Knowlton on Tiz the Law in Pegasus World Cup: 'Beyond exciting'

Knowlton on Tiz the Law in Pegasus World Cup: 'Beyond exciting'
Photo: Arianna Spadoni / NYRA

Tiz the Law gave an early indication of what was to be a special sophomore season when he put together back-to-back impressive efforts last winter in winning the Holy Bull (G3) and Curlin Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park.

The Sackatoga Stable New York-bred, owned and trained by the same people as 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide, went on to give his connections a measure of redemption by winning the Belmont — a race where Funny Cide ran third — and satisfaction with a powerhouse performance in the Travers (G1), which a fever forced Funny Cide to miss.

Though Tiz the Law’s 2020 campaign ended with back-to-back losses in the Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic to fellow sophomore Authentic, wresting away the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male and possibly even Horse of the Year, the bay Constitution colt is back in South Florida and already working on his encore.

“The 35 partners in Tiz the Law have the horse of a lifetime. Only Lew Titterton and I had what we thought was the horse of a lifetime in Funny Cide,” Sackatoga managing partner Jack Knowlton said. “We’ve got 33 people that have had the ride of a lifetime and hopefully the ride is going to continue [next] year. That’s what we’re looking forward to.”

Tiz the Law already has made an impression since his arrival in South Florida three days after the Breeders’ Cup. In his first work back, he breezed four furlongs in 47.90 seconds on Nov. 21 at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, for trainer Barclay Tagg.

“They were just going to give him an easy work, maybe around 50 [seconds]. I don’t think Tiz heard that,” Knowlton said. “I go back to the famous saying that Allen Jerkens had when Funny Cide was around: ‘Fast horses work fast.’ He just does it so easily.”

Tiz the Law is being pointed to make his 4-year-old debut in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) Jan. 23, the richest of seven graded-stakes worth $4.8 million on the Pegasus Day program, which includes the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1).

Knowlton’s winter residence is a 15-minute walk from Gulfstream, and he has been fortunate to be in attendance since Arrogate set the 1 1/8-mile track record of 1:46.83 when the Pegasus debuted in 2017. Funny Cide ran third in the 2004 Donn Handicap (G1), predecessor to the Pegasus.

“It’s obviously a thrill. My winter home for tracks is Gulfstream and I’ve been to every Pegasus, and being able to have a horse that actually runs in it will be beyond exciting,” Knowlton said. “We’ve had some great opportunities starting with the Holy Bull at Gulfstream, which got us kicking off, and then winning the Florida Derby, which is obviously a huge, huge deal. Now we’ll come back and try and get the biggest of the big races, the Pegasus.”

Tiz the Law already was a Grade 1 winner when he got to Florida last year, having won the Champagne (G1) in his second career start before capping his juvenile campaign running third in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2). He won the Holy Bull by three lengths and the Florida Derby by 4 1/4 and didn’t race again until the June 20 Belmont, which kicked off a Triple Crown refashioned by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s been a big deal all year. We go back to the Holy Bull, where we felt redemption was in order after we lost the Kentucky Jockey Club, and obviously that worked well. We were able to have all our people there and we were able to have one of the times of our lives,” Knowlton said. “Then the pandemic hit and they ran the Florida Derby and they ran the Belmont so we weren’t able to be there, but he reeled off three Grade 1 races last year. Every race he’s been in, astoundingly to me — even in the Breeders’ Cup Classic — he was the favorite. As we all know, that didn’t go well.”

Coming off a runner-up finish in the Kentucky Derby, where he appeared poised to strike throughout the stretch but never got by, Tiz the Law drew Post 2 and was unable to get to his preferred spot outside horses until it was too late and wound up sixth. He finished with four graded-stakes wins, three Grade 1, from six starts in 2020 — with both his losses coming to Authentic.

“We’ve been very fortunate. They only real glitch we had was that he came out of the Derby just kind of sore and we couldn’t make the Preakness. But other than that we’ve been really blessed,” Knowlton said. “He’s been sound and ready to go, ready to hit all the races we hoped except the Preakness. That was just giving him some time, and that’s what we did. We thought we had him all primed for the Breeders’ Cup.

“Talking to Barclay and [exercise rider] Heather [Smullen], they felt he was ready to run the same kind of race he ran in the Travers. Unfortunately the trip that he got was not desirable by any stretch,” he added. “It was a disappointing end to what had been an absolutely spectacular year.”

When Tiz the Law returns for the Pegasus he’ll have the services of Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, replacing Manny Franco. Velazquez rode Authentic to his wins in the Derby and Breeders’ Cup as well as a runner-up finish in the Preakness (G1).

“I don’t think there’s a better money jockey that exists,” Knowlton said. “That’s one of the great things about Johnny. Johnny’s been on the horse. He worked the horse last year and he’s been in races against him several times. He knows the horse. He’ll know what he’s got under him, and we’re excited to have him join the Tiz team.”

Tiz the Law will stand at Ashford Stud in Kentucky upon retirement, whenever that comes. Until then, the plan is to target some of the most prestigious races for older horses, starting with the Pegasus and hopefully leading up to a return trip to the Breeders’ Cup.

“As long as he keeps running the way he’s been running, he’ll run hopefully right to Del Mar at the end of [2021],” Knowlton said.

The success of Tiz the Law, a $110,000 yearling purchase that has earned more than $2.7 million in purses through nine starts, has allowed Sackatoga to expand its modest portfolio. The Saratoga Springs, N.Y.-based syndicate has six horses in training.

“We love Palm Meadows as a place to train our horses,” Knowlton said. “We actually bought some more horses than we usually do so we’ve got six horses at Palm Meadows now and three young ones up in Ocala, so hopefully we’re going to be doing some more racing at Gulfstream than normal this year.”

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