Tiz the Law captured the Florida Derby (G1) on Saturday to reaffirm his status as a leading, if not top, Kentucky Derby contender.
On paper, it looks like this blossoming son of Constitution is peaking. Unfortunately for the familiar team of trainer Barclay Tagg and Sackatoga Stables, the Derby is on Sept. 5 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Yet, the Florida Derby showed Tiz the Law is ready to strike now. Although he did not face any real adversity this time, Tiz the Law deserves credit for defeating a quality field including Ete Indien, Independence Hall and Gouverneur Morris. If nothing else, Tiz the Law managed the nine furlongs in strong fashion, which is a great sign he will handle the stretch out to 1 1/4 miles.
That test may come earlier than the Derby if his New York-based connections elect to try the Travers Stakes before the Derby in a truly unique racing season.
On the first turn of the Florida Derby, Tiz the Law waited and switched outside. From there, he enjoyed a clear outside trip, right behind the leaders Shivaree and Ete Indien. As Seen On TV took up the pocket position, and Independence Hall tracked the leaders while racing in fifth.
The first two fractions went in 23.75 and 47.95.
On the far turn, Tiz the Law made his move and ranged up alongside Ete Indien and Shivaree. Independence Hall kept up only a length or two behind the leading trio, but he began to struggle as Joel Rosario asked him.
At the top of the stretch, it was clear Tiz the Law had the race wrapped up. Under moderate urging, Tiz the Law made the front and came in slightly, as usual. He then began to draw clear as Franco gave him some reminders.
Tiz the Law won by 4 ¼ lengths. Surprisingly, Shivaree held second at 80-1. Ete Indien struggled in the stretch and barely kept third by a neck over a closing Gouverneur Morris. Independence Hall, who was tired late and could only manage fifth, finished 5 ¼ lengths behind Gouverneur Morris in fourth and 10 ½ lengths behind the winner Tiz the Law.
Another 11 ¼ lengths came between Independence Hall and Candy Tycoon in sixth. Also, 51 ¼ lengths separated the entire nine-horse field.
Tiz the Law did not win in a spectacular fashion. But he also beat good horses, and it is harder to blow out that kind of talent by eight or nine lengths. To cross the wire by five lengths over Ete Indien in this spot after Ete Indien won the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) by 8 ½ lengths is impressive and indicates Tiz the Law is on another level right now.
In terms of TimeformUS Speed Figures, Tiz the Law earned a 121, a few points faster than his 117 in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3). On paper, it looks like Tiz the Law is ready to peak now with another career-best number.
But connections aren't rushing him back to the races, saying the May 2 Arkansas Derby (G1) isn't an option. Will they be able to get him back to this point again for the fall?
As for Ete Indien, his circumstances changed in this race. Instead of clearing the field completely from his outside post, he met Shivaree and had to contest the lead. Rather than enjoy an uncontested lead, he looked Shivaree in the eye for most of the race. Plus, Ete Indien dealt with a longer distance and stretch this time and subsequently faded slightly in the end.
Ete Indien still ran a fast race with a 117 on TimeformUS. But his ability to handle 1 ¼ miles is in question, especially if he needs to contest the pace.
Also, Independence Hall's Derby hopes look hopeless at this point. After getting into a good striking position on the far turn, he offered nothing in the stretch and faded well behind the leading group. At least Ete Indien stayed in the picture toward the end.
Swiss Skydiver puts field
to sleep in Gulfstream Oaks
But under a masterful ride from Paco Lopez, Swiss Skydiver secured the lead early and managed to put the field to sleep, allowing her to win.
Watch how Lucrezia breaks sharpest of all. But instead of taking the lead on Lucrezia, Julien Leparoux opts to wait and let Swiss Skydiver go.
With the lead gifted to Paco Lopez, Swiss Skydiver took them through 24.33, 49.12 and 1:13.30 fractions. From there, she powered home to win by 3 ¼ lengths with a 101 TimeformUS Speed Figure.
The second choice Spice Is Nice ran out of position in the early stages in 11th. She could only close for fifth late, 10 lengths behind the winner. Given the slow pace, cross this effort out. She can rebound from this performance.
The favorite Tonalist's Shape ran closer to the pace, reaching fifth at one point. But she showed nothing late and could only manage seventh, 11 ¾ lengths behind.
Swiss Skydiver won, but she also had the entire race handed to her on a platter. Keep that in mind before deciding to bet her back.