Today's Paper Latest Coronavirus ­čö┤Children in Peril Quarantine Families Core values App Listen Story ideas iPad Weather Newsletters Obits Puzzles Archive

Long before Tiz the Law smoked the field in the Belmont Stakes, there was strong evidence that thoroughbred racing is doing its absolute best to run through the pandemic.

Oaklawn set the precedent, racing without fans. The track even split the Arkansas Derby into two divisions to give 3-year-olds an extra spring prep race for the Kentucky Derby.

The winners of those two divisions -- Nadal and Charlatan, who are both trained by Bob Baffert -- obviously were missed Saturday. Tiz the Law's competitors turned out to be what the experts predicted -- running for second.

Nadal and Charlatan are injured, but Charlatan also tested positive for a banned substance after the Arkansas Derby, although it appears he would have been allowed to run had he not gotten hurt.

Charlatan's stablemate Gamine also won a race at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort on May 2 and tested positive for the banned drug. On Saturday, the filly set an Acorn Stakes record by running the mile in 1:32:24 and winning by more than 18 lengths.

It was the most impressive performance of the day, and it is expected her mandatory drug test will show no signs of banned drugs. If it does, Baffert would be in enough trouble to warrant a severe slap on the wrist.

Understand that Baffert practically controls Santa Anita racing because every jockey wants to ride for him, and most owners want him training their horses.

He has so much influence over the wealthiest owners, who buy or breed the best horses, that he can send $500,000 horses to train at an alternate track.

Mostly, he's been good for racing. That doesn't mean he's popular or well liked, but he has brought more positive attention to the thoroughbred world than negative.

There was not a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 until Baffert brought American Pharoah onto the scene in 2015.

He prepped for the Triple Crown at Oaklawn by winning the Rebel Stakes and the Arkansas Derby by more than a combined 14 lengths.

He won the Kentucky Derby by a length, the Preakness by seven and the Belmont by more than five.

In 2018, Baffert cemented his place in racing history by training Justify to the Triple Crown.

Baffert, 67, is a former trainer of and jockey on quarter horses who switched to thoroughbreds in the 1980s. He was adept at convincing owners he was the trainer for them.

Nadal and Charlatan were good enough to have won the Belmont Stakes and set Baffert up for a third Triple Crown during a year when the races are months apart, not just weeks.

Now the Triple Crown quest falls to 82-year-old Barclay Tagg, who is the trainer of Tiz the Law.

If he can keep his horse healthy -- and there's always an array of illnesses or injuries that can sideline a horse -- Tagg has a legitimate shot at winning a Triple Crown this year.

In 2002, Tagg won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness with Funny Cide. His first Belmont win came Saturday.

Honor A.P. upset Authentic in the Santa Anita Derby on June 6. Both horses are the most likely to challenge Tiz the Law, but all three have to make it to Churchill Downs ready to run in September.

Honor A.P. is trained by John Shirreffs, and Authentic by Baffert.

The world of racing will be pulling for Tagg, a rags-to-riches story of a guy who is a New York legend and widely respected for his no-nonsense approach to racing and the world.

Tagg is the type of feel-good story the world of perspiring arts needs during a pandemic.

Plus, he's not Baffert.


Sponsor Content

COMMENTS - It looks like you're using Internet Explorer, which isn't compatible with the Democrat-Gazette commenting system. You can join the discussion by using another browser, like Firefox or Google Chrome.
It looks like you're using Microsoft Edge. The Democrat-Gazette commenting system is more compatible with Firefox and Google Chrome.