Tagg not stressing over Kentucky rain

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Tiz The Law
Jun 20, 2020; Elmont, New York, USA; Jockey Manuel Franco pumps his fist after winning the 152nd running of the Belmont Stakes aboard Tiz the Law (8) at Belmont Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Barclay Tagg isn’t about to get stressed as incessant rain hits Churchill Downs in the run-up to the Kentucky Derby.

Ante-post favourite and winner of the Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes on his last two starts, Tiz The Law is safely berthed at Churchill Downs and getting ready for the ‘Run for the Roses’ showdown.

He drew post 17 earlier in the week and will have to defy history in order to become the first winner to break from that gate.

He has his main rivals flanking him, with the John Shirreffs-trained Honor A.P. in stall 16 and Authentic, who is in the care of Bob Baffert, in gate 18.

Tiz The Law jogged two miles with regular work rider Heather Smullen aboard and trainer Tagg accompanying the two on his pony during his workout on Thursday.

“I wish I could have done more with him, but couldn’t because we’ve had two days of hard rain,” Tagg said. “He’ll gallop [on Friday] and he’ll school in the paddock today during the fourth race.”

With the only defeat of his career having come at Churchill Downs in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last year when he was third, Tiz The Law has an apparent question mark over him at the track – as well as his wide posting – to overcome.

Neither are factors that Tagg is about to allow to dominate his thoughts pre-race, something he confirmed when asked if Tiz The Law was ‘a different horse’ this year.

“He’s the same horse. He’s more experienced, of course. I don’t think it was a lack of experience that got him beat last year. It was an off track and he came out a bit slow. The pace cooked him. He’s been pretty nice ever since.”

While many are painting his draw as a disadvantage, Tagg has been keen to suggest that an alert break from gate 17 could become an advantage.

He added: “I like being on the outside, I didn’t particularly want to be out that far but he seems to handle everything that’s thrown at him so we’ll just have to leave it up to him. It gives you a chance, if you have any speed at all, it gives you a chance to get a better position.”

Meanwhile, Hall of Fame trainer Baffert has both Authentic and Thousand Words in the picture in his attempt to snare a record-equalling sixth Kentucky Derby victory.

Authentic comes in the Derby on the back of victory in the Grade 1 Haskell Stakes and rates a general 8/1 third-choice in the Kentucky Derby betting. Despite history being against him, Tiz The Law is as short as 4/6 to win under Manny Franco while Honor A.P. is around a 5/1 chance; with that trio dominating the market.

All eyes will be on the wide posts when the gates fly open in the 146th Kentucky Derby.