Tiz the Law, shown breezing last month at Gulfstream Park, is the morning-line favorite for Saturday's Grade I Florida Derby. Photo courtesy of Gulfstream Park
March 30 (UPI) -- The U.S. Triple Crown races may be grinding to an uncertain pause thanks to the coronavirus protocols, but nothing seems to be stopping Tiz the Law.
The Constitution colt dominated Saturday's Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, jumping into the lead on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leader board. All he needs now is some idea of the actual path to the delayed Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
Similar uncertainty reins in Japan, where Herrschaft won Saturday's Fukuryu Stakes, taking the lead in the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Meanwhile racing continued without spectators in Hong Kong and Australia and so we continue with:
The Road to the Roses
Saturday's $750,000 Grade I Curlin Florida Derby was a bit of a tour de force for Tiz the Law. Sent off the solid favorite, the Constitution colt bided his time under Manny Franco, started his advance on the turn and was in full command down the stretch, winning by 4 1/4 lengths. Shivaree, an 80-1 long shot, held on for second after disputing the pace with Ete Indien, who settled for third.
Tiz the Law finished the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.00 -- more than 3 seconds off the track record set by Arrogate in the 2017 Pegasus World Cup Invitational but faster than older horses could manage in the Grade III Hal's Hope over the same distance earlier on Saturday's card.
"It could have been faster," winning trainer Barclay Tagg said Sunday morning while reporting all well with his colt. "But he didn't need to go faster so it's better to save a little."
In decisively vanquishing a field that included several other Kentucky Derby hopefuls, Tiz the Law stepped up as the top prospect for the Run for the Roses -- a distinction clouded with concerns whether Tagg can keep him sharp until the Sept. 5 delayed date for the Derby.
The members of the ownership group, Sackatoga Stable, watched from various locations around the country as no spectators were allowed at Gulfstream due to coronavirus protocols tha talso have delayed the Kentucky Derby to Sept. 5 from May 2.
"He is something special," said Sackatoga's Jack Knowlton. "It would be a lot of fun going to Kentucky in five weeks, but that's not happening, obviously. Now we get to run some more races. Maybe the Wood will come back in play. Maybe we can do a Travers-Derby double. Right now it's a blank slate. Nobody knows what's going to happen where or when with all that's going on in the country.
"All we know is that we've got a horse that's very special and it's pretty exciting for us."
Tagg said he will do what he can to keep Tiz the Law ticking over.
"He's still got to go out every day. He's still got to be trained. He's still got to be fed. So we'll just keep taking care of him and try and keep him mostly fit and see what happens," the trainer said.
But he also pointed out the entire Triple Crown series is at risk if there is a significant delay in standing down from coronavirus restrictions.
"Ideally, if I had my choice, I'd like to run him in the Preakness, Belmont, Travers and then the Derby," said Tagg. "If I could set it up, I'd set it up that way. They can't start the Triple Crown with the Derby or we'd run into the Breeders' Cup."
Meanwhile, things were just as uncertain in Japan.
Herrschaft, a Kentucky-bred Will Take Charge colt, posted a front-running upset victory in Saturday's Fukuryu Stakes at Nakayama Racecourse, a race that was supposed to have been the last of four events on the "Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby."
Earning 40 points, Herrshaft jumped to the top of the standings and would have been afforded an automatic berth in the Run for the Roses. However, with that race postponed until September, Churchill Downs is discussing adding races to the program, leaving the outcome in doubt.
Herrschaft scored his third win from five starts, but finished fifth in his only previous appearance in the Kentucky Derby series, the Hyacinth Stakes on Feb. 23 at Tokyo Racecourse.
Jockey Yusuke Fujioka sent the colt directly to the lead the first time past the stands in the Fukuryu and was never threatened. He won by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:53.4. T O Keynes, a Sinister Minister colt, and Miyaji Kokuo, by 2011 Dubai World Cup winner Victoire Pisa, finished second and third. None of the favorites was involved in the finish.
Tiz the Law earned 100 points for his Florida Derby victory and stands well atop the Churchill Downs Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 122 points. Louisiana Derby winner Wells Bayou is second with 104 points and Ete Indiene is third with 74.
The only remaining race on the pandemic-impacted schedule is the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park, rescheduled to May 5. However, Churchill Downs has announced it is considering adding races during the summer so there's no way to tell how safe a lead Tiz the Law has at this point.
Monday's deadline for late Triple Crown nominations will be extended, Churchill Downs said Sunday. The extension was agreed upon by racing officials at Churchill Downs Racetrack, the Maryland Jockey Club and New York Racing Association, which collectively host the Triple Crown races.
The Kentucky Derby has been rescheduled for Sept. 5 but no action has been taken yet concerning the Preakness Stakes or the Belmont Stakes. A new late-nomination cutoff will be set once those race dates are announced.
Next Saturday is a "might have been" date with the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, the Blue Grass at Keeneland and the Santa Anita Derby all on the calendar. Aqueduct has abandoned the remainder of its meeting as officials prepare to use the facility as a makeshift hospital and Keeneland scrapped its entire spring meeting so the Wood and the Blue Grass appear to be goners. Santa Anita in theory could return to action and restore its Derby.
