Florida Derby 2020 Results & Reaction
It may not have been a typical edition of the Curlin Florida Derby (G1) but for the winning connections of Tiz The Law there was as much of a celebration in different parts of Florida as there would have been in an overcrowded Gulfstream Park winner’s circle.
With the racetrack’s doors shut to the general public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an unprecedented edition of Florida’s premier prep for the Kentucky Derby unfolded on March 28 with the owners (Sackatoga partners) and trainer Barclay Tagg viewing a dominant performance from separate corners of a world in upheaval.
“He is something special, no doubt,” said Jack Knowlton, who runs the Sackatoga Stable partnership. “We’re going to enjoy this one, and if he stays healthy and things work out well, this is going to be a fun year for us.”
Under normal conditions, getting 100 qualifying points toward a spot in the Kentucky Derby by virtue of Tiz The Law’s four-length victory in a race that has produced the highest number of Run for the Roses winners (24, and it would have been 25 if not for the disqualification of 2019 Florida Derby winner Maximum Security) would have prompted people to clear their schedule for a trip to the Bluegrass State on the first Saturday in May.
But in a world filled with uncertainty due to the spread of the virus, the road to Louisville is now considerably longer and trickier with the classic scheduled for a little more than five months from now September 5.
Tiz The Law, a son of Constitution, would typically be heading to Kentucky as either the favorite or second choice. His easy victory in the Florida Derby came on the heels of an impressive three-length win in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream.
Ete Indien was second that day and he in turn won the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) by eight and a half lengths and finished third behind 80-1 runner-up Shivaree on Saturday.
Winner of the Champagne Stakes (G1) in his second career start, Tiz The Law’s only setback occurred in last year’s Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) when he finished third on a sloppy track.
“He’s got that aplomb about him,” trainer Tagg said. “Whatever you ask him to do, he does. You see how easy he runs.”
As for what’s next, that’s the final Jeopardy answer.
Though the Arkansas Derby (G1) has been shifted to May 2, the day the Kentucky Derby was supposed to be contested, Knowlton said he has no interest in heading to Hot Springs.
“We’ll stay here on the East Coast and see what happens,” Knowlton said. “I don’t want to face Bob Baffert until I have to.”
Instead, Knowlton will wait to see how the racing world looks in the coming months. His hope is that the Preakness Stakes (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1) will be run in the spring or early summer, or at the very least the Wood Memorial Presented by Resorts World Casino (G2) fills the void. After that, his wish list would be complete if the Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1) is moved to the start of August to avoid a conflict with the Kentucky Derby.
“You plan on being at Louisville in five weeks and we have a horse who had a great chance to win on the first Saturday in May,” said Knowlton, whose partnership won the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness with the gelding Funny Cide. “Now we have to find a path to get him to the first Saturday in September and with the way the world is now, no one knows what that path looks like.
“I’m a New Yorker and I’d love to run in New York again. The Kentucky Derby is the be-all and end-all but if they do the right thing and move the Travers and they can run the Preakness and Belmont before, it would give us a nice set up to the Travers and Kentucky Derby.”
Tiz The Law received a sharp ride from jockey Manny Franco, who kept him reserved in third after Ete Indien and Shivaree covered the opening half mile in 47.95 seconds. While Shivaree edged away from Ete Indien, Franco swung Tiz The Law outside turning for home and sailed past them to cross the wire in one minute 50 seconds.
“I want to give all the credit to the horse,” the 25-year-old Franco said. “I waited for the right moment and when I called on him, he was there for me. I hope everyone is happy.”
Tagg surely was, as he savoured a second Grade 1 win from a horse who gave him his first top-level win in nine years. In a career that dates back to 1971, he will always be remembered for turning Funny Cide into a $3.5 million earner.
“This was my first win in the Florida Derby,” Tagg said, “and I thought I was at a stage in my career when I was through with ‘firsts.’ Now we have work out how to get him to the Kentucky Derby.”