It will be quiet dur­ing the storm

Tis The Law looms as horse to beat in Derby with­out its rau­cous fans

Chicago Sun-Times - - HORSE RACING - BY BETH HAR­RIS | AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS | @beth­har­risap

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For­get the mint juleps in sou­venir glasses, men in seer­sucker suits and women wear­ing hats ex­plod­ing in a flo­ral frenzy. The Ken­tucky Derby still has horses — Tiz the Law is the big­gest fa­vorite in 31 years — but just about ev­ery­thing else makes the 146th edi­tion un­like any other.

“It’s go­ing to be weird,” said five-time Derby-win­ning trainer Bob Baf­fert.

None of the cheer­ing — or curs­ing af­ter los­ing wa­gers — from 150,000 fans will be heard this year at Churchill Downs, where Amer­ica’s long­est con­tin­u­ously held sports event will go on Sat­ur­day, four months later than usual. The track ini­tially planned to al­low 23,000 fans to at­tend un­til es­ca­lat­ing pos­i­tiv­ity rates for COVID-19 in Louisville dic­tated oth­er­wise.

“Qui­etude can’t hurt,” said Bar­clay Tagg, trainer of 3-5 fa­vorite Tiz the Law. “We’ve had quiet for al­most all his races this year.”

Of course, si­lence changes the very na­ture of the Derby, known for a mix of the rau­cous and re­fined, the freak­ish and fash­ion­able.

Gone will be the pa­rade of celebri­ties on the red car­pet, the who’s who of sports, pol­i­tics and en­ter­tain­ment crowd­ing Mil­lion­aires Row, the na­tional an­them sung by a big name. The Univer­sity of Louisville march­ing band won’t strike up “My Old Ken­tucky Home” while the crowd sings along as the horses step onto the track, and the tra­di­tional call of “Rid­ers up!” won’t be shouted by a bold-faced name stand­ing in the pad­dock.

Tiz the Law has won the Bel­mont Stakes, the kick­off to the Triple Crown that was run in June at a shorter dis­tance. A vic­tory in the Derby would set him up for a Triple try in the Preak­ness on Oct. 3.

Also in his fa­vor is that he’s al­ready proved he can han­dle the Derby dis­tance of 1¼ miles, of­ten the big­gest ques­tion for any 3-year-old colt. Tiz the Law won the Travers by 5½ lengths over the same dis­tance at Saratoga a month ago.

“He’s checked all those boxes, and I be­lieve he very well could win the Triple Crown

this year,” said Jerry Bai­ley, the re­tired Hall of Fame jockey and NBC Sports an­a­lyst.

Tiz the Law has won six of seven ca­reer starts — his only loss came at Churchill Downs last year — by staying close to the pace and making one big run at the top of the stretch.

“I’d like for us to be lay­ing third all the way around un­til we get down for busi­ness,” Tagg said. “You think he’s got­ten in trou­ble here, in trou­ble there and next thing you know he’s in front. He’s a pretty amaz­ing horse.”

Mark Casse, trainer of En­force­able, isn’t ready to hand Tiz the Law the roses. “He still has to have a clean trip,” he said.

The field has been re­duced to 16 horses, small­est since 2003, when Funny Cide won. That geld­ing was owned by Sack­atoga Sta­ble, which owns Tiz the Law. Man­ag­ing part­ner Jack Knowl­ton and his co-own­ers will ride yellow school buses to the track, just as Sack­atoga did 17 years ago.

Honor A. P. is the 5-1 sec­ond choice. His trainer is John Shirreffs and the jockey is Mike Smith, who teamed to win the 2005 Derby with 50-1 shot Gi­a­como.

“The odds don’t guar­an­tee any­thing,” Shirreffs said. “We just have to see how the race is run.”

Authen­tic is the third choice at 8-1. He’s trained by Baf­fert, who also sad­dles 15-1 shot Thou­sand Words. A vic­tory by ei­ther colt would tie the white-haired trainer with Ben

Jones for the most Derby vic­to­ries with six. Af­ter Tiz the Law, Honor A. P. and Authen­tic, the other 13 horses are listed at dou­ble-digit odds. Churchill Downs is us­ing a new 20-horse start­ing gate espe­cially for the Derby, although posts 1, 18, 19 and 20 will be left va­cant af­ter King Guillermo and Fin­nick the Fierce were scratched.

A win by Tiz the Law would make Tagg the old­est trainer to win a Derby at age 82. It will be the last Derby run on Lasix. Churchill Downs and the other Triple Crown tracks will ban the anti-bleed­ing med­i­ca­tion start­ing next year.

Out­side the track’s main en­trance on Cen­tral Av­enue, the scene fig­ures to be dif­fer­ent, too. The death of Bre­onna Tay­lor, a Black woman shot and killed by po­lice in her apart­ment in March, has fu­eled tense demon­stra­tions for 100 con­sec­u­tive days in the city. The prospect of un­rest on Derby day has its par­tic­i­pants un­sure what to ex­pect. “I couldn’t be any­thing else but very con­cerned,” Tagg said. “Hope­fully, we can pull it off with­out any­thing dis­as­trous hap­pen­ing.” Sat­ur­day’s fore­cast calls for partly sunny skies and a high of 82 de­grees (27 Cel­sius) to go with hu­mid­ity — quite a con­trast to the cool and rainy weather when the race is usu­ally run in late spring. ✶

CHAR­LIE RIEDEL/AP

Tiz the Law, trained by Bar­clay Tagg, is the big­gest morn­ing­line Ken­tucky Derby fa­vorite in 31 years.

Honor A. P., sec­ond choice in the morn­ing line, is given the best shot at tak­ing down 3-5 fa­vorite Tiz the Law.

DARRON CUM­MINGS/AP

Trainer Bob Baf­fert has two horses in the field of 16, in­clud­ing third choice Authen­tic.

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