Kentucky Oaks preps
Swiss Skydiver jumped right to the front in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Gulfstream Park Oaks and never looked back, winning easily by 3 1/4 lengths. Lucrezia edged Lake Avenue for second. Swiss Skydiver, a Daredevil filly, finished in 1:43.54 after a trouble-free trip on the front end.
Tonalist's Shape, entering the race undefeated after five starts, finished a dull seventh. Spice Is Nice and Dream Marie, who were second and third behind Tonalist's Shape in the Grade II Davona Dale last time out, struggled home fifth and sixth, respectively.
The win was only the second from five career starts for Swiss Skydiver. But assistant Greg Geier said trainer Kenny McPeek was encouraged to try Saturday's race because his filly already had experience at 1 1/16 miles, finishing third behind the talented Finite and British Idiom in the Grade II Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds in her most recent start.
Asked about plans, Geier said, "Hopefully, the Kentucky Oaks."
Bemma's Boy moved out for racing room at mid-stretch in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Kitten's Joy Pan American at Gulfstream Park, then came with a late rush to snatch the victory from odds-on favorite Zulu Alpha by a neck. Current was third, another head back.
Bemma's Boy, a 5-year-old Into Mischief gelding claimed for $30,000 last May at Churchill Downs, scored his first stakes win, finishing 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:24.91.
"I got a great trip. I drew a nice post and was able to sit third and save all the ground," Geroux said. "My horse ran a great race and finished nicely down the lane."
Decorated Invader, making his first start since finishing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, started last of 12 in Saturday's $100,000 Cutler Bay Stakes for 3-year-olds at Gulfstream Park, came around the pack five-wide and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths.
South Bend also rallied late to finish second, 3/4 length in front of Get Smokin. Decorated Invader, a Declaration of War colt, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:33.12 with Joel Rosario up. It was the third win from five starts for the Christophe Clement trainee.
"He's a big horse. Christophe told me to give him a clean trip," Rosario said. "So when I started moving a little bit, I preferred to be in the clear on the outside. He came with a nice run. He was the best horse in the race."
Social Paranoia, making his first start since September at Kentucky Downs, rallied from last of 12 to win Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Appleton Stakes at Gulfstream Park by 1 1/4 lengths over Sombeyay.
The favorite, March to the Arch, was a head farther back in third. Social Paranoia, a 4-year-old Street Boss colt, covered 1 mile on firm turf in 1:32.81 with Florent Geroux in the irons.
"I thought he [Social Paranoia] got a little too far back early on, but it worked out well," said trainer Todd Pletcher, who trained the first two finishers. "He delivered a big closing kick. He's a horse we've always liked a lot, a lot of quality, beautiful horse. It was nice to see him get back under way today."
Filly & Mare Turf/Turf Mile
Mean Mary ran her winning streak to three and four from her last five with a front-running win in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Orchid Stakes Presented by Rood & Riddle at Gulfstream Park.
The 4-year-old Scat Daddy filly from the Dynaformer mare Karlovy Vary, with Luis Saez in the irons, maintained a comfortable advantage throughout and scored by 1 length over Gentle Ruler. Elizabeth Way finished third, 3 3/4 lengths farther behind.
Mean Mary has blossomed since trainer Graham Motion gave her room to run. She entered the Orchid off a victory in the Grade II La Prevoyante, going 1 1/2 miles, and finished Saturday's 1 3/8 miles on firm turf in 2:11.73.
Highland Glory launched a rally down the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Sanibel Island Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Gulfstream Park and was up just in time to nip pacesetting Cheermeister, winning by a neck.
She's My Type was third, and the favorite, Seducer, finished ninth, never involved. Highland Glory, a Sky Mesa filly, got 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.42 with Paco Lopez in the irons.
Highland Glory, trained by Barclay Tagg, finished second, then fourth in her first two starts but graduated in her first try on the grass Jan. 19. The Sanibel Island was her first start against winners.
La Signare took the outside route around rivals in the stretch run of Saturday's $100,000 Sand Springs Stakes for fillies and mares at Gulfstream Park and then outfinished the favorite, Zofelle, who had to wait for room while racing inside. The margin was 3/4 length with Valedictorian completing the trifecta. Brendan Walsh trains the top two finishers.
La Signare, a 5-year-old, French-bred mare by Siyouni, scampered 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.12 with Tyler Gaffalione riding. It was her second win from nine starts since arriving from France for the 2018 season.
Vekoma, making his first start since the 2019 Kentucky Derby, rallied nicely from a pace-stalking trip to win Saturday's $75,000 Sir Shackelton Stakes at Gulfstream Park by 3 3/4 lengths, drawing off at the end. Yorkton, the early leader, held second with He Hate Me another 1 3/4 lengths back in third. Vekoma, a Candy Ride colt, ran 7 furlongs in 1:21.29 with Manny Franco up.
Vekoma won the Grade III Nashua at Aqueduct as a 2-year-old and the Grade II Blue Grass at Keeneland en route to the Derby, where he finished a fading 13th, elevated to 12th by Maximum Security's disqualification. He had been training steadily for the return at Palm Beach Downs under the eye of trainer George Weaver.
