Tizdejavu ended Churchill Downs’ spring meet with a bang, exploding out of the starting gate and never looking back en route to his 1 ½-length triumph in the $205,625 Firecracker Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) July 4.
“He really threw the gauntlet down to a good group of horses,” said the 5-year-old bay horse’s trainer, Greg Fox.
Mine That Bird, meanwhile, fizzled in his first race since his unplaced effort in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) last November and his first start since moving to the Churchill barn of Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
Carrying the Firecracker’s top weight of 122 pounds and favored even though he was making his debut on grass, the 2009 Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner was last in the Firecracker’s field of 14 runners through the first half-mile and had only one horse beat turning for home. Mine That Bird passed several rivals in the stretch to finish eighth, but the Canadian champion didn’t appear to enjoy running over grass.
“He was struggling so much,” said Mine That Bird’s rider, Calvin Borel. “He kept moving back and forth, back and forth, switching leads. We will see a different horse after this, a totally different horse. He came back real good; (he was) jogging good. I’m telling you, get him on the dirt and you’ll see a different horse.”
According to Lukas, the Firecracker effort “put us in a position to do something better,” and Mine That Bird will be pointed for the Aug. 7 Whitney Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga.
Tizdejavu, a grass veteran, was the second betting choice in the Firecracker, and the son of Tiznow is undefeated in his three races in 2010 after closing out his 2009 campaign with a last-place finish in the Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes (gr. IT) at Keeneland in October. He came into the Firecracker off a three-quarter length victory over Recapturetheglory in an allowance/optional claiming event at a mile May 9 at Arlington Park and a half-length win over Public Speaker in the 1 1/16-mile Opening Verse Stakes June 11 at Churchill.
“We ended his season last year on a down note, but the beautiful thing is this is a very, very special horse,” Fox said. “Giving him a break and bringing him back steadily, you saw what he did today.”
Tizdejavu, who carried 119 pounds, set Firecracker fractions of :23.20 and :45.94 while leading Inca King by 1 ½ lengths. He stretched out his advantage to 2 ½ lengths by the time he completed six furlongs in 1:09.73, and he was three lengths in front at the stretch call.
Inca King’s jockey, Victor Lebron, lost his whip late, and the 6-year-old gelding finished third, beaten out for the runner-up spot by Public Speaker by only a nose. Public Speaker rallied three wide and was able to reduce some of Tizdejavu’s advantage, but he never really threatened the front-runner.
Tizedejavu, who was ridden by Jesus Lopez Castenon, completed a mile over a firm course in 1:35.98 while earning his eighth victory in 16 career races. He has won five stakes, four of which were graded and four of which were run at Churchill.
“I made him run his own race,” said Castanon of Tizdejavu’s Firecracker effort. “I knew there was going to be a lot of pace at the beginning. He was running the race pretty easily. When I asked him to pick it up, he just drew away. I knew my horse has a lot of speed, so I just let him break and tried to get the lead and be clear through the first turn.”
Tizdejavu, who returned $10.20, $5, and $3.60 to his backers, is a homebred racing for Michael Cooper and Pamela Ziebarth. His $116,016 winner’s share of the Firecracker purse boosted his career earnings to $693,153.
Public Speaker paid $4.60 and $3.60, and Inca King returned $4.20. The exacta (4-7) paid $44.
Tizdejavu was bred in Kentucky, and he is out of the Dixie Brass mare Remember When.