By Bill Heller
Twin Creeks Farm’s Randy Gullatt and Steve Davison, lifelong friends since kindergarten in Rustin, Louisiana, traveled a lot of miles and endured a difficult loss before becoming the breeders of the Belmont Stakes winner on June 20th. That’s when Sackatoga Stable’s Tiz the Law became the first New York-bred in 138 years to win the Belmont Stakes in a dominating performance under jockey Manny Franco.
Davison and Gullatt have been enjoying racing together since they snuck into Louisiana Downs in high school, opened a modest stable as teenagers and journeyed to northern California before founding Twin Creeks Farm in Versailles, Kentucky and deciding to breed New York-breds at Sequel Stallions in Hudson, New York.
Tiz the Law’s Belmont Stakes victory gave Sackatoga Stables, trainer Barclay Tagg and his do-everything assistant/exercise rider Robin Smullen a personal Triple Crown after they won the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes with their New York-bred gelding Funny Cide, who finished third in the Belmont Stakes in a sea of slop and mud under Hall of Fame jockey Jose Santos.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Triple Crown began with the Belmont Stakes at a distance shortened from a mile and a half to a mile and an eighth. Tiz the Law, now five-for-six lifetime, will start next start in the Travers Stakes on August 8th at Saratoga before resuming the Triple Crown chase in the Kentucky Derby on September 4th and the Preakness Stakes on October 3rd.
Tiz the Law, a son of Constitution out of the Tiznow mare Tizfiz who was purchased by Sackatoga Stable for $110,000 at the August 2018 Saratoga Yearling Sale, has been special from day one, winning his maiden debut at Saratoga last August 8th by 4 ¼ lengths.
The joy of that victory was tempered a couple weeks later when Tiz the Law’s dam contracted colic and died from complications during surgery. “She was carrying a full sibling to Tiz the Law,” Davison said. “We lost both the mama and the baby.”
Gullatt said, “She was just a lovely mare. It was really hard on us. Like Tiz the Law she was a joy to be around. These things make you sick.”
Davison added, “It’s always a roller coaster. But there’s a lot of good to go with the bad.”
They do have two of Tiz the Law’s siblings, both by their New York stallion Mission Impazible: a two-year-old filly named Angel Oak, who they intend to race, and a yearling colt they plan on selling at the Fasig-Tipton Sale in September.
Tiz the Law’s siblings have one heck of a tough act to follow. After his easy debut maiden score at Saratoga, Tiz the Law won the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes by four lengths, the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes by three lengths, the Grade 1 Florida Derby by 4 ¼ lengths and the Belmont Stakes by 3 ¾ lengths. His breeding rights were sold to Ashford Stud four days after the Belmont Stakes.
Gullatt, 52, and Davison, 53, have come a long way since jumping the fence to get into Louisiana Downs. Gullatt, whose dad owned a couple of horses, lives at Twin Creeks Farm. Gullatt flirted with becoming a jockey but switched to training when he outgrew that dream, before becoming a breeding and racing maven.
Davison, a real estate lawyer who lives in his native Rustin, Louisiana, used to interrupt his study in law school to read a copy of the Daily Racing Form he received a day late through the mail.
With the help of Davison’s dad James, who owned and operated a trucking business he sold in 2007, Gullatt and Davison bought horses together. They claimed La Vivat for $9,000 on September 25th, 1986. With Gullatt training, La Vivat went one-for-six.
They weren’t enjoying a lot of success in Louisiana, so they decided to invade northern California. “They had a nice little stakes schedule there and we won a couple stakes,” Davison said. “Randy was the trainer and he made some contacts out there that we’re still in touch with today. I was in law school.”
Ultimately, they settled in Kentucky, opening Twin Creeks Farm in 1992 in Versailles.
“I had two young kids,” Gullatt said. “It’s a rough business. I was traveling all over the place. We loved Kentucky. Getting a farm there was more stable for our family.”
Eventually, New York-breds entered his equine family, and they now stand two gray stallions in the state. “We have Mission Impazible and Destin there,” Gullatt said. “We wanted to support all our stallions, so we rotate the mares there. Once she foals, we breed back to their stallions and they can stay there for 90 days, and then they can spend the rest of their lives living in Kentucky.”
Initially, Twin Creeks focused on improving their broodmares, and they found an outstanding one in La Paz, who produced Mission Impazible, winner of the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at three and the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap at four. He also finished second in three Grade 1’s, the Stephen Foster Handicap, the Clark Handicap and the Donn Handicap, on the way to earning nearly $1.3 million.
Twin Creeks stands Mission Impazible and Destin, who lost the 2016 Belmont Stakes to Creator by an inch, at Sequel Stallions, and Twin Creeks continues to prosper with New York-breds. Destin won the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby and the Grade 2 Marathon Stakes on the way to bankrolling more than $900,000.
Twin Creeks bred Tizfiz to Constitution, who also sired this year’s top Kentucky Derby contender Independence Hall, owned in partnership by Twin Creeks. “We had Independence Hall and Tiz the Law on the Derby trail,” Gullatt said. “When the virus hit, you say, `Really? This is the year it’s going to happen?’”
Independence Hall was given a freshening after finishing fifth to Tiz the Law in the Florida Derby.
Gullett watched the Belmont Stakes with his family at home. “It was pretty emotional,” he said. “These horses are like our kids. We know the horse very personally. We understand his unique eyes. He’s got some white around his eyes. We understand his demeanor. That was the best race he’s run. Every time he runs, he seems to be better.”
Davison watched the Belmont on TV at home with his 22-year-old daughter Emily, a nursing student at the University of Arkansas. His other kids were at a baseball game with their mom. “Emily saw her dad fist pumping the air through the stretch,” he said. “She said, `You’re getting really excited.’ I said, `Well, sweetie, that’s kind of a big thing for us in the horse business.’”