When the New York Racing Association rescheduled its signature race and placed it at the front of the Triple Crown, it seemed we might get a Kentucky Derby-style showdown between the most-hyped horses in the 2020 class.
That hope has dissolved, for reasons we'll discuss in a moment, leaving just one horse who would have gone into the first weekend in May with a serious case to be the Derby favorite. That's Tiz the Law, trained by Barclay Tagg, the tight-lipped 82-year-old Pennsylvanian who prepared Funny Cide for victories in the 2003 Derby and Preakness. Tagg built his training career in Maryland before moving his stable to New York in 2002.
Tiz the Law hasn't done much wrong on his way to favorite status in the Belmont. He won his first two starts as a 2-year-old, including the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park in October. He looked good in winning his two prep races, the Feb. 1 Holy Bull Stakes and the March 28 Florida Derby, and has trained well since. With the Belmont slated to run at 1 1/8 miles, he will not have to extend beyond a distance he's already handled.
Tagg's horse has been the best 3-year-old on the East Coast, no doubt about it, and he's sure to be a heavy favorite at Belmont Park. But with none of the top West Coast contenders coming to New York, it's fair to ask how much he can prove by winning. In that sense, the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby still looms as his defining test.