Identifier pulled the day's shocker in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Hal's Hope at Gulfstream Park. At odds of 60-1, the 4-year-old Creative Cause colt came running in the stretch to outfinish fellow long shot Just Whistle and win by 1 length.
The favorite, Bodexpress, got to a daylight lead early in the stretch run, tired and settled for third, another 1/2 length in arrears. It was a long way back to the other eight starters in the 1 1/8-miles event. Identifier finished in 1:50.25 under Marcos Meneses.
Identifier entered the Hal's Hope off a victory in an off-the-turf allowance event. Before that, he was eased to finish last in December at Gulfstream. His only previous stakes experience was a fifth-place finish, beaten 19 1/4 lengths in the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park -- the race in which King For a Day upset Maximum Security.
K J's Nobility tracked the leaders into the stretch run in Saturday's $100,000 Nodouble Breeders' Stakes for Arkansas-breds at Oaklawn Park, found another gear and got there first by 3 lengths.
Bandit Point came from last of nine to steal second, another 3 1/2 lengths in front of Glacken's Ghost. K J's Nobility, a 6-year-old gelding by Primary Suspect, ran 6 furlongs on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:10.00 with Calvin Borel at the controls.
Owner Carson McCord, 20 and a college student majoring in business administration, scored her first stakes win. She had her first starter while still a teenager and now, according to Oaklawn officials, has 11 wins from 52 starts with earnings of $406,911. As Daily Racing Form's Marty McGee is fond of saying, "It's an easy game."
Around the world, around the clock
Mozu Superflare led the way in Sunday's Grade 1 Takamatsunomia Kinen at Chukyo Racecourse, was caught in the final strides by fellow long shot Kurino Gaudi but then won a stewards' ruling that promoted her to his first top-level victory.
The officials ruled Kurino Gaudi drifted in through deep stretch, interfering with Diatonic, who was gaining between the two. When the dust had cleared, Mozu Superflare, a 5-year-old Speightstown mare, was placed first with Gran Alegria awarded second. Diatonic was an unlucky third and Kurino Gaudi was set down to fourth -- the first horse disqualified from a Grade 1 win in Japan since Buena Vista was set down after the 2010 Japan Cup.
"To be honest, I thought we had lost when we crossed the wire," said Mozu Superflare's rider, Fuma Matsuwaka. "But I'm genuinely happy that we were able to win our first Grade 1 title."
The race is one of only two Grade 1 sprints run on Japanese turf. Mozu Superflare finished second in the other, the Sprinters Stakes, last autumn, behind Tower of London, who finished 12th in Sunday's race.
Gran Alegria's late effort promised more to come. The 4-year-old Deep Impact filly, a $1.6 million yearling purchase, was named last year's champion Japanese 3-year-old filly on the strength of a win in the Grade 1 Oka Sho, or Japanese 1000 Guineas, but has been lightly raced.
Verry Elleegant hit the afterburners with 300 meters left in Saturday's Group 1 Tia Tancred Stakes at Rosehill Gardens, quickly jumped into the lead and drew off smartly to win by better than 4 lengths. Mustajeer edged Avilius for second in the 2,400-meters, weight-for-age event.
Verry Elleegant, a 4-year-old Zed mare, dawdled near the back of the field until midway around the bend into the straight. Racing outside rivals, jockey James McDonald turned his mount loose and she quickly put matters to rest, finishing in 2:31.25 over going rated soft.
"She is only four and racing against the older horses basically," said trainer Chris Waller, adding the Caulfield Cup and even the Melbourne Cup would not be beyond his hopes for the filly in the Southern Hemisphere springtime.
"Let's hope we get weighted as well as some of the other horses from around the world and they keep giving the Australian horses a chance," Waller said. "She will be there and she will be one of them."
Verry Elleegant was coming off second-place showings in the Group 1 Chipping Norton at 1,600 meters and the Group 1 Ranvet at 2,000 meters and obviously enjoyed the added furlongs. Her solid body of work has produced eight wins from 19 starts, including a victory in last year's Group 1 Vinery Stud en route to winning the Group 1 Australian Oaks.
This year's Group 1 Vinery Stud, restricted to 3-year-old fillies, followed immediately after the Tancred. And in that, the rest of the field followed immediately behind all-the-way leader Shout the Bar, who shook off multiple challenges at several points before winning by 1/2 length from Probabeel. Nudge and the favorite, Funstar, were third and fourth.
Shout the Bar, a daughter of Not A Single Doubt, scored her third win from four starts. The sole defeat was a second-place showing behind Asiago in her previous start.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club continues to work with the local government in efforts to keep racing going while complying with requirements to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. A new order Friday prohibited gatherings of more than four people in Hong Kong, threatening the viability of racing.
After negotiations, however, the HKJC said an accord was reached that will permit running of the next four race meetings with an absolute minimum number of people at Sha Tin Racecourse.
And on Sunday's card, Joao Moreira booted home five winners to archrival Zac Purton's two to regain the lead in the jockey premiership. Zac Purton entered the day with 90 wins on the season and a one-win lead.