This Saturday, August 8, exactly one year after hometown hero Tiz the Law‘s first career win at Saratoga Race Course, the Sackatoga Stable-owned horse will try his luck in the Spa’s most important race: the Travers Stakes. But it seems he doesn’t really need luck: “Tiz the Law is a big favorite in this race,” says Brien Bouyea, communications director for the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame and Saratoga Living‘s sports editor. “He is 1-1 odds on the morning line and likely will go off even lower than that.”
The horse has been a celebrity in town since he became the first New York bred to win the Belmont Stakes since Forester in 1882. Fans can buy Tiz the Law gear to benefit the Backstretch Employee Service Team and the New York Race Track Chaplaincy, as well as Tiz the Law face masks, which Stewart’s Shops announced it would be selling on August 5. Saratogian Bob Giordano even affixed custom “Tiz the Law” signs to the stop signs near his house to spread cheer and support for the local horse during a depressing racing season; while the signs were removed only a few days later by the city, the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce began using the hashtag #TizTheLaw on posters hung around the county to remind residents that wearing a mask and practicing social distancing “tiz the law.” The horse, along with Sackatoga Stable, Managing Partner Jack Knowlton, trainer Barclay Tagg, assistant trainer Robin Smullen and jockey Manny Franco, will also be honored with the Siro’s Cup Award at Pennell’s Restaurant on August 6.
In normal years, the Travers is a big deal—it’s the most important and historic race at Saratoga, one of the most important and historic race tracks in the country. But this year, despite fans not being allowed to attend (though that hasn’t proven to be a problem for the New York Racing Association, which reported a 9.4 percent increase over last year in all-sources handle for opening weekend) the Travers is even more important. For one, because the Triple Crown schedule was disrupted by the COVID-19 crisis, the Travers is the biggest race to run since the Belmont back in June, and is giving racing fans, who are used to having three Triple Crown races under their belts by August, a much-needed dose of heart-thumping excitement. But it’s also a qualifying race for the Kentucky Derby, meaning that the winner will automatically qualify for the Run for the Roses on September 4. (Regularly held later in August, the Travers was moved up to allow for more time between it and the Derby.) Tiz the Law’s Belmont win already earned him a spot in the Derby, and he’s the current favorite to win the race, but if he, (*gasp*) loses the Travers, he’ll gain a Derby adversary on Saturday.
The horse with the best chance of beating out Tiz, Bouyea says, is Bob Baffert’s Uncle Chuck. “He’s very talented, but has only raced twice (both wins). Baffert obviously thinks highly of him because he has made comments comparing him to Arrogate, the 2016 winner who owns the fastest time in Travers history.” Other horses to keep an eye on, Bouyea says, are the Chad Brown-trained Country Grammer, winner of the Peter Pan Stakes on opening day at Saratoga and third-place Belmont finisher Max Player, whose trainer, Linda Rice, is attempting to become the second woman to train a Travers winner.
Coverage of Saturday’s races will be aired in a special expanded broadcast beginning at 11:30am on FS2, and will be picked up by FS1 and MSG at 1pm. The Travers, which will go off at 6:15pm, will be the centerpiece of a 90-minute broadcast on Fox from 5-6:30pm. Tiz the Law fans are invited to watch the Travers Day races live with owners from Sackatoga Stable at The Diamond Club at Embassy Suites, hosted by Capital OTB handicapper Seth Merrow, and to tune into the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation’s virtual tour of Saratoga Race Course, featuring an exclusive interview with Jack Knowlton, on Facebook Live at 9:30am.
No one is as excited for Saturday’s race as Tiz the Law trainer Barclay Tagg, who nabbed his third Triple Crown victory when Tiz won the Belmont. (He trained the Sackatoga Stable-owned Funny Cide to victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2003.) At 82, Tagg also became the oldest trainer to ever win the Belmont. But the Travers? “I’ve never won the Travers, and I want to win it,” Tagg told Saratoga Living back in June. “It’s very important to me.” If Tagg does it with Tiz the Law, it’s safe to say a Travers win is very important to the horse racing fans of Saratoga Springs, too.