There is no doubt people are going take different views of this year’s makeshift Belmont Stakes (G1) when assessing just how impressive Tiz the Law was dominating his field to capture the mile and an eighth event by nearly four lengths.
First off, let us look at how the skeptics will view the race. It would be difficult to argue the fact that this was not a classic caliber field, with Tiz the Law not only being the lone grade 1 winner, but the field consisting of only three other horses to have even run in a grade 1 race, none of them finishing in the money, beaten 43 lengths, 31 lengths, 14 lengths, and seven lengths.
In addition, the second-place finisher had only won a listed race, the third-place finisher had only won a grade 3 race and hadn’t run in nearly five months, and the fourth- and fifth-place finishers had only won a maiden race and an allowance race, respectively.
Tiz the Law’s Beyer Speed Figure of 100 was nothing to rave about for a classic race, mainly due to the blazing-fast track and the 3-year-old filly Gamine turning in an absolutely freakish performance in near world-record time, winning by 18 ¾ lengths in the Acorn Stakes. We also had the seven-furlong Woody Stephens Stakes (G2) and a maiden race run in 1:21 2/5.
And finally, one can cite Tiz the Law’s final eighth in :12 flat, which is fast even on a souped-up track. But the fact is, both the second and third-place finishers, with average at best speed figures, came home their final eighth in under :12, attributing that to the quickness of the track.
OK, so it seems the naysayers have some kind of case in feeling this race was not as sensational as many are making it out to be.
So, why, with all that, do I feel that Tiz the Law has the making of a very special horse and is starting to take on the qualities of the great Spectacular Bid in that he appears to be the quintessential racing machine that makes rival trainers perplexed how you go about beating him.
Style-wise, strategy-wise, and from a pure visual standpoint, Tiz the Law is taking on the persona of the perfect racehorse, running the same race regardless of the pace.
Both Tiz the Law and Spectacular Bid were ridden by jockeys with little or no experience in classic races. Both won their career debuts by almost identical margins, both won the Champagne Stakes (G1) by almost identical margins in time only three-fifths of a second apart, both won the Florida Derby (G1) by margins only a neck apart, both had to take up in one of their Derby preps, but still won going away, and when it came to competition, for those who feel Tiz the Law hasn’t beaten anyone of top quality, Spectacular Bid beat a horse named Lot ‘o Gold in the Hutcheson, Fountain of Youth, Florida Derby, and Blue Grass Stakes. But it was how he did it.
Obviously, no comparison can be made of the Belmont Stakes, but you can substitute Tiz the Law’s Belmont score with Bid’s victories in either the Flamingo or Blue Grass Stakes, both mile and an eighth Derby preps.
And finally, if the Kentucky Derby picture remains the same as it is now, with Tiz the Law and Honor A.P. dominating the Derby rankings, we could have an East vs. West showdown in the Run for the Roses comparable to Bid and Flying Paster. But that is still a ways off.
Now, no one is comparing Tiz the Law, with only six career starts, to the great Spectacular Bid, the greatest horse I ever saw at 2, 3, and 4. But at this stage of their careers, there are enough similarities to evoke visions of Bid and what the future might hold for Tiz the Law if he has an extended career.
Again, it is not only their comparable records on the track so far, but the feeling that one gets watching them run and how they are always right where they are supposed to be, as if they know how to place themselves in perfect position and when to make their move. Although Tiz the Law has not shown the versatility of Bid in that he has yet to win on the lead, is there anyone who has watched him run who doubts he could go to the front if the situation warranted it?
No one is expecting Tiz the Law to emulate Spectacular Bid in any way, as far as overall record and accomplishments over an extended period of time. But it sure is fun and exciting having a horse like this who is becoming more and more dependable with every race.
I have attempted to be as objective as possible, pointing out the number of ways one can view Tiz the Law’s performance in the Belmont Stakes.
If Tiz the Law goes on to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, should he be considered a Triple Crown winner and be placed alongside the previous winners? While it is debatable which is more difficult, winning the three races in a five-week span or winning them over a 2 1/2-month period, it is a case of the proverbial apples and oranges--timing-wise, order-wise, and eliminating the arduous task of winning at a mile and a half three weeks after the Derby and Preakness, a task that has thwarted the Triple Crown bids of many horses who came up short in the Test of the Champion.
Some may feel that the Triple Crown is easier to win now because many Derby starters pass the Preakness, but the truth is, in the past 30 years the Preakness has been won by 15 horses who were defeated in the Derby. So, it is still not an easy task to defeat horses at Pimlico that you defeated on the first Saturday in May. And with so many horses passing the Preakness and pointing for the Belmont, that makes the third leg of the Triple Crown more difficult to win now than in the past when you had so many Belmont horses knocked out from the first two races.
Even if you consider it more difficult to win the three races over extended period of time, the main difficulty is not overcoming unique obstacles on the track, but remaining sound and healthy during that time. Therefore, because of the extreme differences of the two, it is difficult to include this year’s winner of the three classic races with those of the past--not because of degree of difficulty but because they are totally different entities--timing, order, and the obstacles one has to overcome.
This is not meant to lessen the accomplishment of winning the three races this year, but golf for years had a Grand Slam consisting of The Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, and PGA. If one year they extended the four tournaments several months, ran the PGA first and The Masters third, and shortened the PGA to nine holes instead of 18 and shortened the holes from approximately 300 yards to 150 yards, would that year’s winner of all four tournaments be considered a true Grand Slam winner? It would still be a great accomplishment to win all four, but the accomplishment required a different set of skills and staying healthy for a longer period of time, and bore little resemblance to the traditional Grand Slam.
Maybe that is a bit of a reach, but you understand the point I’m getting at. If you were to include Tiz the Law with the other Triple Crown winners (if he pulls it off), it would require an asterisk with a pretty detailed explanation.
But let’s forget that for now, as it may not even be relevant. What is important right now is that racing became the first sport this year to stage a major event that received three hours of national coverage on NBC and extensive post-race coverage on ESPN’s Sportscenter the following day. And it has found a bona fide star and potential superstar who has become something pure and dependable at a time when both qualities are so dearly needed.