It’s been 17 years since Sackatoga Stables’ Funny Cide made his bid for the Triple Crown, one that still conjures up fond memories for his local connections.
And although much of his ownership group, which was made up partially of the Sackets Six, are now are out of the game, they still enjoyed Tiz The Law’s victory in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, carrying Sackatoga Stables’ colors of maroon and gray to victory.
The historic triumph represented the first in the Belmont Stakes for Sackatoga Stables’ managing partner Jack Knowlton, native of Sackets Harbor, as are the rest of the Sackets Six.
“Everybody’s thrilled for him and obviously we’re members of the stable, but we’re not partners in that horse,” Funny Cide co-owner J.P. Constance said. “But all the original partners are just happy for Jack and to see the colors go over the line again, it’s just great fun.”
The Sackets Six also includes Mark Phillips, Peter Phillips, Harold Cring, Larry Reinhardt, and of course, Knowlton.
Constance said he communicated with Knowlton after the Belmont via a text to send him his congratulations.
“We’re thrilled for him, thrilled for him,” Constance said. “He’s hung in there, as (trainer) Barclay Tagg says ‘he’s brilliant at it.’ It’s his thing and he takes it really serious and you just see the joy in his face and you can hear the joy in his voice, it’s just wonderful for him.
“And of course, we don’t mind riding on his coattails.”
Usually, the members of the Sackets Six who still live in the area, including Constance, would gather for Triple Crown races, especially the Kentucky Derby, at the Boathouse restaurant in Sackets Harbor.
But with this Triple Crown season being so unusual because of the coronavirus pandemic, the annual get-together didn’t happen this year, at least for the Belmont, which kicked off the series on Saturday, with the Kentucky Derby to follow on Sept. 5 and the Preakness on Oct. 3.
“The Boathouse restaurant in Sackets has always been kind of a center for it all,” Constance said. “They had a little thing this weekend when they put the TV outside, but there just weren’t anybody around, some people showed up. But I’m hoping things kind of open up with this terrible COVID-19 stuff, where maybe we’ll get together a little more.”
That didn’t mean that Constance and his Sackets Six cohorts weren’t watching Tiz The Law’s win on Saturday.
“It is exciting to see,” fellow Funny Cide co-owner Mark Phillips said. “Although I don’t have any ownership in this horse, it’s still quite exciting.”
Phillips, who visits Saratoga Race Course every summer, got a tip from Knowlton considering Tiz The Law when he was at the historic track last year.
“Jack was up the week before and he informed us of Tiz The Law,” Mark Phillips said. “And of course we heard about him last summer when we went down to Saratoga, we always go down there to watch a race or two during the summertime. And while we were there, Jack gave us an article that someone had written about Tiz The Law, and he told us that he could be a contender. So, he’s been on the radar.”
Tiz The Law’s win in the Belmont was historic in that he was the first New York bred to win the race since Forrester did in 1882.
He also provided the first Belmont Stakes win for Knowlton, Tagg and his assistant Robin Smullen, the same team that backed Funny Cide to his Kentucky Derby and Preakness wins in 2003.
Funny Cide, who became known as the “gutsy gelding” came up short in his Triple Crown bid as he finished third in the Belmont Stakes that year.
“Absolutely, for Barclay Tagg, too, he’s never won the Belmont, even though he’s been there quite a few years,” Constance said. “So I’m thrilled for him and Robin, they’re two of the hardest working people you’d ever want to meet. She’s working that horse every day, they oversee it, they’re kids, those horses. I don’t think a day goes by that one of them isn’t at the barn checking everything, and I mean early.”
Are there any similarities between Funny Cide and Tiz The Law, who pulled away on the outside to win the Belmont by 3 3/4 lengths after being sent off as the heavy favorite?
“They are both New York breds,” Mark Phillips said. “And the big difference is Funny Cide was under the radar throughout the whole ordeal, whereas Tiz The Law has been known as you know since his first race, so that’s the big difference right there.”
Now with this year’s Triple Crown trail jumbled, Tiz The Law’s next race may be in the Travers Stakes in Saratoga on Aug. 8, which would be a prep for the Kentucky Derby.
“I’m sure that’s what Jack is shooting for,” Mark Phillips said. “It would be the prep just so he would know what to do for the Derby.” Yet this shuffled order shouldn’t take anything away from Tiz The Law, if he goes on to claim the Triple Crown.
“You know, the Triple Crown is the Triple Crown and you still have three major races against top competition,” Mark Phillips said. “I know the Belmont was shortened (in distance), but it kind of had to be. But still when you’ve got a horse and he can go through those three races and come out a winner, I don’t think there should be a star next to him. The Triple Crown is the Triple Crown.”
Constance chimed in: “You’re dealt the hand, so you play it. So if we win all three races, then you win the Triple Crown. People say there better be an asterisk there, I had one guy say to me, he called me this weekend as a matter of fact, he said ‘if Funny Cide had this scenario, you probably would have had a Triple Crown winner.’ So yes, here’s a lot of ways you can play that, but we didn’t and we don’t and they do — and I hope they get it.”
Now Phillips hopes to see Tiz The Law race at Saratoga this summer before the colt takes a crack at the Kentucky Derby, a journey that will be closely followed by the Sackets Six.
“Absolutely, I’ve been rooting for him ever since Jack told me about him,” Phillips added. “Like I said, I’ve seen his races only on TV, I haven’t seen him in person, and maybe if he goes to Saratoga this year to run, maybe we’ll get a chance to see him in person, if they ever allow people back into the tracks again.”
Constance, no longer in the ownership game, added: “After Funny Cide, a few of us got out completely, I played along a little bit longer, Harold stayed in a little longer yet. We just kind of drifted out. The bottom line is, what’s the chances of ever hitting lightning twice? I guess they’re pretty good.”