(Tiz the Law / Photos by Holly M. Smith)

From the NYRA Media Team:

Grade 1 Belmont Stakes winner Tiz the Law resumed serious business on Wednesday morning, posting a five-furlong breeze over Belmont Park’s main track for trainer Barclay Tagg.

Under the guidance of regular rider Manny Franco, the three-time Grade 1-winning son of second crop sire Constitution recorded his work in 1:01.10 over a main track rated fast. The move was a second work for Tiz the Law since being the first New York-bred in over a century to capture the Belmont Stakes. Last Wednesday, he went an easy half-mile in 50.06 seconds.

“He looked perfect,” Tagg said. He’s got a lot of energy. He wouldn’t blow out a candle.”

Unbeaten in all three starts during his sophomore campaign, Tiz the Law began 2020 with wins in the Grade 3 Holy Bull and Grade 1 Florida Derby, both at Gulfstream Park, en route to a victory in the Belmont Stakes, which was run as the first leg of the Triple Crown following a rescheduling of the national stakes calendar due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tiz the Law, bred in the Empire State by Twin Creeks Farm, began his career with a maiden triumph against fellow New York-breds at Saratoga Race Course before winning the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont Park. His only loss took place in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs, where he was third beaten three-quarters of a length over a sloppy main track.

Tiz the Law remains on target for the Grade 1, $1 million Runhappy Travers on August 8 at Saratoga Race. The colt currently tops the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 272 points and could add to those totals in the Runhappy Travers, which offers 100-40-20-10 to the top-four finishers.

“It’s just a matter of keeping him happy and healthy for seven weeks between now and the Travers,” said Jack Knowlton – operations manager for owner Sackatoga Stable. “[Assistant trainer] Robin [Smullen] says nothing phases him. If you watch him around the stable, on the track, and during his races it all seems to be true. Fortunately, Manny has gotten to know what he has under him and has done a great job. Hopefully we can continue the roll that we’re on.”

Knowlton has been down a similar road before when Funny Cide won the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness finishing third in the Belmont Stakes but was scratched from that year’s Travers.

Knowlton said a win in the Runhappy Travers would be a huge deal for the Sackatoga team.

“Once he won the Champagne in the fall, he was on everyone’s radar screen as a top 3-year-old,” Knowlton said. “We had a small bump in the road when we went to Kentucky, but as soon as he won the Holy Bull in Florida, he was right back on top of everyone’s list. We’re just taking it one race at a time. It will be interesting. No one will have run a mile and a quarter before the Travers and it will be unusual that some horses will have run a mile and quarter before the Derby. This was a race we could have had Funny Cide in, but he got sick. We’d love to complete the New York circle.”

Tiz the Law is scheduled ship to Saratoga on Monday, July 13, where he will continue to train for the Runhappy Travers.


Third-place Belmont Stakes-finisher Max Player to target Runhappy Travers (G1)

George E. Hall and SportBLX Thoroughbreds’ Max Player, who ran third in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes on June 20, is being pointed towards the Grade 1, $1 million Runhappy Travers, trainer Linda Rice said.

Max Player, who finished only behind Dr Post and winner Tiz the Law in last month’s first leg of the Triple Crown, registered his first breeze since the Belmont Stakes, going four furlongs in 49 seconds on Sunday over Belmont Park’s dirt training track.

“He’s doing very well. That was his first breeze since the Belmont and it was just a nice, comfortable breeze, and he’s in good order,” Rice said.

Never off the board in four career starts, Max Player could next make his Saratoga debut by running in the “Mid-Summer Derby.” He made his first two starts at Parx, running second in his debut at one mile on November 12 before winning at the same distance at second asking on December 17.

In his sophomore debut, he bested an eight-horse field by 3 ¼ lengths in the 1 1/8-mile Grade 3 Withers on February 1 at Aqueduct Racetrack. That was his previous start since the Belmont Stakes, which was shortened from its famed 1 ½-mile distance to a one-turn 1 1/8 miles to accommodate the revised schedule for 3-year-olds in training.

With the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby set for September 5 and serving as the middle jewel of the Triple Crown this year, Max Player can accumulate even more qualifying points, with the Travers offering a 100-40-20-10 scale to the top-four finishers.

Max Player has accumulated 40 qualifying points for the “Run for the Roses” and is 12th on the current leaderboard for a race that has traditionally taken as many as 20 entries.

Contested at 1 1/4 miles, the Travers would be the longest race Max Player has run, but Rice said she is optimistic the Honor Code colt could handle it.

“We’re leaning towards running in the Travers,” Rice said. “We looked at some other options with the [Grade 1] Haskell [at Monmouth] or the [Grade 3] Peter Pan [July 16 at Saratoga], but we are going to point right to the Travers.”

Wicked Trick, who finished fourth in the Grade 2 True North on June 27 at Belmont, will be getting a freshening after three races to start his 5-year-old campaign. The Hat Trick gelding won his seasonal bow against allowance company on January 20 at Aqueduct before running fifth in the Stymie on March 7.

After stepping up to graded stakes company for the first time in 23 career starts in the True North, Rice said she decided to give the Kentucky bred who she co-owns with Stephen Cooper a respite.

“He’s just been a little dull lately, so I just sent him to the farm to give him some time off,” Rice said.

Rice has saddled four winners during the Belmont spring/summer meet, which started June 3 and will conclude on Sunday, July 12. She will gear up for the Saratoga meet that runs from July 16 through September 7. Rice has enjoyed success at the Spa, highlighted by the 2009 meet in which she captured the training title.

“I think we were all very happy to just get back to racing in these unusual times,” Rice said. “It’s given a lot of relief to the horsemen and the owners so that we can maintain these horses in our stables. Saratoga will be unusual this year as well for sure, but we’re just all happy to be back to racing.”


