(Tiz the Law after winning Saturday’s Belmont Stakes / Photo by Joe Labozzetta & Courtesy of NYRA)

From the NYRA Media Team:

Moments after Sackatoga Stable’s Tiz the Law captured Saturday’s 152nd running of the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, trainer Barclay Tagg could be heard asking those in charge of the trophy presentation to hurry things up – he had to get back to his horses.

The veteran conditioner, who accompanies each set of morning workers to the track on his pony, takes a hands-on approach to horsemanship.

Tagg said that Tiz the Law has been easier to handle than most horses.

“He’s so easy to deal with. If you ask him to go fast, he goes fast. If you ask him to go slow, he goes slow,” said Tagg.

Assistant trainer Robin Smullen also serves as the main exercise rider for Tiz the Law, and Tagg credits her with much of the Constitution colt’s success.

“I’ll say it – he’s been handled perfectly, too. I’ve had Robin ride him and Robin can ride anything,” said Tagg. “She’s a brilliant horsewoman and I can’t say enough about her. She has the heart of a lion, the judgment of Solomon and the patience of Job.”

Tagg and Sackatoga Stable teamed up in 2003 to campaign Funny Cide, who won that year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness before running third in their Triple Crown bid in the Belmont.

While the connections are the same, and both horses are New York-breds, Tiz the Law and Funny Cide have many differences.

Tiz the Law posted a number of strong works leading into the Belmont Stakes, including a five-eighths effort in 1:00.53 on June 8 and an easy half-mile in 50.42 on June 14 over Big Sandy. The controlled final breeze for Tiz the Law was in sharp contrast to the bullet 57.82 Funny Cide clocked heading into the 2003 Belmont Stakes.

Smullen credits Tagg for understanding what each of the horses in his care needs, and putting them in a position to be successful.

“Barclay is so good at getting them to the right spot at the right time,” said Smullen. “We tightened the screws [on Tiz the Law], but in the last work we go in 50. And everybody asks, did you want to go that slow? Yeah. We did. That was on purpose. He’s just so good at it.

“Our work two weeks out is usually our serious work and the last work before the race is the easiest work, if you have the horse that can do it,” she added. “With Funny Cide, you couldn’t. His last work before the Belmont he went in 57, but this horse is easy to ride 90 percent of the time.”

Tagg mapped out all the details as Tiz the Law prepared for his first start in nearly three months following his score in the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 28 at Gulfstream Park. Smullen said he even planned out the celebration for jockey Manny Franco, who offered the slightest of fist pumps along with a cathartic yell as the New York-bred hero crossed the wire to give Tagg a personal Triple Crown.

“Barclay told him not to be jumping around on the horse. Sometimes they shift their weight [in the saddle] and it’s bad,” said Smullen. “So Barclay said to Manny, if you’re winning, don’t do that. Just don’t. That’s the stuff that nobody thinks about, but he does. It might be the difference between making the next race or not making it.”

Tiz the Law’s sophomore season kicked off with a win in the Grade 3 Holy Bull on February 1 and Tagg will be charged with keeping the colt in good order through a campaign he would like to see include Grade 1 stops in the $1 million Runhappy Travers on August 8 at Saratoga Race Course; the Kentucky Derby on September 5; the Preakness on October 3; and the Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 7.

Tagg said to keep Tiz the Law at the top level, he’ll continue to listen to what his colt has to say.

“You have to pay attention to your horse. He tells you whether it’s too much or too little,” said Tagg. “He tells you all that stuff if you pay attention to it. You have to show up every day. You have to see if he eats every day and if he eats every night.”

Tagg said he prefers to feed his horses later in the evening, and he’s there each night to monitor that each food tub is emptied.

“I like to come back at night and if I can see his nose in the tub eating, I’m happy,” said Tagg. “If one of them has walked away and is eating hay in the corner when his feed is sitting there, that’s a signal there’s something wrong. Maybe it’s nothing too bad, maybe the groom gave the horse two cups instead of one cup, but you need to find all this stuff out.

“A lot of guys have horses all over the place, but we don’t. So, we have to make everything work,” he added.

The morning training, the perfect trip engineered by Franco, and even the celebration went according to plan.

And plans for Tiz the Law’s next race – the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers – are already underway.

“He came out of the race great,” said Smullen. “He ate up and then he came out and grazed for an hour. His legs are good, his attitude and energy are good.”

For the next few days, Tagg said Tiz the Law will walk the shed row.

