By Brian DiDonato
GI Kentucky Derby favorite and Quadruple Crown hopeful Tiz the Law (Constitution) would no doubt be almost any owner's horse of a lifetime–unless you're Jack Knowlton or Lew Titterton. Of Sackatoga Stable's 35 co-owners in on Tiz the Law, they're the only two who were around for the group's first horse of a lifetime, 2003 Derby and GI Preakness S. winner Funny Cide (Distorted Humor). For some of the others, Tiz the Law is the payoff after many years of horse ownership. For several, the six-for-seven, $2-million earning sophomore was, incredibly, their first horse ever. Get to know some of them below.
Dave & Renee Boivin • Blandford, MA • Professional background? Dave is a construction supervisor at EMCOR. Renee works on their farm caring for rescue farm animals • How did you become a racing fan? Dave went to racetracks with his father. Renee owned an OTTB from the Man o' War line growing up. Currently have an OTTB in our barn from the Deputy Minister and Secretariat lines. It is this horse who brought us to his sire, Defrere, and his humans in Kentucky. Joe Jennings and Ronda Palmer own, breed, train, race and drive. They and trainer Don Combs (who conditioned 1970 Derby winner Dust Commander) are the ones who have been instrumental in getting us really involved in all aspects of racing • How long have you owned horses? Racing since 2019. Tiz was our first • How many have you owned? Currently 7 • Favorite thing about owning horses? Being in a partnership. It is like having another family except the members possess the same racing passion you do • Favorite Tiz the Law moment? Travers for sure! • Toughest Derby competition? Our very wise trainers, Barclay Tagg and Robin Smullen, told us some time ago that this is horse racing. All horses entered are competition. We stay focused on Tiz.
Dr. Robert Brent • Bloomfield Hills, MI • Professional background? Retired urologist. Practiced over 30 years in the greater Detroit area • How did you become a racing fan? First saw a TV show prior to the 1948 Kentucky Derby and it fascinated me. My wife Dasi and I went to Saratoga Springs in 1977 and fell in love with the town and never missed an August until this year • How long have you owned horses? Have probably been in partial and syndicated ownership for at least 35 years • How many have you owned? Probably over 40 horses. One was MGSW King Cugat; another was 2014 GI Wood Memorial S. winner and Derby fourth finisher Wicked Strong • Favorite Tiz the Law moment? Winning the Travers, which I have attended in person many times. It was sweet revenge for Wicked Strong, who was beaten a nose in the Travers in 2014 • Toughest Derby competition? I'm more concerned about the status of the track in Kentucky and the large field than any particular horse. I think we have the best horse.
Kevin Danahy • Lancaster, SC • Professional background? Financial Information Systems • How did you become a racing fan? Growing up 20 miles north of Saratoga Race Course, I was always interested in horse racing and regularly watched the Triple Crown races on TV each year. My earliest memorable Saratoga on-track moment was watching General Assembly win the 1979 Travers by 15 lengths in the slop while setting the track record that stood until 2016 • How long have you owned horses? 4 years • How many have you owned? 5 (1 retired, 4 active). Tiz the Law was my second • Favorite thing about owning horses? Other than the excitement of having my horse in a race, I enjoy visiting the barn after watching morning workouts • Favorite Tiz the Law moment? Tiz's impressive 4 1/4-length maiden win which landed me in the Saratoga winner's circle for the first time in my life • Toughest Derby competition? Honor A. P.
Larry Davis • Albany, NY • Professional background? CEO/Founder CommSoft, Inc. • How did you become a racing fan? Attending Saratoga Race Course as a youth • How long have you owned horses? More than 25 years • How many have you owned? Over 20 • Favorite thing about owning horses? The excitement and action of racing and the comradery of ownership • Favorite Tiz the Law moment? Attending the Travers • Toughest Derby competition? The weather and the post position based on the size of the field.
Robert Dompkosky • Mountain Top, PA • Professional background? ER physician • How did you become a racing fan? My good friend, Bruce Phillips, was trying to get me involved for a couple years. He always talked how exciting it was to watch a horse you own race. He said even if your horse doesn't win, it's such an exciting time for all. Who would've ever thought, my first involvement would end up being with Tiz the Law? • How long have you owned horses? 1 year. Tiz is my first • Favorite thing about owning horses? I would definitely say watching the races together with my entire family. Horse racing has brought us closer together. It's unfortunate that we have been unable to see any of Tiz's races in person. We planned on attending the Florida Derby; however, because of the current pandemic, spectators were not permitted. Actually, we have never been to any live horse races. As soon as tracks open, we'll be the first in line • Favorite Tiz the Law moment? Every racing moment with Tiz has been exciting, but I would have to say, next to the birth of my children, Tiz winning the Belmont S. was absolutely the most intoxicating moment of my life. I was so happy my family was here to share the moment with me • Toughest Derby competition? Honor A. P.
