Tiz The Law: Best-Laid Plans For A 4-Year-Old Campaign Go Awry

To borrow a term used by the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I was skeptically hopeful when Coolmore announced it had bought the breeding rights to Tiz the Law following the Constitution colt’s 3 ¾-length victory in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, shortened to 1 1/8 miles and run as the opening leg of the Triple Crown on June 20.

Hopeful because of the comment made at the time by Jack Knowlton, managing partner of Tiz the Law’s owner, Sackatoga Stable, that the partnership was “excited to see what Tiz the Law has in store on the track for the remainder of his 3-year-old year and beyond…”

Skeptical because I know what kind of pressure stallion operations like Coolmore can place on owners and trainers when they get their tentacles into a top prospect. And let’s face it: Coolmore’s emphasis is on acquiring stallion prospects with early racing success. Only two horses on the sizable stallion roster at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Versailles, Ky., raced as 4-year-olds after winning Grade 1 races at 2 or 3: Mo Town and Maximum Security.

So when I saw the news release from Coolmore stating that Tiz the Law had been retired from racing “on veterinary advice” and with no further explanation, my hopefulness turned to flat-out skepticism. I’d seen this movie before.

After seeing the Tweet, Knowlton called to assure me this was not some manufactured excuse to shuffle Tiz the Law into his next career before the 2021 breeding season begins.

“We’re crushed,” Knowlton said, saying he called Sackatoga’s 30-some partners with the bad news. “Believe me, nobody wanted him running next year more than me. We were so looking forward to the Pegasus (Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla., on Jan. 23).”

He added that the race he really wanted to win this coming year was Saratoga’s G1 Whitney at his hometown track in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Knowlton called Tiz the Law’s G1 Travers win at Saratoga his personal highlight of the stable star’s 3-year-old season.

Knowlton said Robin Smullen, assistant to trainer Barclay Tagg, “sensed something wasn’t right” after she took Tiz the Law out for a routine gallop Tuesday morning at Palm Meadows training center. He was scheduled to breeze on Jan. 3 in what would have been his sixth workout since a disappointing sixth-place finish as the favorite in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland on Nov. 7.

“I got the call from Barclay that I always dread,” Knowlton said. “Our vet took X-rays and found there was significant bone bruising in the lower part of the cannon bone in a front leg. We had another vet take a look at it and both said the same thing: ‘You really don’t have any choice.’

“I’m really thankful that Robin caught it when she did.”

We’re rarely privy to stallion contracts between a stud farm and a horse’s owner, a major exception being Coolmore’s deal to buy the breeding interests of American Pharoah from Ahmed Zayat. That contract became an exhibit in a lawsuit filed against Zayat by a lender.

The stallion deal, signed in January of the eventual Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner’s 3-year-old season, spelled out the retirement plans for the horse, specifically saying it could be no later than Nov. 30, 2015. Prior to then, the contract stated, “In the event that the horse is under performing or is injured, a panel of Ahmed Zayat, Paul Shanahan (a Coolmore associate) and (trainer) Bob Baffert will meet to discuss and decide whether to modify or terminate the horse’s racing career. Each person shall be entitled to one vote. Any decision to modify or terminate the horse’s racing career will be made upon the affirmative vote of at least two persons.”

Knowlton said he negotiated the contract to ensure Tiz the Law had the opportunity race at 4. He said there were contingencies for himself, Tagg and an Ashford representative to discuss what to do if the horse went off form.

But the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. That’s especially true when you’re dealing with a finely tuned athlete like a Thoroughbred racehorse.

Tiz the Law goes off to stud with six wins from nine starts over two racing seasons, including four Grade 1 victories. He was defeated in his final two starts, beaten on the square by Authentic to be second in the G1 Kentucky Derby and then failing to hit the board for the only time in the Breeders’ Cup.

He was in good hands throughout his career, trained by someone whose “numbers” may not fit the criteria for some Hall of Fame voters but whose wisdom and old school horsemanship have earned the respect of his peers.

Tiz the Law’s owners are in the game for the fun of racing, not the business of breeding like the corporate stables that now dominate – a band of Davids competing against an army of Goliaths. Like kids on a Ferris wheel, they wanted to go around one more time.

I remain skeptically hopeful that someday soon we’ll see another horse who was a Grade 1 winner at 2 and a Classic winner at 3 that will be pointed for and complete a full campaign at 4.

But I’m not holding my breath.

The post Tiz The Law: Best-Laid Plans For A 4-Year-Old Campaign Go Awry appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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