This is no ordinary year and no ordinary Belmont Stakes, but TIZ THE LAW is no ordinary horse. It’s impossible to watch his races without thinking he is massively talented. He can do special things, which make you look at the fractions and wonder if the track can possibly be that fast. But it isn’t. He is.
Tiz The Law looks like no ordinary horse either. He has splashy markings, which lends him an unusually fierce look when he drops his shoulder and goes through the gears at the top of the stretch. It isn’t difficult to think that a large part of his racing merit comes from a competitive spirit. And horses as good as him surely must have an alpha mindset to treat the rest of the herd as they do.
Tiz The Law is a New York-bred horse who races for the same team of trainer Barclay Tagg and owners Sackatoga Stable as the brilliant Funny Cide.
In 2003, Funny Cide failed to complete the Triple Crown when the Belmont was run in its usual spot and at its usual distance. This time, the nine-furlong test opens the series and poses a bigger problem of fitness than freshness.
A facile winner of the G1 Champagne Stakes on this Belmont surface as a juvenile, Tiz The Law was just brilliant when making his 3-year-old debut in the G3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream. It was obviously prominent in the mind of connections that he should continue in his groove of tracking the pace, for, after an inconveniently sharp break, his rider Manny Franco had a torrid time reigning him back behind the pace.
But just watch this horse go through the gears running down and out of the back straight (see video below). Here, the effects of the section of the race which took him to the lead at the quarter-pole can clearly be seen on those behind. This is awesome power, which Tiz The Law has learned through experience can be deployed in any third of a race.
For his part, Franco may have felt a few more nerves than usual that day. He and Tiz The Law had endured a miserable experience on a winter day to match at sloppy Churchill Downs the previous November, when the pair were locked against the rail in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes until it was too late. In Franco’s defence, not even Patrick Mahomes could have escaped from a pocket that muddy, but the blame for Tiz The Law’s third-place finish and first defeat was still laid at his door by many.
So, we could see the colt’s emergence into the Florida sunshine as a rite of spring undertaken by many a future Classic winner as he builds his seasoning and conditioning towards a Triple Crown tilt. But, the major step had still to be taken by Tiz The Law – the same G1 Florida Derby won by his sire Constitution back in 2014.
Again faced with chasing round the talented speedster Ete Indien – who had since bolted up in the G2 Fountain of Youth after running second to Tiz The Law – the colt broke more languidly this time and found the garden spot two back and one-off the rail.
From there on, it was plain sailing, but watch the last 100 yards carefully here as you review the race (see video below). Early on, the fractions were conservative for a race of this class and Tiz The Law had to pack a lot of running into a short stanza. It seemed like he had only just organised his stride passing the line.
What Tiz The Law really wants is a race with a strong, early pace. Much like his sire, he has a high cruising speed, and races in which he can carry his rider into a striking spot while still on the bridle are always going to be his metier.
The Champagne Stakes was more like this type of contest, but in reviewing this one we might also note how much Tiz The Law has learned to curb his free-going tendencies. With the fast pace serving up his lesser talented rivals here, Tiz The Law turned this G1 race into a circus act as he snapped back on the bridle.
So, what might beat him in the Belmont? Well, primarily the absence. He hasn’t run since March, which would usually concern us in races like these that test fitness to the full. Two of his chief rivals, the deep closer Sole Volante and improving front-runner Tap It To Win, could be said to hold an advantage in conditioning: the former had a bedraggled Ete Indien among his rivals when winning a Gulfstream allowance 11 days before the Belmont, while, five days before that, the latter had annexed the same kind of race over the big-race strip.
Can we imagine a scenario in which Tap It To Win and a couple of others make this a hot pace, Tiz The Law makes his move into it a little early and, without the hard fitness edge, is run down by Sole Volante late? Well, yes of course, it can happen. Anyone making a case for Sole Volante could point to his solid, European classic bloodlines which, here at TRC Global Rankings, we have no doubt from our numbers are the best in the world at present.
Indeed, Sole Volante’s pedigree is intriguing from this angle. His second dam, Lingerie, is by Epsom Derby winner Shirley Heights out of a mare by Northern Dancer and she bred Light Shift, a sister to the dam of Sole Volante who won the Oaks at Epsom in 2007 for Henry Cecil.
In turn, Light Shift has produced Ulysses by Galileo, a dual G1 winner in England now at stud in Newmarket. Yes, Sole Volante and his lot know how to finish a horse race strongly, whether it is on the turf or the dirt.
The latent power of Sole Volante might need dealing with, but surely Tiz The Law has the goods. After all, he is no shrinking violet himself when it comes to stamina and, heh, didn’t his grandsire Tiznow outstay first Giant’s Causeway and then Sakhee in the two memorable BC Classics at Churchill Downs and here at Belmont around the turn of the millenium?
This isn’t a normal Belmont. And no doubt the change in circumstances has led to a diminution in the spectacle and sense of occasion. But, Tiz The Law just might be able to do something for that.