Sometimes, it is a fine line that separates a championship season from merely a good, solid campaign. Sometimes, it comes down to a simple "yes" or "no" decision. In the case of Tiznow, that simple "yes" from owners Michael Cooper and Cecilia Straub-Rubens changed the course of racing history.
Having already captured the Super Derby (gr. I), Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II), and Affirmed Handicap (gr. III), along with a second in the rich Pacific Classic (gr. I), the California-bred Tiznow had more than fulfilled his owners' dreams of finally having a top-class horse after so many years of floundering about in claiming races.
After traveling cross-country and setting a track record winning the Super Derby by six lengths in 1:59.84 for the 1 1/4 miles, Tiznow returned home, and two weeks later outgamed the seasoned Captain Steve in a gut-wrenching stretch duel to win the 1 1/8-mile Goodwood, run in a sharp 1:47.38.
With Tiznow a relatively lightly raced 3-year-old, it seemed foolhardy even to consider putting up the $360,000 supplementary fee and heading cross-country yet again to face the best horses in the world in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) with only three weeks of rest. After all, the homebred son of Cee's Tizzy looked to have an unlimited future at four. When Tiznow backed off his feed slightly after the Goodwood, the decision seemed like a no-brainer.
But there were three factors that would change things dramatically. One was the incredible constitution and grittiness of Tiznow, who bounced right back with a vengeance. Second was the veteran trainer Jay Robbins, who knew his horse and felt he was up to the task. And third was the sportsmanship and chutzpah of Cooper and Straub-Rubens. It was those three factors that added up to an emphatic "yes." Tiznow would go for it all.
So, it was back East for his third cross-country trip and third race in only 35 days. Awaiting him were the top Horse of the Year candidates Fusaichi Pegasus and Lemon Drop Kid. Another fearsome opponent was Giant's Causeway, the blood-and-guts warrior from Ireland who had captured five consecutive group I stakes in 2000, all of them eyeball-to-eyeball battles.
Tiznow went for the lead through relatively soft fractions, but was under pressure throughout from Albert the Great, with Giant's Causeway right behind. Turning for home, it was obvious that Fusaichi Pegasus and Lemon Drop Kid had nothing. Albert the Great began a steady retreat, which left the two street fighters, Tiznow and Giant's Causeway, to slug it out.
Giant's Causeway came charging up on Tiznow's right flank and looked to have the momentum. But Tiznow, under Chris McCarron, dug in and found more. Giant's Causeway kept coming. Both colts continued to battle to the wire, with Tiznow inching away at the end to win by a neck in 2:00.75.
It was that neck that put Tiznow at the head of the pack for 3-year-old male and Horse of the Year honors. Three days after the Classic, Mrs. Straub-Rubens, who was a month from her 84th birthday, died of a heart attack. All it took was a simple "yes" for her to go out a winner.