September 19, 2020

Kentucky Derby Report: Scintillating Travers display for Derby favorite

Tiz The Law
Tiz The Law wins the Travers (Horsephotos)

Tiz the Law emerged as a Kentucky Derby contender when romping in the Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park last October. He’s won four stakes since, none more impressive than a 5 1/2-length blowout in Saturday’s Travers (G1) at Saratoga, and the dynamic performance in his final prep ensures that Tiz the Law will be the shortest-priced Kentucky Derby favorite of the last 25 years.

The superb 3-year-old is getting faster for trainer Barclay Tagg, registering a career-best 115 Brisnet Speed rating in the Travers. Tiz the Law stretched out to 1 1/4 miles for the first time and displayed his tactical speed from the start, tracking the pace up-close in third to the far turn. The New York-bred son of Constitution devastated the competition with a brilliant turn of foot into the stretch, and jockey Manny Franco eased up the 1-2 favorite in the latter stages with the race well in hand.

Favored among individual interests in the first Kentucky Derby Future Wager last fall, Tiz the Law has been the public’s choice in all seven pools. The bay colt has navigated the changing landscape this year to perfection, and he appears more formidable than ever with the big race finally approaching on Sept. 5.

He’s been expertly handled by the same connections (owner Sackatoga Stable, Tagg and assistant Robin Smullen) of 2003 Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide. Of course, circumstances are much different this time, with Funny Cide being a 12-1 Derby outsider after dropping all three prep races that year. Tiz the Law has been under the spotlight all season, winning every start decisively, and I was among those who mistakenly thought he wouldn’t keep moving forward in the Travers after a 3 3/4-length score in the first leg of this year’s Triple Crown, the 1 1/8-mile Belmont Stakes on June 20. Tiz the Law continued to prove all doubters wrong in resounding fashion.

Derby favorites have fared well in this era, with American Pharoah, California Chrome, and Justify among those rewarding supporters, and Tiz the Law fits the same mold entering the race. His star appeal benefits the Kentucky Derby.

Point Given, who left the starting gate at 1.80-1 in 2001, is the shortest-priced Derby favorite since 20 betting interests were implemented the same year. Tiz the Law will be lower odds on Derby Day. There hasn’t been an odds-on favorite since Arazi (4-5) in 1992, and chances are good Tiz the Law won’t go that low, but we’ll see if his presence scares away potential challengers over the next couple of weeks. One thing’s for certain: Tiz the Law increases interest in the event due to his dominance so far.

Caracaro stamped his Derby ticket finishing a clear second. Max Player rallied belatedly for third, the same position he filled in the Belmont Stakes, and has been transferred from Linda Rice to Steve Asmussen in advance of a Derby bid. South Bend could also be in the Derby mix following his fourth-place effort.

With a convincing wire-to-wire triumph in Sunday’s Ellis Park Derby, Art Collector confirmed himself as a main rival for Tiz the Law under the Twin Spires. Based on turf earlier in his career, the Bernardini colt didn’t open his 3-year-old campaign until mid-May and has won four straight for Tommy Drury Jr., including a 3 1/2-length score in the July 11 Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland.

Art Collector netted a 102 Brisnet Speed rating for his 3 1/4-length decision at Ellis Park, his consecutive triple-digit number, and he promises to be a forward factor in the Derby.

Up next

Saturday’s Pegasus (G3) at Monmouth Park represent the final qualifier in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series. The 1 1/16-mile race probably won’t have much impact on the overall picture, but it could produce a Derby starter in Pneumatic.

Kentucky Derby Top 10

1 TIZ THE LAW: More formidable than ever after Travers romp
2 HONOR A. P.:  Lightly raced & his finishing kick could play well in speed-laden Derby
3 ART COLLECTOR: Front-runner did not disappoint in Ellis Park Derby & loves Churchill Downs
4 NY TRAFFIC: Could be in position to grab part after strong Haskell showing
5 THOUSAND WORDS: Turned form around in Shared Belief upset
6 CARACARO: Only a maiden winner but Travers runner-up has some exotics appeal
7 DR POST: Late runner will receive a better setup than he did in final prep
8 AUTHENTIC: Distance concerns surround classy front-runner
9 MAX PLAYER: Will look to factor from off the pace
10 SHARED SENSE: Too far back but got on track late in final prep