Tizway, the leader of the handicap division, breezed an easy five furlongs over Saratoga’s Oklahoma Training Track Sept. 9 as he continues to prepare for the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational (gr. I) next month.
The 6-year-old son of Tiznow covered five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 with trainer Jimmy Bond looking on. It was his third work since scoring the Aug. 6 Whitney Invitational Handicap (gr. I), which came one race after a convincing victory in the May 30 Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park. Bond said Tizway would stay at Saratoga right up until the day of the Oct. 1 Gold Cup, where he is expected to take on, among others, Travers Stakes (gr. I) winner Stay Thirsty.
“He went very good; he did his usual 1:01 and came home in :24,” Bond said. “He loves it on the Oklahoma track, so we’ll just stay here with him.”
At this time last year, Bond was preparing William L. Clifton Jr.'s Tizway to run in the one-mile Kelso Handicap (gr. II), which he went on to win by five lengths for his first graded stakes triumph. That set the dark bay/brown horse up for a run in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, where he ran even fifth. Bond said the difference between the Tizway from 12 months ago is night and day—mainly due to his health.
“He’s basically a lot stronger of an individual now; I can train him a lot harder,” Bond said. “He had so many nagging injuries before; a lot of little things in his feet. He broke a wing bone which grounded him for a while. He always had a lot of talent, but I couldn’t train him like I wanted to. It’s like a person who has a foot problem. You can’t walk five miles a day on a bad foot.
“The good thing is that he’s a lightly-raced horse. We never pushed that hard on him. So now that his bones and muscles are right, he can show off his talent.
“He’s a very strong horse; you better be strong because he will pull you. He’s focused all the time and always wants to do his best. If you can compare him to a human athlete that is in training, if he is supposed to be at the gym at six in the morning he will get there at 5:30. If he is supposed to stay there until 10, he leaves at 11. He always trains hard.”
Before Tizway won the Whitney, the knock on him was that he wasn’t a horse ideally built for longer distances. Of his five wins through 2010, four of them had come at one mile or less. But after winning in such dominating fashion in the 1 1/8-mile Whitney, Tizway jumped right to the top of the handicap division. Now, leading up to the 1 1/4-mile Gold Cup, Bond will have to start answering the same distance questions all over again. Tizway was third in the 2009 Gold Cup, 5 1/4 lengths behind Summer Bird and Quality Road.
“It’s hard for me to believe that people keep doubting his ability at the distance,” Bond said. “It’s not an issue for me. When he ran against Quality Road two years ago it was a very sloppy track. There was a downpour about two hours before the race and he was sloshing through the water the best that he could. He ran his heart out.”
Bond is well aware of what is at stake in Tizway’s last two races, as a win in the Gold Cup and the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) at Churchill will lock up Horse of the Year honors for him. The last time Bond was in this position was in 1999 when he sent out Behrens as the favorite in the BC Classic at Gulfstream Park, where he finished a disappointing seventh.
“I’m going to keep my fingers crossed,” Bond said. “I’m very fortunate to be able to train a horse like this for a great client like Mr. Clifton. I just want him to stay healthy for two more races and hopefully show the world what he can do.”
Tizway, out of the Dayjur mare Bethany, was bred in Kentucky by Whisper Hill Farm.