For California breeders it has been a long, sometimes agonizing 17 years when it comes to the Breeders' Cup. Before this year's running at Churchill Downs, California-breds were 0-for-46 in racing's championship event, and the Golden State found itself behind Kentucky (64 winners), Florida (18), Ireland (8), Great Britain (6), Argentina (3), Canada (3), Maryland (3), Pennsylvania (3), France (2), Illinois (1), New Jersey (1), and Oklahoma (1) in the victory column. In recent years, California has been the third-largest foal producer in the United States, behind Kentucky and Florida, and until 1994 it produced more foals than Florida.
Tiznow ended the Cal-bred drought with a determined and impressive victory in the $4,296,040 Classic (gr. I), putting himself into position as a leading contender for Horse of the Year, a title no California-bred has claimed since Swaps in 1956. The son of Cee's Tizzy out of Cee's Song, by Seattle Song--a product of Cecilia Straub-Rubens' breeding program--may have made the wait worthwhile. He has the looks, ability, and heart of a champion. Certainly, California breeders have cause to celebrate.
There would have been no talk of a Cal-bred drought in the Breeders' Cup had Patrick Valenzuela maintained a straight course aboard Fran's Valentine, who was disqualified from first and placed 10th for interference in the 1984 Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). The daughter of Saros ran twice more in the championship, but could do no better than second behind Lady's Secret, the 1986 Horse of the Year.
Likewise, if the late Allen Paulson hadn't taken a chance in 1991 by sending a French-based colt named Arazi to contest the Juvenile (gr. I), Cal-bred Bertrando would have been a wire-to-wire winner. Two years later, were it not for the astounding upset in the Classic by another French colt, Arcangues, Bertrando would have wired that field and taken the monkey off the back of California breeders.
In 1994, Soviet Problem, a Cal-bred daughter of Moscow Ballet, turned in a game performance in the Sprint (gr. I), pressing blazing early fractions and opening up by a length with a furlong to run. Cherokee Run had her measured, though, and edged past the filly in the final yards to win by a head.
Then there was Tiznow's older brother, Budroyale, rising from the claiming ranks to the top of the game in 1999. Sent off at odds of 26-1 despite a solid victory in the Goodwood Handicap (gr. II) in his final Breeders' Cup prep, Budroyale came up a length and a quarter short in the Classic, won by another longshot, Cat Thief.
Mixed in with those near-misses were some major disappointments: Best Pal's futile efforts as a supplemental entrant in 1990, '93, and '94; Flying Continental's 11th-place finish in the 1990 Classic at Belmont Park, where he'd won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) only three weeks earlier; and General Challenge's 10th-place finish in the 1999 Classic as the second choice in the wagering.
Perhaps Tiznow's win will bolster the confidence of California breeders and convince more of them to nominate their stallions and foals to the Breeders' Cup program. Including the four this year, there have been 50 starts made by Cal-breds in the Breeders' Cup. Thirteen of those 50 were accompanied by high-priced supplemental nominations (including the three-time supplements Best Pal and Bertrando). Tiznow was a $360,000 supplement (representing 9% of the $4 million purse), which is the equivalent of the $500 nomination fee for 720 foals. Tiznow earned $2,438,800 for his victory, making the decision to supplement a wise and profitable move.
In the end, however, Mrs. Straub-Rubens, the proud breeder and co-owner of the Classic winner, may have had fewer nervous moments if she had sent in that check for $500 when Tiznow was a foal.