“He’ll walk for three days and we’ll graze him every afternoon like we do,” started Tagg. “The fourth day we’ll take him out and jog him once around backwards to see how he moves and how he is and if he eats up that night we’ll go to galloping. And ten days after that we’ll give him an easy breeze, a half-mile.”

The wheels are already in motion as Tagg looks to add another trophy to his cabinet.

“I’ve never won the Travers and I want to win it,” said Tagg. “It’s very important to me.”


G1 Runhappy Travers, Haskell in play for Dr Post

Trainer Todd Pletcher reported that Dr Post emerged from his game runner-up effort in Saturday’s Grade 1 Belmont Stakes in good order, and that the son of Quality Road could be slated for more Grade 1 action.

Pletcher, a three-time winner of the Belmont, said the Grade 1 $1 million Haskell Invitational on July 18 at Monmouth Park or the Grade 1, $1 million Runhappy Travers on August 8 at Saratoga are both likely targets for the dark bay colt.

“Both of those races are in play. It just depends on how he bounces out of the race,” Pletcher said at his barn Sunday morning. “We were always confident that a route of ground will not be an issue for him. He finished up well. It was a very encouraging effort.”

Owned by Vinnie Viola’s St. Elias Stable, Dr Post arrived at this year’s first leg of the Triple Crown off a stakes triumph in the Unbridled at Gulfstream Park on April 25 after breaking his maiden over the South Florida oval just one day after Belmont Stakes winner Tiz the Law picked up a second Grade 1 victory in the Florida Derby.

“We always felt confident that a lot of ground won’t be an issue for him. It was a very encouraging effort,” Pletcher said. “Considering he broke his maiden the day after Tiz the Law won the Florida Derby, that’s a lot of progress to make in short period of time. Hopefully he keeps improving.”

Bred in Kentucky by Cloyce C. Clark, Dr Post is out the graded stakes-winning Hennessy broodmare Mary Delaney and was a $400,000 acquisition from the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, where he was consigned by Hunter Valley Farm.

Earlier on the card, Pletcher won the Grade 3 Wonder Again with Robert and Lawana Low’s Sweet Melania, who won off a seventh-month layoff to win the one mile turf event for 3-year-old fillies in gate-to-wire fashion.

Never off the board in seven career starts, the daughter of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah was third in last year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf after winning the Grade 2 Jessamine on October 9 at Keeneland.

“She came out of it in good order. We planned on giving her a little time off after the Breeders’ Cup and things went kind of crazy for a while,” Pletcher said. “We didn’t know where would come back. We knew a distance like a mile was what we were looking for, so when this race came out we pointed towards this.”

Pletcher also debuted a potential rising star on Saturday afternoon in Wertheimer and Frere’s Happy Saver, who graduated at first asking by 5 ½ lengths under Irad Ortiz, Jr.

“He had been training well,” Pletcher said. “We were looking forward to getting him started. I have to admit, the win was more impressive than I could have hoped for. It’s always exciting when you have that. It surprised me when he showed as much as he did.”

The winning effort garnered an 89 Beyer Speed Figure.

Pletcher is not in any hurry to run the talented son of Super Saver against stakes company.

“There are plenty of options, so we’ll let him take us where we need to go,” Pletcher said.

In the Belmont Stakes, Pletcher also saddled stakes-placed Farmington Road who finished a distant eighth and said that the track was tough to make up ground on Saturday.

“We’ll have to find a track that’s more kind to closers,” Pletcher said.


 Third-place G1 Belmont Stakes-finisher Max Player gains valuable experience in Classic

George E. Hall’s Max Player rallied from second-last in the 10-horse field to finish third in Saturday’s Grade 1 Belmont Stakes. Trainer Linda Rice said the Honor Code colt came out of his first race in four months in good order on Sunday morning.

“He came out good and looked good this morning; no problems,” Rice said.

Max Player, with Joel Rosario aboard, tracked in ninth position as Tap It to Win led the field through the opening quarter-mile in 23.11 seconds an the half in 46.16. While Tiz the Law made a strong move out of the turn that propelled him to his 3 ¾-length victory, Max Player went seven-wide from the upper stretch but kicked on impressively, besting Pneumatic by 2 ½ lengths to finish on the board.

“He was a little further back than I hoped,” Rice said. “I was hoping we’d have been a little closer early in the midpack. He had a lot to do because of that. He ran a little green into the kick-back once again. Joel had to circle pretty wide, but he was running at the end of it.”

