure he bunks right near him every night. Takes care of him all day, every day. He goes everywhere with him when he travels. He's just a great guy and a very, very good horseman. Of course, Robin (Smullen) is my partner and assistant and she's great at everything. She rides him in the morning. He was pretty tough to ride for awhile there, but she got him straightened out. She's probably the most important person in this horse. It's just a great team.
Manny Franco, winning jockey: "I can't explain how I feel right now. I knew all the support was there, even without the crowd, I felt everyone was watching me. I want to say thank you to Jack Knowlton, the owner and the trainer, Barclay Tagg and Robin and Juan. They did a great job with this horse. It means a lot because it's made me a better jockey with this opportunity. I'm grateful for that. I didn't expect a race like that, but we'll take it. He ran huge. He was there the whole way for me and I was just waiting for the moment because it is a long way to go - a mile and a quarter - and he hasn't gone that distance before, so I'm trying to save as much horse as I could before I made my move.
"When I came up to him (Uncle Chuck) at the half-mile pole, going to the three-eighths, I was trying to wait more because I knew I got him. (Luis Saez) was riding and trying to keep up, so I was a little bit worried about the horses behind me. I was trying to save more horse before I made my move. He gave me chills. When I pressed the button, he just took off. He accelerated really hard. After that, I took a peek back and he was going away and I just saved horse.
"I had a lot in the tank and I was just trying to save horse, because there's still three or four more races to go, so I have to save some horse. He became part of my family, this horse. He's unbelievable and I've never been on a horse in my career like this one. I'm enjoying the moment.
Javier Castellano, jockey aboard runner-up Caracaro: "I was really satisfied with the way he did it. It was amazing. Tiz the Law is one of the best horses in the country. He's developed and had a lot of great, great races in the past in the Holy Bull, the Florida Derby and the Belmont. My horse only had four races and finished second behind a really good horse today. I think he has some room to improve. I think he's starting to get better and going in the right direction. Hopefully, we hear more from him in the future.
"He has everything. He's a full-package horse. He has a good mind. He rated beautifully today. I didn't want to hook up with the speed, it seemed to me there was a lot of speed in the race today. I covered up a little bit, let him get dirt to the face and he handled it well."
Joel Rosario, jockey aboard third-place finisher Max Player: "Before turning for home, he started picking up a bit. I felt confident he was going to run big and they just got away from me again, and it took a little time for me to get into him after that. He started running well; he was coming. He was fine with the kickback. I was on the inside on the first turn, it hit him in the face and he was fine about it. He looked more professional and more mature. He was coming and coming in the end. Going into the turn, it took a little time to get him going again, but he ran a big race."
Luis Saez, aboard sixth-place finisher Uncle Chuck: "I thought we were going to get away from him after a half-mile, but Tiz the Law was right there and just kept on going."
Jack Knowlton, operating manager of winning owner Sackatoga Stable: "It's just so exciting. To be in the race and to be 1-2 (odds), there's a lot of pressure. We had well-wishers from everywhere. We saw a performance today that just blows me away. We know we had a nice horse. We thought we had the best horse. To do what he did today, we're looking forward to going to Kentucky now.
"It's fabulous. We're getting redemption 17 years later. Tiz won the Belmont, now he won the Travers (Funny Cide lost the Belmont and was sick and missed the Travers). It's quite an accomplishment for our little stable of New York-breds, for Barclay Tagg training our New York bred to win the biggest races in New York. We're just thrilled to death. We're the third New York bred to win this race, the first New York bred in 138 years to win the Belmont Stakes. It says to me that this accomplishment is something that is pretty spectacular. Barclay, Robin and the whole team, they made it all happen.
"When we had Funny Cide and won the Derby, it was Funny Cide mania and everything in town was everything Funny Cide. There was a Funny Cide store and everything. It's taken a little time I think for Tiz to get to that point. I really believe after this race that he is going to be adopted, not only by Saratoga but also by New York, and hopefully the country. The mask we have with Tiz on it, we've been getting calls from California and all over the country; they want a Tiz the Law mask. This is the greatest springboard to move on to Kentucky and I think he's proven today that he certainly is a mile and a quarter horse and Barclay has said that all along.
"I wish there were 50,000 plus people here to see this performance live. We're fortunate that we're able to run these races, we're fortunate that NYRA was able to make accommodations for owners to be here. It's something I'll never forget. Probably after winning the Derby, which is the highlight of anyone in this sport, this would be number 2.