Come Dancing will slow the tempo in preparation for the Ballerina presented by NYRA Bets (G1)

Blue Devil Racing Stable’s Grade 1-winner Come Dancing is on target for the Grade 1, $300,000 Ballerina presented by NYRA Bets; a seven-furlong sprint for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up slated for August 8 on the Runhappy Travers Day card at Saratoga.

Trained by Carlos Martin, the 6-year-old Malibu Moon mare finished second to longshot Victim of Love last out on June 27 in the Grade 3 Vagrancy contested over a Belmont main track rated good. That effort came on the back of an off-the-board performance in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 1 Apple Blossom on April 18 at Oaklawn Park.

“Mentally, more than anything, I don’t think the 6-year-old mare got anything out of that April 18 race,” said Martin. “It was nobody’s fault. It was just how things developed in a tough race going two turns off the bench.

“I’m hoping that last race will move her forward. It was a slick track that day and Jose Lezcano’s horse [Victim of Love] was drifting out,” continued Martin. “He was way out in the middle of the track. Jose is a great rider in his own right and has won three Breeders’ Cup races. I think there’s a reason he wanted to be in the seven-path.”

With Victim of Love drifting to the center of the track in the stretch run of the Vagrancy, Hall of Fame rider Javier Castellano angled Come Dancing for an inside run to no avail.

“Not to take anything away from Javier, as I think anyone would have taken the inside when you have it all to yourself, but I wonder if that wasn’t the best place to be on that particular day,” said Martin. “She came out of the race well and we’ll get ready to defend our title in the Ballerina. Javier is going to stick with her, which is great.”

Come Dancing enjoyed a tremendous 2019 campaign, highlighted by a dramatic come-from-behind win in the Grade 1 Ballerina. She overcame a slow start to rally to a 3 ½-length score in the seven-furlong sprint with Castellano up.

The millionaire mare won 4-of-6 starts in 2019 for Martin, including Grade 2 wins in the Ruffian and Gallant Bloom, both at Belmont Park; and the Grade 3 Distaff at Aqueduct.

Come Dancing, who has shown an affinity for quick works in the morning, posted a pair of bullet breezes at Belmont heading into the Vagrancy, including a half-mile in 47 flat on June 8 and five-eighths in 57.94 on June 15.

It was a formula similar to the mare’s morning efforts ahead of her Ballerina win, held August 24, 2019, when bullet breezing a half-mile in 46.55 on August 4 and five furlongs in 59.60 on August 11 at the Spa.

Martin said he will take a different approach with Come Dancing heading into her Ballerina title defense.

“We’ll try to train her a little bit differently. She does things so easily in the morning that she can fool you,” said Martin. “I think she’s gotten smart that when Javier is on her back she fools all of us. I don’t think we need to see any 57s or 1:10 gallop outs anymore. We’ll train her a little differently for the Ballerina and see what happens.”

Martin credited Blue Devil Racing Stable’s Marc Holliday and James O’Reilly for their support as he looks to switch up his training methods.

“She just needs to settle and finish. She doesn’t need all those fast works,” said Martin. “The good thing is Marc Holliday and James O Reilly from Blue Devil are very supportive. I have been working with them a long time. They trust my judgment. A good trainer can adjust and sometimes you make different calls and it works. You can’t be afraid to switch the game plan.

“Javier can ride her in the afternoons and hopefully she’ll break track records in the afternoons,” added Martin. “I don’t think we need to see anymore track records in the morning.”

Come Dancing is slated to work a half-mile on Sunday, July 12 on Closing Day at Belmont Park before shipping up to Saratoga the following day.

A win in the Ballerina, a Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re in event offering a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, would set Come Dancing up for the most significant goal of her campaign.

Last year, Come Dancing ran sixth in the Filly and Mare Sprint won by Covfefe, and Martin said the goal is to add a Breeders’ Cup trophy to the cabinet.

“When we were sitting there after the loss to Covfefe, Marc turned to me and said, ‘We have to avenge the day.’ So, we’re definitely looking to get back there,” said Martin.

Martin said he is also looking forward to unveiling New York-bred Betsy Blue this summer at Saratoga. By Tonalist, the Blue Devil Racing Stable homebred is out of the Yonaguska mare Honest to Betsy, a three-time winner.

“She’s out of a really nice mare Dale Romans trained for them years ago named Honest to Betsy,” said Martin. “She’s showing that she has some talent and I’m excited about her.”

Betsy Blue recently recorded her first official breeze, covering three furlongs in 37.03 on July 3 on the Belmont dirt training track.


Empire 6 mandatory payout set for Belmont spring/summer meet’s Closing Day on Sunday

Sunday’s Closing Day card at Belmont Park will feature a mandatory payout of the Empire 6, which boasts a jackpot of $400,040 heading into the next live racing day on Thursday.

Live coverage of all the races in the sequence are available with America’s Day at the Races on FOX Sports and MSG+. Free Equibase-provided past performances will be available for races that are part of the America’s Day at the Races broadcast and can be accessed at https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/tv-schedule.

The Empire 6 requires the bettor to select the first-place finisher of the final six races of the card. On non-mandatory payout days, if one unique ticket exists, then 100 percent of the net pool, plus the jackpot carryover if applicable, will be paid to the winner. If there is no unique wager selecting the first-place finisher in all six races, then 75 percent of the day’s net pool will be distributed to those who selected the first-place finisher in the greatest number of races. The remainder will be added into the jackpot and carried to the next day’s Empire 6.

Closing Day of the Belmont spring/summer meet will also feature mandatory payouts for both the Early Pick 5 and Late Pick 5 wagers. First post on Sunday’s Closing Day card will be 12:30 p.m. Eastern.