Photo Credit: Joe Labozzetta
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Jack Knowlton lived every Thoroughbred owner’s dream when Funny Cide captured the 2003 Kentucky Derby (G1), as well as the Preakness Stakes (G1). Seventeen years later, the managing partner of Sackatoga Stable is well positioned to bid for a second victory in the Run for the Roses.
Sackatoga Stable’s Tiz the Law is expected to be solidly favored to win Saturday’s $250,000 Holy Bull (G1) at Gulfstream Park, where Funny Cide finished a troubled fifth in 2003 in the 1 1/16-mile stakes in his first start in open company.
The Holy Bull, a 1 1/16-mile prep for the March 28 Florida Derby (G1), is one of five stakes for 3-year-olds on Saturday’s program at Gulfstream.
Tiz the Law, like Funny Cide, is a New York-bred who won at first asking for trainer Barclay Tagg, capturing an Aug. 8 maiden special weight event for New York-breds by 4 ½ lengths over Dream Bigger, who went on to win two stakes and place in two others. Unlike Funny Cide, who went on the win back-to-back stakes for state breds after his maiden score, Tiz the Law jumped right into Grade 1 company and scored a four-length victory in the Champagne (G1).
“Funny Cide came in under the radar screen. Until he won the Derby, other than folks up around Saratoga and in the Capital District, nobody paid much attention to him,” Knowlton said. “Here, after [Tiz the Law] wins the Champagne, it turns out that he is the Derby favorite at this point, which is a little bit daunting to say the least. Everybody is looking at every move you make.”
Tiz the Law tasted defeat for the first time in the Nov. 30 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs, where he lacked room into the stretch and came up short to finish third, beaten three-quarters of a length by Silver Prospector, over a sloppy track.
“That was a tough spot with the track being what it was and caught down inside, but a lot of people think like I do and draw a line through this race. Even after he lost that race he was the favorite in the first Churchill Downs futures pool and he’s the lowest odds at William Hill in Vegas for the Derby,” Knowlton said. “There is a little more pressure than in the days of Funny Cide, who came in under the radar.”
Tiz the Law has worked five times, including a ‘bullet’ half-mile in 48 seconds at Palm Meadows on Sunday that followed a five-furlong breeze at Gulfstream Park in preparation for the Holy Bull.
“It was a nice break for him after the race in Kentucky. It came at a good time and is close to our home base up in Palm Meadows,” Knowlton said. “It’s a historic race for us. Funny Cide ran in it. We said, ‘Let’s go do it.’”
If the son of Constitution captures the Holy Bull, the Gulfstream photographers may need to use a wide lens.
“We have 26 shares in the horse. We bought him for $110,000 at the New York-bred sale, Fasig-Tipton, in Saratoga. We have a total of 32 people who have some interest in the horse,” Knowlton said. “We took 53 people to Kentucky when he ran there and we have over 60 coming to the Holy Bull.”
Manuel Franco has the return mount.
While Tiz the Law has already established himself as a serious candidate for the 2020 Triple Crown, Ete Indien will be tested for classic potential Saturday.
“We’ve put him in the salty water, but we need to know where we are,” trainer Patrick Biancone said. “We’ll see where we are. We’ll know more after the race.”
Ete Indien has demonstrated talent on dirt and turf during his three-race career, winning at first asking in a five-furlong turf sprint at Gulfstream Sept. 13. The son of Summer Front finished a troubled eighth in the Bourbon (G3) at Keeneland in his second start but went on to register an impressive victory in his Dec. 20 dirt debut over Gulfstream’s main track, scoring a 2 ½-length front-running victory at a mile.
“He can go either way, but what he did the other day was very impressive to me,” said trainer Patrick Biancone, who owns Ete Indien in partnership with D P Racing LLC, Linda Shanahan, Sanford Bacon, Dream With Me Stable Inc., and Horse France American. “We hope he can carry it further. He has a lot of speed.
“It’s early. We’re still in January. What we are going to do with him is see if he can show us the potential of a Derby horse. So far, so good,” Biancone added. “If he has it, he has it. If he doesn’t have it, we’re not going to force him to finish ninth in the Derby. My partners don’t have Derby fever, but they will have it, if he is one of the first four or five favorites.”
Luca Panici has the return call on Ete Indien.
Juddmonte Farm Inc.’s Toledo, who was a beaten favorite while finishing second behind Ete Indien Dec. 20, is set to make his stakes debut in the Holy Bull. The Chad Brown-trained son of Into Mischief, who was a 7-10 favorite in his Gulfstream debut, had previously finished second in his debut and captured a seven-furlong maiden race at Aqueduct Nov. 9.
Irad Ortiz Jr. has been named to ride Toledo.
Relentless Dancer debuted with a sixth-place finish on turf at Saratoga Aug. 15 but showed marked improvement in his next start while breaking his maiden on dirt at Churchill Downs, where he notched a dead-heat victory. The son of Midshipman came right back to score by 19 ½ lengths in a stakes for Louisiana-breds at Delta Downs Oct. 19.
“He’s doing very good. After his last race he got sick on us and forced us to miss some time,” said Michael Maker, who trained Relentless Dancer for Paradise Farms Corp., Terry Raymond, Jana Wagner and Jeff Gardella. “We’re just happy to have him back. He had a rough go of it and had us really concerned there for a couple weeks.”
Relentless Dancer as a strong string of six workouts, including a pair of ‘bullet’ five-furlong breezes at Gulfstream, in preparation for his return to action.
“He’s always one that tipped his hand in the morning and we’re glad to see he’s back and training like he is,” Maker said.
Jose Ortiz has the mount.
Bassett Stable’s Uncork the Bottle, undefeated in three career starts, is slated to make his stakes debut Saturday. The 3-year-old son of Colonel John was claimed out of a victory in a $16,000 maiden claimer at Gulfstream Aug. 29. The Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained colt captured a 5 ½-furlong optional claiming starter allowance at Gulfstream Park before taking a mile turf stakes at Tampa Bay Downs last time out.
“We’re going to take a chance with him. He’s a horse we claimed for $16,000. He hasn’t beat much, but he’s three-for-three so what we want to find out now is if we should be realistic or unrealistic. We’re going got take the chance now to see what kind of horse he is,” Joseph said.
Edgard Zayas, who was aboard for Uncork the Bottle’s maiden score, has the mount Saturday.
“He’s a homebred by [Ken and Sarah] Ramsey and they breed good horses and they normally spot their horses in the right spots. You know when you’re claiming from him, you’re getting good value,” he added. “The owner wanted to take a chance, so we’re taking a chance.”
Colebrook Farms’ Clear Destination, an optional claiming allowance winner over Woodbine’s synthetic; and Walking L. Thoroughbreds’ Mayberry Deputy, an authoritative maiden winner last time out at Gulfstream; round out the field.