The big horse is here.
Belmont Stakes winner Tiz the Law shipped up from trainer Barclay Tagg's barn at Belmont Park to Saratoga Race Course on Monday morning, stepping off the horse trailer shortly after 10 a.m.
Tiz the Law is chasing a Triple Crown but will train for the Aug. 8 Travers Stakes at Saratoga first, a major target for his owners, Sackatoga Stable, many of whom are Capital Region residents.
They campaigned Funny Cide to victories in the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness before Funny Cide lost the Belmont to Empire Maker.
Unfortunately for Sackatoga, owners have not been cleared to be on the grounds yet at Saratoga, so operations manager Jack Knowlton wasn't allowed to visit his horse. New York state has not authorized large outdoor public gatherings, so the 2020 Saratoga meet will open on Thursday with no spectators.
"That's [Travers] always been our game plan," Knowlton said. "He's only had three races this year. And the spacing is perfect. We get to run a mile and a quarter, which we think he'll relish.
"Like Barclay said, he's always wanted to win the Travers, and obviously I've always wanted to win the Travers. We were deeply disappointed that Funny Cide got sick and we weren't able to run it. Now we're back with another chance, and maybe we can do what we did with the Belmont."
Tiz the Law, who, like Funny Cide, is a New York-bred, is 3-for-3 this year, with victories in the Holy Bull on Feb. 1 and the Grade I Florida Derby, a major Kentucky Derby prep most years, at Gulfstream Park on March 28.
The Kentucky Derby has been rescheduled to Sept. 5 and will overlap the final week of the Saratoga meet. The Preakness is Oct. 3 at Pimlico.
On Monday morning, Tiz the Law spent a few moments snooping around his stall on the Saratoga backstretch, then scanned his surroundings at Tagg's barn from the front of the stall.
He's been here before, having won his career debut at Saratoga on Aug. 8 last year, the same date as this year's Travers. It was moved from its traditional spot on the penultimate Saturday of the meet to the third Saturday to provide four weeks of spacing between the Travers and the Derby.
After winning the Belmont on June 20, Tagg has sent Tiz the Law back to the track for published workouts on the Belmont main track on July 1 for four furlongs in 50.06 and last Wednesday for five furlongs in 1:01.10 under jockey Manny Franco.
"Just maintenance works," Knowlton said. "No need to tighten the screws at all. I think Barclay was waiting to get up to Saratoga, and then we'll get a couple serious works in, I'm sure, before the Travers.
"He's a good horse. We'll find out how good, because there's going to be challenges."
Tiz the Law's primary challenger in the 3-year-old colt division right now is Santa Anita Derby winner Honor A. P., but they probably won't hook up until the Kentucky Derby. The California-based Honor A. P. is supposed to run in the Shared Belief at Del Mar on Aug. 1.
"So I don't see them shipping," Knowlton said. "[Trainer Bob] Baffert will probably send Uncle Chuck [to the Travers]. And I don't think we'll see anyone from the Blue Grass.
"Coming back from the [July 18] Haskell in three weeks and then four weeks to the Derby, I wouldn't think you'll see much come out of the Haskell, unless somebody needed points. But that's a pretty rough road that you're taking, three weeks, then four weeks, two mile-and-a-quarter races back-to-back, after a mile and an eighth.
"So, who knows? We'll be here, we've got plenty of time to prep for it, and we know he likes this racetrack. He broke his maiden here and trained here last summer. So we'll wait to see who shows up, that's all."