They say lightning never strikes twice in the same place. That certain events happen once in a lifetime, never to be repeated.
Sackatoga Stable and trainer Barclay Tagg struck gold in 2003 when their unheralded New York-bred gelding Funny Cide sprung a popular upset victory in the Kentucky Derby. Purchased for just $75,000, Funny Cide figured to be the horse of a lifetime for Sackatoga, a modest stable founded by a group of high school friends from Sackett’s Harbor, New York.
But wait—there are storm clouds on the horizon, and handicapping forecasts predict the storm will peak at Churchill Downs on Sep. 5, 2020. The “storm” in question is Tiz the Law, the latest New York-bred sensation for Sackatoga and Tagg, and it seems increasingly likely Kentucky Derby lightning will strike twice for team Funny Cide.
Bred by Twin Creeks Farm and sold for $110,000 as a yearling, Tiz the Law came to hand quicker than Funny Cide. A son of hot young sire Constitution out of the graded stakes-winning Tiznow mare Tizfiz, Tiz the Law showed tremendous early potential. Tagg rarely saddles ready-to-win first-time starters, so when Tiz the Law crushed his debut at Saratoga by 4 1/4 lengths—in the process earning big speed figures—racing fans sat up and took notice.
Tiz the Law quickly proved his victory was no fluke by posting a similarly dominant victory in the historic Champagne (G1) at Belmont Park. Stretching out over a mile and stepping up in class. Tiz the Law stumbled at the start but recovered to rally and win by four lengths in the quick time of 1:35.41.
Tiz the Law’s only setback of the season came in the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs, when he spent the majority of the race buried in traffic over a sloppy track. Despite these severe obstacles, Tiz the Law battled through a narrow opening in the homestretch to finish third by less than a length, stamping his credentials as the early favorite for the 2020 Kentucky Derby.
Many promising juveniles fail to progress as 3-year-olds, but Tiz the Law only improved during the winter. He opened the season with a convincing three-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull (G3) on Feb. 1 at Gulfstream Park, with future Fountain of Youth (G2) winner Ete Indien among his beaten rivals. Two months later, Tiz the Law made a mockery of an even tougher field in the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby (G1), shrugging off a slight training setback to score by 4 1/4 lengths.
“I was very impressed, but I’ve been impressed with everything he’s done,” Tagg told Gulfstream after the race. “He just surprises me, everything he does. He just kind of rises to the occasion and does it with aplomb.”
The spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus has prompted the postponement of the Kentucky Derby from May 2 to Sep. 5, placing Tiz the Law’s connections in uncharted territory as far as preparing for the Derby is concerned. But all the preparation in the world means little without talent to back it up, which is why Tiz the Law—with his obviously abundant ability—appears well-positioned to strike on the first Saturday in September.