Tagg concerned by Uncle Chuck and Baffert

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Tiz The Law
June 20, 2020; Elmont, NY, USA: Manuel Franco finishes first with Tiz the Law in the152nd running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park. Mandatory Credit: Michael Karas/NorthJersey.com via USA TODAY NETWORK

Trainer Barclay Tagg admits ‘you’ve always got to be concerned’ when facing a promising Bob Baffert-trained horse as Tiz The Law prepares for Saturday’s Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

Tagg’s three-year-old is the favourite to win the Travers and also ante-post favourite to land next month’s rescheduled Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

This year’s Mid-Summer Derby is unique given that the pandemic-interrupted season means it comes up before the ‘Run for the Roses’.

That means Tiz The Law and his seven rivals will tackle a mile and a quarter for the first time in the Grade 1 Travers at Saratoga, though Tagg isn’t concerned about the increased distance for a colt that he insists has never taken a ‘deep breath’ yet.

The Belmont Stakes winner is in ideal shape for his latest assignment.

“He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. We’ve been very fortunate. I don’t think any distance makes a difference for this horse,” Tagg told the NYRA Press Office. “From what I’ve seen, I just don’t have any feeling that he can’t handle it.

“I’ve never seen him take a deep breath. I’ve never had him out of breath after a workout,” Tagg continued. “I’ve never had him way out of breath after a race and he [cools] off very quickly. His lungs settle right down and nothing seems to be a hazard. I could be all wrong in that. It might change in another eighth of a mile, I don’t know, but I’ve got no reason to worry about it.”

Tiz The Law had drawn gate six for the Travers, with Los Alamitos Derby winner Uncle Chuck in gate three and seemingly his main rival on the early betting. Peter Pan winner Country Grammer – trained by Chad Brown – completes the trio near the head of the market and is in gate two.

Baffert won the Travers in 2016 with Arrogate and a year later with West Coast. While Tagg is respectful of his challenger in Uncle Chuck; he’s not about to become fearful.

“Bob Baffert does very, very well,” Tagg said. “He’s got fresh stock all the time and good horses, so you’ve always got to be concerned. But if you let the concern bother you too much, you wouldn’t be racing horses. You can’t worry about that.”

Meanwhile the Hall of Fame trainer himself is keen to explore further what Uncle Chuck can do on the track.

He won the Grade 3 Los Alamitos Derby on only his second start on the track and remains a work in progress, insists his trainer.

“He’s only had two races, but they were pretty impressive. The talent is there, he’s just still figuring it out and putting it together,” said Baffert.

“He’s still a little green, but I thought the mile and a quarter might be good for him. He’s got a big, long stride,” Baffert continued. “He’s got speed, so as long as he gets in a nice, relaxed rhythm we’ll see how he handles the mile and a quarter. You’ve got a horse like Tiz the Law in there, and he scared a lot of them away.”