Though showing some signs of inexperience, Max Player has been consistent, with a career record of 2-1-1 in four starts. The Kentucky bred ran second in his debut in November at Parx before ending his juvenile campaign with a maiden-breaking win at second asking in December at the same track.

In his stakes debut, he topped an eight-horse field to win the Grade 3 Withers by 3 ¼ lengths on February 1 at Aqueduct, registering an 86 Beyer for his victory in the Kentucky Derby prep race.

Making his first start off the layoff, Max Player earned a personal-best 92 Beyer for his effort in the one-turn, 1 1/8-mile Belmont Stakes.

“Coming off a 4 ½-month break, I thought it was a very creditable effort,” Rice said. “You can build on this going forward. Going a mile and a quarter shouldn’t be a problem as well.”

Rice said she had no confirmed next steps yet for Max Player but will talk with Hall and come up with a plan. The Saratoga summer meet runs Thursday, July 16 through Monday, September 7, and includes multiple options for 3-year-olds on the main track, led by the Grade 1, $1 million Runhappy Travers at 1 ¼ miles on August 8 and also including the Grade 2, $150,000 Jim Dandy at 1 1/8 miles on September 5.

“We’ll keep all the options open for now and sort it out when we get him back to the track in a week to 10 days,” Rice said.

Rice saddled her first Belmont Stakes entrant in 17 years, when Supervisor finished fifth in 2003. Already just one of 10 women to train a Belmont Stakes runner, Rice had the second-best finisher from that group, with only the Dianne Carpenter-trained Kingpost coming closer when second to Risen Star in 1988.

Despite being run at a shorter distance and without spectators, Rice said earning the blacktype in a Triple Crown race for the first time in her career was special. He also said Max Player showed the potential to possibly run in the Kentucky Derby on September 5 at Churchill and the Preakness on October 3 at Pimlico if things continue to go well.

“It was pretty exciting, it would have been more exciting if we had our typical crowd that could join us, but it was great and I think he ran well enough to show that he could possibly win a Classic in his future,” Rice said.

Paul Pompa, Jr.’s Turned Aside ran second to Jack and Noah in Friday’s Sir Cat at Belmont, marking his sophomore debut. Off a seven-month respite, the son of Triple Crown-winner American Pharoah stayed in second position at every point of call to the winner, finishing one length back to the gate-to-wire victor in the six-furlong turf sprint.

Rice said Turned Aside will now target the Grade 3, $100,000 Quick Call on Friday, July 24 at Saratoga. The Quick Call, for 3-year-olds, will be contested at 5 ½ furlongs on the turf.

“He ran well and he was coming off a long layoff, so we were happy with it and we’ll likely point him to the Quick Call next,” Rice said.


Decorated Invader slated for stakes action at Saratoga

Trainer Christophe Clement was delighted to see Decorated Invader record a second graded stakes victory in Saturday’s Grade 2 Pennine Ridge at Belmont Park, and said that both the Grade 2, $150,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame on July 18 and the $500,000 Saratoga Derby Invitational on August 15 at Saratoga Race Course are both likely targets for the Declaration of War colt.

Piloted by Joel Rosario, who later guided Oleksandra to victory in the Grade 1 Jaipur presented by America’s Best Racing, Decorated Invader broke sharply from the rail tracking pacesetter Proven Strategies and took command to the inside around the far turn to draw off to a 4 ¾-length victory as the heavy favorite.

“He came out of the race well. There are two stakes at Saratoga. We’ll see how he trains, but the plan is to go there,” Clement said. “We’ll go there and if he’s fine, we’ll do both and if he needs the extra time then we can just run in the Saratoga Derby. He looked great this morning.”

Owned by Terry Finley’s West Point Thoroughbreds, William Sandbrook, William Freeman and Cheryl Manning, Declaration of War made his 2020 bow when taking the Cutler Bay over the turf on March 28 at Gulfstream Park. A winner of four races all over different surfaces, Declaration of War took the Grade 1 Summer at Woodbine en route to a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf – his lone off-the-board effort.

Oak Bluff Stables’ seven-time stakes winning New York-bred Therapist is a candidate for either the $100,000 Kingston going 1 1/16 miles on July 5 or the $75,000 Banrock going six furlongs.

“He just worked this morning with Irad Ortiz, Jr. and looked great,” Clement said. “He has two options both for New York-breds either the Kingston or the Banrock a few days later.”

The son of Freud was victorious against open company in the last out First Defense, which was his first victory since taking the Elusive Quality last April.