Reigning Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes winner Tiz the Law was retired to stud Wednesday, ending one of 2020’s most storied campaigns due to a veterinarian’s diagnosis.

Tiz the Law-Retires
This image of Tiz the Law and Manny Franco pulling away from their foes in the stretch played out for the sixth and final time in August’s Travers Stakes. The four-time Grade 1 winner and Belmont Stakes champion suddenly retired Wednesday after suffering bone bruses in his leg. (Image: Spencer Tulis/The Saratogian)

That diagnosis revealed bone bruises to his front leg bone. Those bruises were discovered when assistant trainer Robin Smullen noticed Tiz the Law wasn’t right after a Tuesday morning gallop at the Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida. Sackatoga Stable Managing Partner Jack Knowlton, who owns Tiz the Law as part of a small syndicate of Saratoga-based friends, said Smullen knew instantly coming off the track something was amiss.

In a Twitter post, Sackatoga Stable tweeted that “We are saddened to say that Tiz the Law has been retired based on veterinary advice. We were very much looking forward to his 4yo campaign, but his long-term health is paramount. We are beyond grateful for the time we had with him.”

A later Sackatoga tweet revealed that “A series of X-rays that showed that there was severe bone bruising to the bottom of his (front leg) bone. When that happens, you can’t continue to train and race a horse without a significant threat of a catastrophic breakdown.”

That sends Tiz the Law to Ashford Farm – Coolmore America’s breeding farm – where he’ll stand for $40,000 in his first stallion season.

At the same time, it removes yet another dynamic 2020 colt from the racing picture. For the first eight months of 2020, Tiz the Law occupied a front-row seat in the discussion of North America’s best Thoroughbreds.

Tiz the Law Dominated 3-Year-Olds for Two-Thirds of 2020

Nobody would argue during that time frame he wasn’t the country’s best 3-year-old. Authentic eventually took Tiz the Law’s mantle as the season’s best sophomore, winning the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic. But before September, Tiz the Law won the Florida Derby in March, the Belmont Stakes in June and the Travers Stakes in August. Those three Grade 1 victories came after Tiz the Law opened 2020 winning the Grade 3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream with a career-best 117 Equibase Speed Figure.

Tiz the Law ran six times in 2020, winning four and finishing second in one – the Kentucky Derby to Authentic. Tiz the Law’s lowest Equibase Speed Figure this year was the 106 he earned in the worst race of his career – the sixth-place outing in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November.

While that turned out to be Tiz the Law’s last race, it won’t be his most memorable. And no, it wasn’t his 3 ¾-length Belmont Stakes victory – hard as that is to believe. No, his most memorable would be the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, when Tiz the Law destroyed his fellow 3-year-olds by 5 ½ lengths.

His 2020 Travers Was One for the Ages

That impressive margin hardly does the performance justice. Covering the 1 1/4 miles in 2:00.95, Tiz the Law’s 109 Beyer Speed Figure tied for the eighth-fastest Beyer of the year. The 115 Brisnet Speed Figure was the fastest of the year on that scale. And even in his Kentucky Derby defeat, Tiz the Law turned in a 107 Equibase and exactly the trip his connections sought.

What makes Tiz the Law’s career even more amazing are those connections. Nobody in the racing world confuses Knowlton’s simple, bare-bones operation at Sackatoga with the industry giants you find in Kentucky. He and his modest Saratoga Springs-based syndicate buy only New York-breds, then turn them over to octogenarian trainer Barclay Tagg.

They don’t often catch Triple Crown-contending lightning. But when they do, Tagg knows what to do with it. In 2003, Knowlton took an armada of school buses from Saratoga Springs to Churchill Downs to watch his Funny Cide win the Kentucky Derby. Two weeks later, the gelding won the Preakness by 9 ¾ lengths, clocking a 114 Beyer. It was the second-largest victory margin in Preakness history.

The magic ended for Sackatoga and Funny Cide at the Belmont, when he tired and finished third. He missed the Travers due to a respiratory ailment. For Knowlton, a Saratoga Springs resident, that made Tiz the Law’s Travers victory all the sweeter.

Chalk One Up for the Little Stables

“He has provided the 35 owners a unique opportunity to compete and succeed at the highest level of thoroughbred racing,” Knowlton said in a release. “His impressive victory in the Grade 1 Travers at Saratoga Race Course was particularly rewarding for the Saratoga based stable. Sackatoga Stable is looking forward to the next chapter of his career as a stallion.”

After Funny Cide, it took 17 years for Sackatoga to get back to the Triple Crown big time. And that return came with a $110,000 price tag. That was Tiz the Law’s purchase price at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Preferred New York-Bred Yearling Sale.

The Constitution colt single-handedly raised the stock of his sire. Constitution’s breeding price leaped from $25,000 in 2020 to $85,000 in 2021. Sire a colt who wins four Grade 1s, finishes second by an eyelash in America’s biggest race, earns $2,735,300 and finds the winner’s circle six times in nine career races and it’s easy to comprehend why.

Suddenly, the Pegasus World Cup Loses Its Favorite

Knowlton laid out plans for Tiz the Law’s 4-year-old season that included the $3 million Pegasus World Cup for starters. Given Knowlton and Sackatoga’s Saratoga ties, The Whitney was another likely destination. Knowlton said he expected Tiz the Law to equal or surpass his Travers performance somewhere along the way.

Instead, Tiz the Law joins his sire and Triple Crown winners American Pharoah and Justify as Ashford Farm stallions.

“While it is unfortunate that Tiz’s racing career has been cut short, we have been extremely fortunate and blessed to have had him in our lives,” Tagg said in a release. “He has taken his owners and Barclay Tagg Racing Stable to places that most owners and trainers only dream about.”