Rick Funaro • Clifton Park, NY • Professional background? Retired IT professional • How did you become a racing fan? Grew up in Mechanicville, NY (home of Chad Brown) and went to Saratoga when I was a teenager • How long have you owned horses? Have been with Sackatoga Stable since 2005 (stakes-placed Seattle Mission was my first horse) • How many have you owned? Around a dozen • Favorite thing about owning horses? Access to the backstretch, watching the horses work and being able to talk with and learn about racing with Barclay, Robin and Jack • Favorite Tiz the Law moment? Winning the Travers because we were able to witness it in person. Missed the Florida Derby and Belmont • Toughest Derby competition? The West Coast horses, Honor A. P. and Authentic.
Michael Giacone • Delmar, NY • Professional background? Co-owner Albany Foam & Supply • How did you become a racing fan? Father had some Trotters in the 60's and 70's at Saratoga. We used to go to the track and barn as kids to clean stables then started going with longtime friend of family and one of the Funny Cide owners, Gus Williams • How long have you owned horses? Got involved in ownership with Jack and Gus the year after Funny Cide won the Derby. Was asked to be a partner in Funny Cide, but everybody has a horse story, so here it is: Jack and Gus approached me to invest $10,000 to buy in. I had recently purchased a building lot from Gus and they were starting the foundation for the house, but I couldn't justify spending money on a horse in the middle of building a house, so I declined. To make a long story short, after he won the Derby we were all at the Preakness getting ready to go to the track in the hotel room drinking our beer and Jack comes in and hands Gus a check for $100,000. Gus turns to me and says, “Mikey, this is what a jerk you are for not getting in–this could be yours!” At that point my friends started laughing and ribbing me. I wanted to jump out of the window. I got into Sackatoga #3 with [NYSS winner] Doc N Roll and have been in most of the Sackatoga partnerships since • Favorite Tiz the Law moment? The Holy Bull when we could all watch and cheer and get in the winner's circle • Toughest Derby competition? Authentic–you can never count Baffert out.
Eric Kordsmeier • Clearwater, FL (and Hot Springs, AR during the Oaklawn meet) • Professional background? Tax accountant/CFP/ Accredited Estate Planner • How did you become a racing fan? Grew up 40 miles from Oaklawn Park. My mom Lorene loved daily double bets and listening to each race on local radio. My dad Herb had a few cheap claimers with Tom Amoss and Larry Robideaux when I was a teen. Otto Thorwarth (who played Ron Turcotte in the Secretariat movie) was from Hot Springs and his first career win came on our horse, Homestretch Stride–a $38 winner trained by a very young Amoss! After witnessing many greats at Oaklawn, but especially the Pine Bluff–Lil E. Tee stretch duel in the 1992 Arkansas Derby, hatched a dream to run a horse in the Kentucky Derby one day • How long have you owned horses? 10th year–started buying at LA and TX auctions in 2011 under my Saturday Racing Stable along with five friends. • How many have you owned? 60–bought/claimed 12 over five years with SRS; then hooked up with Ten Strike Racing (~25 horses) and Twin Magnolia Farms (~15 horses) for partial units. I met Jack Knowlton at a TOBA OwnerView event at Santa Anita in 2016 and bought into Spa Jazz. Sackatoga sponsored a booth at the event and I liked the breeding of Jazz being out of a Dixieland Band mare. Tiz is my fourth horse invested with Sackatoga. I've bred/raced another handful of Arky breds on my own • Favorite thing about owning horses? It has morphed over the years but one feeling remains… the thrill of seeing your horse and silks turn for home with a fighting chance and a rolled-up form/program clinched as you show the jockey how to get him home in front! As long as they each come back safe and had a chance to prove their calling, each horse can be a success. I started Saints N Angels Animal Rescue in 2014 to properly retire every horse that went through our barn–even claiming several back. I love getting updates on retired horses and visiting our retiree partner farms when able, especially Becky's Hope Horse Rescue in Frisco, TX • Favorite Tiz the Law moment? Holding the Holy Bull trophy with our partner Roger Sofer at Gulfstream Park (he's been fighting leukemia since March). Hearing Bruce Phillips's infectious laugh in the Champagne winners circle (he passed in his sleep two weeks later). Celebrating a special toast to “Derby dreams” with Jack and Aaron Knowlton in New York last fall • Toughest Derby competition? I have strong opinions about the Derby every year, but I'd rather not single one out due to respect for all the horses and their connections. Anything can happen based on post positions and which quarter of the field may get wiped out at the break. My largest futures bet is a Tiz–Enforceable exacta.
Kathleen Sands Martin • Dunedin, FL • Professional background? General Electric within the Human Resources arena–33 1/2 yrs • How did you become a racing fan? Residing approximately 40 minutes from Saratoga in Johnstown, NY, it was hard not to be a fan. My mother was one to drive us to Saratoga while growing up • How long have you owned horses? 13 years • How many have you owned? More than 25! • Favorite thing about owning horses? Privilege to attend races, watch training in the morning while the fog is lifting at Saratoga, visiting the barns, meeting new individuals and winning is always sweet • Favorite Tiz the Law moment? His pictures demonstrate his character beyond what any human could compose • Toughest Derby competition? The other 17 horses. One can never be overconfident.
