The handicap division has been looking for a leader for more than seven months. It may have finally found one, as Tizway picked up his second consecutive grade I victory Aug. 6 at Saratoga by breezing to a three-length score in the $750,000 Whitney Invitational Handicap. (VIDEO)
Owned by William Clifton Jr. and trained by James Bond, 6-year-old Tizway defeated a deep group of horses in easy fashion. With jockey Rajiv Maragh aboard, the son of Tiznow took over from pacesetter Friend Or Foe approaching the quarter-pole, opened up a two-length lead at the top of the stretch, and cruised to victory. He covered 1 1/8 miles on the fast dirt in 1:52.43, becoming a millionaire in the process.
Tizway, sent off as the lukewarm 4-1 favorite in a field of 11, was bred in Kentucky by Whisper Hill Farm. He is out of the Dayjur mare Bethany.
The dark bay/brown horse entered the Whitney off of a decisive 2 3/4-length victory in the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) May 30 at Belmont Park. The big question he had to answer on Saturday was whether he could beat top-level horses at 1 1/8 miles, a distance he had been just 1-for-8 at in his career. He answered the question with authority.
“He’s the best miler in the country, and he is the best older horse in the country,” Bond said.
Tizway sat a golden trip under Maragh, settling into third while Friend Or Foe and Morning Line duked it out up front. Friend Or Foe held a narrow advantage over Morning Line through easy fractions of :24.31, :49.11, and 1:13.85. Rail Trip made a big move around the far turn until flattening out at the top of the lane, but nobody else was in serious contention until a rallying Flat Out loomed a threat in upper stretch.
But Tizway repelled that bid and cruised to the wire for his second consecutive major New York victory. Flat Out and Alex Solis finished a clear second, 3 1/2 lengths in front of Giant Oak , who rallied late to nip Friend Or Foe by a nose.
“It was an ideal trip,” Maragh said. “I was always close to the pace, where I wanted to be. I just trusted the horse that he could get the distance. I just rode him the same way I have always ridden him. He really picked it up at the three-eighths pole. He was definitely overpowering in the middle of the turn and he kept on going.”
Tizway improved to 7-1-5 from 20 career starts and upped his earnings to $1,359,274. The horse’s other graded stakes win came in the 2010 Kelso Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont. Bond said the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) and a Horse of the Year title are now the goals for Tizway. He earned an automatic bid to the BC Classic with his Whitney triumph.
“You know it,” he said. “He will run in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I, Oct. 1 at Belmont) and then the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs). I’m as confident going 1 1/4 miles as I was going 1 1/8 miles coming here today.
“I think it was a pretty strong training effort. The barn did a tremendous job. I want to thank my team—my riders, my grooms, the night watchmen, everybody. Believe me, I’ve got a great crew. You’re only as good as your people when you’ve got a lot of horses, and I have a great crew.”
Tizway paid $10.20, $5.50, and $4.40. Flat Out returned $6.10 and $4.20 and completed a $47 exacta (5-1). The trifecta (5-1-4) was worth $356.50.