Tiz the Law top choice at Bel­mont

Orlando Sentinel - - Sports Weekend -

It’s been 17 years since Jack Knowl­ton and his Sack­atoga Sta­ble pals rode yel­low school buses to the Bel­mont Stakes. It was a rol­lick­ing party on wheels for the group that came to watch their colt Funny Cide try to sweep the Triple Crown.

It didn’t hap­pen that day.

Now, the own­er­ship group that buys just one or two New York-bred colts a year is back to try again with Tiz the Law, above. He’s the star of a 10-horse field for the Bel­mont on Satur­day, per­haps the biggest event in U.S. sports since the coro­n­avirus pan­demic shut down com­pe­ti­tion in mid-March.

“I still wake up and kind of pinch my­self and say it looks like light­ning re­ally has struck twice,” Knowl­ton said.

Tiz the Law is the early 6-5 fa­vorite for the Bel­mont, which kicks off what Knowl­ton calls a “back­wards Triple Crown.” In­stead of com­plet­ing the series of three races run over five weeks, the Bel­mont is get­ting things started for the first time. The Ken­tucky Derby fol­lows on Sept. 5, with the Preak­ness fin­ish­ing up on Oct. 3.

Tiz the Law is the only horse in the race with Grade 1 stakes vic­to­ries. He’ll try to buck his­tory as the first New York­bred in 138 years to win the $1 mil­lion race. His 82-year-old trainer, Bar­clay Tagg, is chas­ing a win that eluded him in 2003 af­ter Funny Cide won the Ken­tucky Derby and Preak­ness only to lose his Triple Crown bid in the Bel­mont.

“Tiz The Law has been the best 3-yearold since Jan­uary ba­si­cally, and he re­mains that,” re­tired Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bai­ley said. “He would have been fa­vored in what­ever Triple Crown race we ran first, so we have a su­per­star that we’re go­ing to see on Satur­day.”

This Bel­mont — resched­uled from June 6 — will be run at 1 1⁄8 miles, the first time since 1925 it won’t be its usual gru­el­ing 1 1⁄2 miles. The top four fin­ish­ers earn Ken­tucky Derby qual­i­fy­ing points, in­clud­ing 150 to the win­ner.

“He’s a ver­sa­tile horse. He can be there on the pace or sit off, so I can do what­ever I want,” Tiz the Law’s jockey Manny Franco said. “He’s run here before and won and I think he likes the track, so that’s to our ad­van­tage.”

Casse sad­dles 6-1 shot Tap It to Win, try­ing to be­come the first trainer to win back-to-back in 24 years af­ter tak­ing last year’s Bel­mont with Sir Win­ston. Linda Rice over­sees 15-1 shot Max Player.

AL BELLO/GETTY-AFP

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