Jay Robbins stood in the dim shedrow, taking measured sips from his styrofoam coffee cup and gazing into Stall 1. "He was a big 2-year-old last fall," the trainer said, soaking up an eyeful of Tiznow. "He looked like a 4-year-old then. Knock on wood, he's a beautiful-legged horse, but he really travels light for as big as he is."
It isn't enough that as a son of Cee's Tizzy and the Seattle Song mare Cee's Song, Tiznow, by virtue of breeding, can call himself a full brother to Budroyale, racing's answer to Rocky Balboa. That story spins itself.
What continues to draw raves is that Tiznow has gone from zero to superstar in six months. On the heels of his record-breaking effort in the $500,000 Super Derby (gr. I), the stately colt cemented himself as one of the premier colts around with another all-star performance in the $418,000 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II).
Those who were still left doubting Tiznow's potential were stopped in their tracks after he clobbered Commendable, the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner, by six lengths in the Super Derby, crushing the Louisiana Downs track mark for 10 furlongs in the process. Robbins, however, focused his attention on the colt's developing style.
"I like the way he came away from Commendable when Chris (McCarron) asked him to the other day," he said. "I was very impressed by his final quarter. I think this race today is the toughest race he's been in yet, top to bottom."
Causing Robbins the most anxiety was Mike Pegram's Captain Steve, fresh from drubbing his elders in the Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II). As well, there was the concern of timing. The nine-furlong Goodwood gave Tiznow just two weeks' rest since his Super Derby smasher. But he showed all the right signs--"He hasn't missed an oat since he's been home," Robbins said--and any lingering doubt was removed by a graceful half-mile work three days out that gave Robbins and jockey Chris McCarron chills.
In the Goodwood, McCarron expected to be close to the early pace, but Tiznow left the outside post with authority and cleared the entire field, affording his jockey the chance to shoot straight for the rail.
"Once I dropped over," McCarron later explained, "it seemed like everybody was content to be where they were, so they let me canter around the first turn."
The first quarter had elapsed in :23.34, and as Tiznow floated down the backstretch, covering a half in :47.12, McCarron began to assess the competition. Glancing right, he caught sight of a bobbing blue shadowroll. It belonged to Captain Steve.
The son of Fly So Free began to turn up the heat as they swept through six furlongs in 1:10.96. Tiznow answered the challenge and confidently kept Captain Steve at bay rounding the turn. But finally, turning for home, the 3-year-olds engaged, setting up a duel that was a virtual carbon copy of the Goodwood from a year ago.
It was there last fall that General Challenge and Budroyale locked horns for the first time, trading blows the length of the stretch before Budroyale finally prevailed by a desperate neck. Now, Captain Steve had Bud's big little brother against the ropes. Passing the eighth pole, they were dead even.
In the stands, Robbins was breaking a hard sweat. McCarron, though, switching his stick left, had supreme confidence in Tiznow's resolve.
"All you gotta do is go look at the Affirmed Handicap (gr. III)," McCarron said back in the jock's room. "Watch the way he fought that day. That horse did get by him. He came back on and beat Dixie Union. He's a very, very game animal. Very game."
And so they battled, Tiznow resilient, Captain Steve unrelenting. But Tiznow wouldn't shake. At the finish, they were a half-length apart, Tiznow stopping the clock in 1:47.38. Euchre, a bust in the Pacific Classic (gr. I), was a strong third, 1 1/2 lengths farther back.
In all likelihood, Budroyale and Tiznow are the first full brothers to win consecutive runnings of the same stakes at Santa Anita. While Tiznow was making his way back to the testing barn, owner-breeder Cecilia Straub-Rubens and her partner Michael Cooper were immersed in a sea of reporters, each offering variations on the same inquiring theme. With the Breeders' Cup less than three weeks away, Team Tiz faces a $360,000 supplementary fee to secure a spot in the Classic (gr. I) lineup. Though that would be the colt's third testing race in just 36 days, Robbins thinks Tiznow may be up to the task.
"He takes his races well," he said. "He takes them in stride, and he's got a tough constitution. I think he's a better horse going a mile and a quarter."
McCarron agrees. "He gives me the impression he'll run all day. He really does," he said. "I've never been able to pull him up after a race. I always get pulled up by the outrider. He's the genuine article." Good as Gold
Kona Gold was still cooling out after last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) when trainer Bruce Headley began piecing together the project. The mission: to put the son of Java Gold in the Breeders' Cup winner's circle a year later. The 6-year-old gelding is one step away from hitting paydirt.
"We mapped out that plan, but it's not difficult if the plan you map out goes according to Hoyle," Headley said. "Although we trained him in this manner, we still had luck enough for the plan to succeed. A lot of luck goes with the plan."
Truth be told, there simply isn't a more reliable sprinter in the country than Kona Gold. He never fires a bad shot.
"He gives it 100% every day," praised his jockey, Alex Solis. "He's an incredible horse."
In the $196,498 Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) on Oct. 14, Kona Gold needed just 1:08.11 to sharpen the edges and send a strident message. Though he broke somewhat sluggishly, Kona Gold quickly regained his footing under Solis, sitting just back of the front-running This Tune Can Hum. He began his attack with Regal Thunder heading into the far turn, racing past This Tune Can Hum after a :44.49 half-mile. From there it was no contest.
Owned by Headley with Irwin and Andrew Molasky, Kona Gold was three in front at the wire. Regal Thunder held second by a nose over Elaborate. "I wanted a real sharp run, a confident run," said Headley, "and that's what it was." Cup Chant
While Kona Gold was busy solidifying his status as the favorite to win the Breeders' Cup Sprint, Irving and Marjorie Cowan's homebred War Chant threw his hat into the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) mix with a choice effort in the $285,750 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IIT).
That's right, this is the same War Chant who was all the rage last spring. But after his narrow loss to The Deputy in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), the Danzig colt was seemingly lost in the Fusaichi frenzy.
While Fusaichi Pegasus sent waves of wonder with his seamless run in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), War Chant barely made a ripple at Churchill Downs, checking in ninth, nearly 15 lengths behind his stablemate. A sore shoulder subsequently knocked him out of action, and when trainer Neil Drysdale started to gear him up for the fall, the turf was on the agenda.
Under new rider Gary Stevens, War Chant settled into sixth early, as Longacres Mile (gr. III) winner Edneator set the tone. When Stevens finally gave the signal, War Chant put in a breathtaking move on the turn. He circled the leaders with sheer ease, hooked up with Road To Slew at the eighth pole, then pulled clear to score by 1 1/4 lengths. The mile went in 1:33.75.
Now four-for-six lifetime, the son of 1993 Distaff (gr. I) heroine Hollywood Wildcat has the unique opportunity to become the first Breeders' Cup winner to be foaled by a previous Breeders' Cup winner.Continued. . . .