Owning a Kentucky Derby horse is a dream many horse racing fans have, and for a group of horse owners in Northeast Pennsylvania, that dream has come true!  When the gates open for Kentucky Derby 146 on the first Saturday in September, Sackatoga Stables’ Tiz the Law will be the probable favorite, and Margaret Phillips of Dallas, PA, in the Back Mountain area, will be there to watch her and her husband’s “dream come true”.

Tiz the Law relaxing in his stall at Barclay Tagg’s barn
Margaret Phillips photo

Attorney Bruce Phillips, who passed away in October of 2019, and his beautiful wife Margaret have been in a partnership with Sackatoga Stables* since Bruce met founder Jack Knowlton and his wife Dorothy on Preakness Stakes day in May of 2003. Atty. Phillips had always had a passion for horses, even going to the races with his grandfather when he was younger. Meeting Knowlton on that day in May, as he was riding high on the success of their New York-bred superstar Funny Cide’s dominant Derby and Preakness wins, was the start of a strong and everlasting friendship. Many horses and years later, lightning, as they say, may strike twice as Tiz the Law is heading to Churchill Downs off his powerful win in the Travers at Saratoga.

Margaret Phillips is now carrying on her husband’s legacy and love for the horses, following Tiz the Law on his Triple Crown journey. “This was my husband’s passion and his dream that someday he would have a horse in the Kentucky Derby, and I’m living his dream,” she said wistfully, adding that Bruce and she have had all the faith in the world with Jack Knowlton and Barclay Tagg, the horse’s legendary trainer. “Barclay goes about his business in a very defined manner, and definitely has a personality, as seen in several interviews where he has humor about him. He is so passionate, and there is nothing more than taking care of these horses and making sure that they are fit to race.  He has such a love for the horses.”

As for jockey Manny Franco, Margaret observes that it is a great partnership between him and Tiz, adding there is obviously love between them.

Sackatoga Stable does a great job, sharing photos and videos of their champion both on and off the track, on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Fans get to experience his workouts first-hand, feeding time, and his interaction with his handlers. It’s obvious that he’s quite unique, and Margaret laughs that he’s quite the character. “Tiz has a great personality, he loves the cameras!” she laughed. Recently, a photo was posted of him sticking his tongue out while in his stall, and that seems to be his trademark. “There’s a photo around of Niko’s Dream (a Sackatoga Stable filly) sticking her tongue out at Tiz when she came back from her race, and  then when Tiz won his first race he stuck his tongue out at Niko!” She added that he’s a happy, feisty horse, going to sleep at night around 8pm, laying down and snoring away!

Margaret still gets nervous before a race, musing that she doesn’t want to let down the country right now. “This is really the people’s horse, and there has to be something good out there to cheer for, and right now, no matter if you are a horse fan or new to the sport, people are just hungry for something good to happen.  She makes it a point to travel wherever her horses are racing, and enjoys meeting fans.

Margaret Phillips photo of Tiz The Law heading to the Saratoga track before his win in the Runhappy Travers

As she gets ready to leave Northeast PA for Kentucky, she gets emotional talking about her late husband and the fact that he won’t be with her in person to watch their “dream horse”, but truly believes he walks beside her every day and has been by her side at all of Tiz’s races.  “He absolutely will be watching, beaming over and over with that huge smile and big laugh that he had,” she said, with a catch in her voice.

Oh, and fashion is just as important at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day, and Margaret has her ensemble ready. “I’m wearing a white and black outfit, a skirt and jacket, with a big black and white hat, bought when I was in Saratoga.” Fabulous!

What message does she have for fans of Tiz the Law?  “I just want to thank everyone for all the support and the love that they have shown to this horse because he truly is a wonderful horse and he wants to please everyone. You can see when he’s winning, he looks back at the other horses and just takes off.  Then he looks over to his right side, but there’s no fans there. But we tell him every day that everybody’s watching him and they wish him success. You can see in his face he understands”.

The fans WILL be watching and cheering for the big horse that has stolen the hearts of Northeast PA and the nation!

*Sackatoga Stables has additional Northeast PA partners, including Harry Salavantis of Shavertown; Thomas Blewitt of Moscow; Robert Dompkosky of Wyoming; Dave Dompkosky of Mountain Top; Diane Welch of Wayne; and James and Melania Serfass of Harvey’s Lake. 

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