Terry McCarthy • Burnt Hills, NY • Professional background? Finance Manager for US Dept. of Energy subcontractor • How did you become a racing fan? My grandmother took me to Saratoga Racecourse when I was 12 and I was “hooked” • How long have you owned horses? Two years • How many have you owned? Five • Favorite thing about owning horses? The ownership group and the fantastic care the horsemen and women give to these horses • Favorite Tiz the Law moment? His maiden victory at Saratoga. My first experience winning a horse race and, in my backyard, no less • Toughest Derby competition? The traffic at the start. Anything can happen when the gates open.
Ed Motter • Lancaster, PA • Professional background? Retired business executive • How did you become a racing fan? Watching Triple Crown races on TV in high school • How long have you owned horses? 13 years • How many have you owned? 23 • Favorite thing about owning horses? Friendships with partners and watching races together • Favorite Tiz the Law moment? All of the following: coming back from the November defeat at Churchill to win the Holy Bull with most of the partners watching; winning the Florida Derby with no fans validating the prior performances and the hype; winning the Belmont S., the first leg of Triple Crown; the 5:30 am workout on Aug . 1 at Saratoga with the huge media presence; winning the Travers at 10 furlongs, second leg of the Quadruple Crown and being there • Toughest Derby competition? The post position and break from the gate.
Margaret Phillips • Dallas, PA • Professional background? AT&T Management – National Accounts Sales • How did you become a racing fan? Did a lot of horseback riding, have always had a love of horses and a friend of mine Bobby Dwyer introduced me to owning a horse and becoming a partner in Warpath Stables. Then met Jack Knowlton with my husband Bruce Phillips during the 2003 Preakness party for Funny Cide and went into partnership with Sackatoga Stables • How long have you owned horses? 20+ • How many have you owned? 22+ • Favorite thing about owning horses? The honor and privilege of being part of such a wonderful and exciting sport and meeting people from all parts of the world and having a horse in the Kentucky Derby• Favorite Tiz the Law moment? Being with my late husband Bruce Phillips at the Champagne S. in New York watching Tiz the Law win and celebrating a victory together before he died.
Jim & Melania Serfass • Harveys Lake, PA • Professional background? Jim, distribution and warehousing; Melania, CFO • How did you become a racing fan? We started off watching the Triple Crown every year. The Kentucky Derby was on our bucket list. Once we went, we were “hooked” • How long have you owned horses? 4 years • How many have you owned? 4 • Favorite thing about owning horses? Meeting other owners with the same love of horses and the sport • Favorite Tiz the Law moment? The tactical move he made in the Holy Bull–impressive! • Toughest Derby competition? In a race with 18 horses, all of them! You never know what's going to happen with that many horses.
Bob Slingsby • Blauvelt, NY • Professional background? Currently CEO and principal of Viking Pure Solutions, a company dedicated to pathogen control using powerful yet green solutions. Previously, practicing attorney specializing in litigation • How did you become a racing fan? The unparalleled and transcendent horses and races of the 70s got me for time eternal. Secretariat, Ruffian, Ruffian v. Foolish Pleasure, Slew, Affirmed v. Alydar, and Bid–need I say more? • How long have you owned horses? 4 years • How many have you owned? 7 • Favorite thing about owning horses? The feeling of being part of a great, timeless sport. I cherish every aspect of it and have developed great respect for those who devote their lives to understanding, nourishing, developing and loving these Thoroughbreds • Favorite Tiz the Law moment? The Holy Bull when I absolutely knew he was special by the way he ran and won that race • Toughest Derby competition? Authentic.
Jim Webb • Erie, PA • Professional background? Former collegiate basketball coach/public school administrator • How did you become a racing fan? Have been a fan since I was a teenager • How long have you owned horses? 6 years • How many have you owned? 10 • Favorite thing about owning horses? Being able to have access to stable area and interact with Barclay Tagg and Jack Knowlton • Favorite Tiz the Law moment? Winning the Belmont and Travers.
Diane Welsch • Philadelphia, PA • Professional background? Retired judge currently working as a private mediator • How did you become a racing fan? As a child my grandparents were racing fans. They loved going to the races when they vacationed in Florida. Our family always watched the Kentucky Derby on TV and placed our bets through the local bookies • How long have you owned horses? Six • How many have you owned? 9, all through Sackatoga Stables • Favorite thing about owning horses? Being an owner has allowed us to meet so many nice people from all walks of life. We have learned a lot about the sport. It has been a true honor to get to know our trainer Barclay Tagg. He is a humble gentleman, a consummate professional with no ego who only cares about what is in the best interest of the horse. At age 82, he inspires me to hope that I can continue to work in my career with the same energy and passion as he has • Favorite Tiz the Law moment? The announcer calling the win at the Belmont: “The New York hero Tiz the Law wins the Belmont Stakes; 138 years since a New York-bred horse has won the Belmont. In a year when New York needs something to celebrate!” • Toughest Derby competition? Only weather and post position.