The fun begins the instant a visitor enters the Embassy Suites ballroom that serves as Sackatoga Stable’s Tiz the Law headquarters in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
When he asks for managing partner Jack Knowlton, one of Sackatoga’s partners looks up from his racing program and quips, “Does he owe you money?”
The reality, of course, is that Knowlton helped make more money on behalf of Sackatoga than anyone could have imagined when the relatively small partnership was started by a group of high school friends at a backyard barbecue in Sackets Harbor, N.Y., in 1995.
First, there was 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide, a $75,000 New York-bred gelding that was purchased privately. Now, there is Belmont Stakes victor and Travers favorite Tiz the Law, a $110,000 find as a yearling at Fasig-Tipton’s Saratoga Preferred New York-bred Sale.
Knowlton owes much of his success to an unwavering faith in the keen eye of trainer Barclay Tagg, an equally strong commitment to the New York breeding program and his own keen mind.
He has had to be at his creative best to make certain Sackatoga partners enjoy Tiz the Law as much as possible even though the pandemic keeps many of them from being at the track to relish every stride of what is surely the horse of a lifetime. Lew Titterton is the only holdover from Funny Cide.
For the Belmont, there was the Party at Pennell’s, an Italian-American restaurant in Saratoga. With only 12 of the 35 partners in Tiz the Law permitted to attend the Travers next Saturday at Saratoga Race Course, the action has shifted to Embassy Suites. Knowlton expects 49 socially distanced people — one shy of the state limit — to watch the “Mid-Summer Derby” on a big-screen television that is roughly a five-minute drive from the eerily silent track.
“My usual 39 days at the track weren’t going to happen this year,” said Knowlton of the annual 40-day meet. “I’m not one who just wants to sit home and watch television and bet by myself.”
One of the beauties of partnerships is the way strangers can become fast friends, especially when an extraordinary runner such as Tiz the Law comes along.
“There is no doubt about it. We’ve made so many friendships all over the place,” said Knowlton, referring to himself and his wife, Dorothy.
Others pick up on their enthusiasm. Owners unable to attend Tiz the Law’s authoritative Florida Derby and Belmont victories continue to make the best of a bad situation as the Travers nears.
“Of all the years for this to happen, it’s incredible that it’s this year,” said Steve Paskevich, a stakeholder with his wife, Christy. “But we’re not mad about it at all because it’s fantastic, what’s happening. There is so much positive in it. And in the grand scheme of things, a lot of people are getting sick. This is just horse racing. It’s a hobby.”
Paskevich, from Wilmington, Del., draws from his background to maintain a healthy perspective. He retired as an emergency room technician in early April.
He joined Sackatoga eight years ago and was there the night Tagg nudged Knowlton to bid a final time for Tiz the Law when he was about to be sold elsewhere for $100,000.
“We were just hoping he’d be a nice little New York-bred that we could have some fun with,” Paskevich recalled. “I mean, the Derby and the Travers never even entered our minds. We weren’t even after that.”
Paskevich kept his expectations low when he eyeballed Tiz the Law after the sale.
“The first thing I said was, ‘Oh my God, we bought a pony’ because Tiz was small when he was a yearling. You couldn’t pick him out of a lineup,” Paskevich said. “Barclay saw something in this horse and then he had those eyes like ‘OK, maybe he has a little fire in him.’ Then it was just history from there.”
Scenes from Tiz the Law headquarters are expected to be part of the Travers broadcast. Old Friends at Cabin Creek, an aftercare facility, will be at Embassy Suites to solicit donations. There will be food and drink. One-liners are sure to be delivered rapid-fire.
And there will be the hope that their beloved 3-year-old can help them forget the virus for one memorable afternoon.
Rank Silks Horse / Sire Rating Trainer / Jockey Last Start Status
7.82 B. Tagg 1st, 2020 Belmont Stakes (G1) Probable
7.06 B. Baffert 1st, 2020 Los Alamitos Derby (G3) Probable
6.40 C. Brown 1st, 2020 Peter Pan (G3) Probable
6.26 G. Delgado 2nd, 2020 Peter Pan (G3) Probable
6.21 L. Rice 3rd, 2020 Belmont Stakes (G1) Probable
Awesome of Course
6.19 R. Nicks 11th, 2020 Blue Grass Stakes (G2) Probable
5.78 S. Hough 2nd, 2020 Ohio Derby (G3) Probable
O. Noda 1st, Sar MSW (7/29/2020-R4) Probable