by Brian Bohl
The traditional playing of "New York, New York" is a hallmark of the prelude to the Belmont Stakes. Frank Sinatra's refrain resonated strongly on Saturday, as Sackatoga Stable's Tiz the Law overtook Tap It to Win coming out of the turn and drew away for a 3 ¾-length triumph in the 152nd running of the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes, becoming the first state-bred in 138 years to win the American Classic.
Tiz the Law became just the fourth New York-bred and first since Forester in 1882 to earn a trip to the Belmont Stakes winner circle. The Constitution colt already has registered three Grade 1 victories, adding scores in the Champagne as a juvenile and a last-out win in the Florida Derby in March at Gulfstream Park and now has five wins in six career starts and is 3-for-3 as a sophomore.
To garner the traditional carnation blanket, Tiz the Law, the 4-5 mutuel favorite, broke well under jockey Manny Franco and settled in third position as Tap It to Win led the 10-horse field through the opening quarter-mile in 23.11 seconds and the half in 46.16 over the fast main track.
Franco tipped out his charge slightly entering the turn, putting Tiz the Law in prime position to overtake Tap It to Win to his outside at the top of the stretch. Tiz the Law took over from there and pressed strong to the wire, completing the one-turn 1 1/8-mile course in a final time of 1:46.53.
"It looked to me like everything just went like clockwork," said winning trainer Barclay Tagg. "That's the way the horse likes to run and that's the position the horse likes to be in. Manny knows the horse very well. We discussed it quickly before I put him up on the horse and I felt very confident Manny would ride him that way. I felt pretty solid about halfway down the lane. It's a good feeling."
The Belmont Stakes - being contested as the Tripe Crown's first leg for the first time in history and run at a distance other than 1 ½ miles for the first time since 1925 - offered 150-60-30-15 qualifying points to the Kentucky Derby, slated for September 5 at Churchill Downs. It was held without spectators.
The ageless Tagg said he will consider Tiz the Law for the Grade 1, $1 million Runhappy Travers on August 8 at Saratoga Race Course to facilitate what he hopes is a run in the re-ordered Triple Crown series, with the Derby scheduled for the following month and concluding with the Preakness on October 3 at Pimlico.
"The long-range plan would be the Travers, the Derby and then the Preakness. After that, they'll probably want me to take him to the Breeders' Cup," Tagg said.
For Tagg, the Belmont Stakes was the only remaining Classic that eluded him. He teamed with Sackatoga Stable in 2003 to campaign Funny Cide, who won that year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness before running third in that year's Belmont. Now, the veteran conditioner can claim a career Triple Crown, adding another milestone to an illustrious career that saw him train his first winner in 1972.
"For a lot longer before that I was hoping to win the Belmont," Tagg said. "Funny Cide got us close anyway and we topped it off with Tiz the Law here today."
Franco, NYRA's leading rider the last two years, ensured Saturday was a memorable day for him. The 25-year-old won his first career Triple Crown race and has piloted Tiz the Law to all four of his graded stakes victories, including three in a row starting with the Grade 3 Holy Bully in February at Gulfstream Park.
"I was pretty confident by the time we hit the seven-eighths pole. He was so kind and relaxed for me," Franco said. "He was so comfortable and never got keen, so I think that was the key.
"I'm not going to lie I was little bit nervous [in the gate], but at the same time I was confident because I know what I have under me. Like I said, I'm in good hands with Barclay," he added.
Tiz the Law, bred in the Empire State by Twin Creeks Farm, returned $3.60 on a $2 win wager, increasing his career earnings to more than $1.5 million.
A $110,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton New York-bred sale in Saratoga, he also improved to 5-for-5 on fast tracks, with his only non-winning effort coming with a third-place effort in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club in November on a sloppy and sealed Churchill Downs track that capped his 2-year-old year.
"It's tremendous [to win the Belmont with a New York-bred]," said Jack Knowlton, Sackatoga Stable's operations manager. "We've been with Barclay Tagg for 25 years and I keep telling everybody, Barclay doesn't get a lot of big horses, big opportunities, but when he does he knows what to do. He's got his and Sackatoga's got theirs. Triple Crown, two different horses, two different years [Funny Cide, 2003], and not a lot of people can say that."
Dr Post, trained by three-time Belmont winner Todd Pletcher, bested Max Player by 1 ½ lengths for second in his graded stakes debut.
"He ran great. No excuse," said Dr Post jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. "He got beat by a good horse too. The winner is a nice horse, New York-bred and he ran great. My horse is improving. He's only had three races [going into the Belmont]. He just needs a little more time to figure things out."
Linda Rice, whose Max Player bid to make her the first female to win a Triple Crown race, was 2 ½ lengths the best of Pneumatic for third, marking the fourth time in as many career starts he finished on the board.
"He got shuffled back a little after the break and had a wide trip through the turn, but he was still running on at the end of it," Rice said. "He hasn't run in five months, so it was a pretty good effort."
Tap It to Win, Sole Volante, Modernist, Farmington Road, Fore Left and Jungle Runner completed the order of finish.
Live racing resumes at Belmont Park Sunday with a nine-race card headlined by the $80,000 Lady Shipman in Race 8 at 5:05 p.m. Eastern. First post is at 1:15. There will be a mandatory payout of the Empire 6, encompassing races 4-9, at the conclusion of the card. The jackpot entering Sunday is $328,126.
NYRA Press Office
NYRA Press Office