SARATOGA SPRINGS — Tiz the Law has his assignment.
He’ll break from post No. 6 and is the even-money favorite on the morning line for Saturday’s $1 million Grade I Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
The Belmont Stakes winner, who is undefeated from three starts this season, will be ridden by Manny Franco while facing seven rivals in the 151st Travers, a race that his Saratoga Springs-based ownership group would love to win.
Scheduled post time is 6:15 p.m., and the Travers will offer qualifying points for the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby on a 100-40-20-10 scale.
“He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do,” trainer Barclay Tagg said. “We’ve been very fortunate. I don’t think any distance makes a difference for this horse. From what I’ve seen, I just don’t have any feeling that he can’t handle it. It would be nice to win it if we could.”
The field, in post-position order, with jockeys and odds:
First Line (David Cohen, 30-1); Country Grammer (Irad Ortiz Jr., 6-1); Uncle Chuck (Luis Saez, 5-2); Max Player (Joel Rosario, 6-1); Shivaree (Junior Alvarado, 30-1); Tiz the Law (Manny Franco, 1-1); Caracaro (Javier Castellano, 10-1); South Bend (Jose Ortiz, 15-1).
Uncle Chuck shipped cross-country from Bob Baffert’s barn in California on Tuesday and is considered the top threat to Tiz the Law despite being lightly raced.
His career consists of a seven-length maiden win on June 12 and a four-length win in the Grade III Los Alamitos Derby on July 4.
“He’s been training well, and I thought he deserves a chance to run in it,” Baffert said. “He’s only had two races, but they were pretty impressive. The talent is there, he’s just still figuring it out and putting it together. He’s still a little green, but I thought the mile and a quarter might be good for him.
“He’s got a big, long stride. He’s got speed, so as long as he gets in a nice, relaxed rhythm we’ll see how he handles the mile and a quarter. You’ve got a horse like Tiz the Law in there, and he scared a lot of them away.”
“Baffert does very, very well,” Tagg said. “He’s got fresh stock all the time and good horses, so you’ve always got to be concerned. But if you let the concern bother you too much, you wouldn’t be racing horses. You can’t worry about that. All I worry about his having my horse get there the best we can get him there.”
Tagg completed a career Triple Crown when the New York-bred Tiz the Law won the Belmont, but Tagg has never won the Travers, and has saddled a horse in the race just once, when Tale of Ekati was seventh in 2008.
The post position wasn’t much of a concern, he said, as long as Tiz the Law breaks from the middle of the field.
“I think he’s matured enough now that outside or inside is not going to bother him too much,” Tagg said. “I’d prefer that he’s on the outside just because you have less chance of getting in trouble. Not that you can’t, but you have less chance.”
“I won it out of the one-hole once; it doesn’t matter, whatever the post is,” Baffert said. “Going a mile and a quarter, they’ve got plenty of time to sort things out.”
Country Grammer represents the latest attempt at the Travers by trainer Chad Brown, who has never had a horse finish better than fourth.
His colt, a son of Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist, is coming off a victory in the Grade III Peter Pan and will be running back in three weeks.
“I’m always concerned for more time in between races with my horses, but this is a rare opportunity to take a shot at a race like the Travers,” Brown said. “It’s a shorter field than it usually is. This is such a unique year to give this a shot and the horse just keeps improving. Even on short rest, I think the reward is greater than the risk.”
Like Tagg, trainer Linda Rice has started just one Travers horse, fourth-place finisher Kid Cruz in 2014.
She’ll saddle Max Player, who was third to Tiz the Law in the Belmont.
“We’ll try to save a little ground into both turns and I’d rather not get too far to the outside,” Rice said.
First Line is an interesting long shot based on the fact that he’s coming back quickly off a maiden win on July 29 for 31-year-old trainer Orlando Noda.
Other horses following the same route in recent years include Admiral Alex (11th in 2010), Mid Ocean (ninth in 2015) and Scars Are Cool (10th in 2019).
“I think we got a perfect post,” Noda said. “He’s going to come out running when the gates open, and he might just fight the whole mile and a quarter. It is a quick turnaround, but I’ve hyped this horse up from before he even debuted. These are my points for the Derby. He’s a long shot for a reason, but he’s going to outrun his odds and, God willing, we will win this race.”