Early September Kentucky Derby gets attention
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Reconfigured as it is, this year’s Kentucky Derby remains thoroughbred racing’s most anticipated and most glamorous event.
Instead of being run through the pink or white blossoms of springtime dogwood trees on the first Saturday in May, it will come on Sept. 5, the first Saturday in September.
And the thoroughbred drawing the most attention about a month before the mint juleps is Belmont Stakes champion Tiz the Law.
His facial white stripe and his ground-covering stride are now scheduled to be on display again in the Aug. 8 Travers Stakes at comfortable Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York.
The Travers has been called the “Midsummer Classic,” and in the past has been held on the last Saturday in August. But with change everywhere and in nearly every walk of life, the Travers has been moved on the calendar.
Like this year’s Belmont Stakes and looming Kentucky Derby, the Travers will be run at the distance of 1.25 miles.
Tiz the Law impressively prevailed by nearly four lengths in the Belmont on June 20. He will have ample time to rest, and then train lightly coming to the Travers.
His trainer, 82-year-old Barclay Tagg, has maintained his unflappable low-key approach to Tiz the Law’s next race. No trumpets have blared. No weekly news releases or huddled meetings with the grasping media. As always, only Tagg’s taciturn methods and quiet routines lead the way to the next important race.
After the much-watched Travers will be the actual granddaddy of them all — the Kentucky Derby. But there will be no families strolling through the fun at Saratoga, and no self-promoting celebrities vying for attention in Louisville at this year’s Kentucky Derby. Both races will be held without crowds. Facial masks and social distancing will temporarily replace socialite parties and fan-jammed grandstands.
And Tiz the Law will try to make himself a star, with more charisma and stage presence than any Hollywood or global ego that normally casts a net for anybody’s attention.
Tiz the Law’s only career loss came in the mud at Churchill Downs when he was out of the starting gate a little slowly, became “boxed” in without running room and scrambled to finish third.
He’s still the robust and sinewy bay he was in the Belmont. He’s still the star of this season’s three-year-old class, until possibly being displaced by a loss in either the Travers or Kentucky Derby.
No famously described “wall of noise” will distract the thoroughbreds at either of the next two races.
When the race leaders swing around the last bend and drive into the homestretch at both Saratoga and Churchill Downs, there will only be the television camera eye from many angles that will greet their moments of do-or-die in the last furlongs of each classic.
First, in mere days, is the Travers Stakes, followed one month later by the Kentucky Derby.
And through it all will be Tiz the Law, trying to be the third Triple Crown winner in five years (American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018).