SARATOGA SPRINGS — After a year in which fans weren’t allowed to see Tiz the Law win his biggest races in person, nobody will see him race at all in 2021.
The colt came out of a workout with an injury to his right front leg in Florida on Tuesday and was retired to stud, a crushing blow to owner Sackatoga Stable, many of whose partners live in the Capital Region.
Tiz the Law won the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park and the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course, while fans were barred because of COVID-19 restrictions. Although his outstanding 3-year-old season petered out with a runner-up finish to Authentic in the Kentucky Derby and a sixth to Authentic in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Sackatoga and trainer Barclay Tagg were looking forward to hitting the biggest races in the coming year.
Instead, Tiz the Law will get on a van for Kentucky on Thursday to recover from the injury, which was deemed too risky for catastrophic breakdown if he was brought back to training and racing. He’ll stand as a stallion at Ashford Stud near Versailles, Kentucky, for a fee to be announced by Coolmore America.
“We’re all devastated,” Sackatoga managing partner Jack Knowlton, of Saratoga Springs, said. “Barclay has one big horse in his stable, and we have one big horse in our stable. You don’t get a horse like that. It’s once in a lifetime, and we’ve been awfully fortunate to have two in a lifetime.”
Sackatoga bought Tiz the Law, a son of Constitution, for $110,000 at the 2018 New York-bred yearling auction in Saratoga. He went on to win six of nine career starts for more than $2.7 million in purses and established himself as one of the best 3-year-olds in North America in 2020.
He also became a fan favorite for his dominating running style and connection to Sackatoga, which memorably campaigned Funny Cide to victories in the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
During the spectator-free Saratoga meet, Tiz the Law facemasks were available around town, a cocktail was named after him and Stewart’s created a Tiz the Law ice cream flavor.
After having rolled to victory in the Belmont, Tiz the Law and regular jockey Manny Franco easily won the Travers by 5 1/2 lengths. A small number of owners were allowed on the grounds for most of the Saratoga meet.
“There was a big void [with no fans in attendance],” Knowlton said. “I’ve been to every Travers since 1980, and to be there without fans was just eerie.
“But at least they got to run the race and he got to show what a champion he is. Winning the way he did and running 109 Beyer speed figure at the classic distance certainly will be important when people decide whether they want to breed to him or not.”
In a Triple Crown schedule reconfigured because of the pandemic, Tiz the Law ran in the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5, then skipped the Oct. 3 Preakness, since his shot at a Triple Crown was over.
He was sixth in the BC Classic on Nov. 7, then was back to serious training two weeks later, with the first of five breezes at Palm Meadows in preparation for the $4 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 23.
Tuesday’s workout was a routine gallop under Tagg’s assistant trainer, Robin Smullen, but she could tell something was wrong with Tiz the Law when they came off the track, Knowlton said. X-rays showed bone bruising to the lower front right leg.
“It was yesterday about noon when Barclay called and said that Tiz came off the track, and something just wasn’t right with him,” Knowlton said. “They had a vet come and did a bunch of X-rays and saw that he had an issue at the bottom of his cannon bone, then had a second opinion and determined that he couldn’t safely continue to train or race. It could be catastrophic injury if he continued on in that capacity.
“We’ve been really lucky. He’s never had any real soundness issue, other than when he threw a shoe and had a few days off in February and March. That was it. Other than that, never any other issues.”
At that point, Knowlton contacted the rest of the 35 partners to deliver the bad news.
He and Lew Titterton are the only two left from the original Funny Cide crew.
“For the rest of these people, certainly this is the only big horses they’ve ever had,” Knowlton said. “Then not being able to be at the Florida Derby and the Belmont, everybody was looking forward to next year with the expectation he’d have the kind of success he had this year.”
As part of the stallion agreement with Coolmore, Tiz the Law was scheduled to race through his 4-year-old season, hopefully with a return trip to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, this time at Del Mar in southern California.
Instead, the stable that supports the New York-bred program and rarely gets a top-caliber graded stakes horse can only wonder what might have been.
“How can you not look at what he accomplished?” Knowlton said. “Three Grade I wins and a second in the Kentucky Derby. That’s a heck of a year. Certainly Authentic validated that he’s a special horse when he won the Breeders’ Cup Classic. In retrospect, running second to him doesn’t have as much sting as it did when it happened.
“It’s disappointing, but it’s part of the game. If you’re in this game, you have to learn that the disappointments are going to far outweigh the high points, because most of the time, you lose. This is a tough way to go out just because he was such a good horse, we never had any soundness issues with him and this came totally out of the blue. Thank goodness it wasn’t a catastrophic thing that happens to some horses.”