2009 Hall of Fame: Now and Forever

Two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner belongs to America

Take your left arm and extend it straight out in front of you. Now take your right arm and extend it straight out in front of you. Look at the space between both arms. That space is approximately the difference between Tiznow  being just one of many classy stakes winners through the years and being inducted into the Hall of Fame and forever known as defender of America’s honor.

In back-to-back years, America was a heartbeat away from falling to a European invader in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), the second time with the ashes from the World Trade Center still smoldering a short distance away.

By defeating the Irish-trained champion Giant's Causeway  by a neck in the 2000 Classic at Churchill Downs and Godolphin’s runaway Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) winner Sakhee by a nose in 2001 at Belmont Park, Tiznow not only stamped himself as a true champion, but became the only horse ever to win the Classic twice and the first California-bred to win the $4-million event.

Going into the 2001 Classic, America had been defeated in the three previous races by European invaders, and a loss in the country’s richest race would have been a crushing blow and an ignominious end to that year’s World Thoroughbred Championships. Although Sakhee looked like a sure winner in mid-stretch, Tiznow rose to the occasion, just as he had the year before when he refused to let Giant’s Causeway pass him. This time he again reached deep into that undefined reservoir we call heart and battled back, thrusting his nose in front in the shadow of the wire.

What made the storybook ending even more remarkable was that it had appeared doubtful Tiznow would ever race again after suffering a back injury following his victory in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) earlier in the year. And when he did return, he looked to be a step slower and lacked the competitive drive he had demonstrated so often the previous year. But then along came Sakhee to re-ignite the fire within Tiznow. To the romantic, it was as if the nation’s fighting spirit that emerged following the catastrophic events of 9/11 had manifested itself in the form of a magnificent Thoroughbred who simply refused to be defeated.

But Tiznow’s election into the Hall of Fame was not based solely on his two Breeders’ Cup Classic victories. In addition to those two triumphs and his five-length romp in the Santa Anita Handicap, he set a track record in the Super Derby (gr. I), defeated eventual Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) winner Captain Steve in the Goodwood Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. II), and captured the San Fernando Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. II) and Affirmed Handicap (gr. III), while placing in five graded stakes. With eight victories in 15 career starts, he amassed $6,427,830 in earnings.

Tiznow, by Cee’s Tizzy, out of Cee’s Song, by Seattle Song, was bred by Cecelia Straub Rubens, who raced the colt in partnership with Michael Cooper, and was trained by Jay Robbins.

Amazingly, Tiznow’s full-brother, Budroyale, another bulldog of a racehorse bred by Straub Rubens, finished second in the 1999 Breeders’ Cup Classic for Jeffrey Sengara, nearly giving Cee’s Song’s offspring three consecutive wins in the Classic. Budroyale had been claimed from Straub Rubens and Cruvant and Robbins for $32,000.

After Budroyale finished second in the Classic, Sengara recalls being approached by Straub Rubens, who had tears running down her face. She told him how happy she was for him, and he replied, “I hope his brother you have coming up is as good as he is.”

The following year Straub Rubens, who was battling cancer, managed to make it to Churchill Downs and proudly accepted the Classic trophy. Three days later she passed away. But before she died, her final words to Robbins were, “Take care of my boy.”

Robbins would fulfill her last wish, showing great patience, dedication, and astute horsemanship in getting Tiznow back to his 2000 form on the day it counted.

Cooper, feeling there was something mystical about Tiznow’s second Classic victory, said in an attempt to explain the colt’s remarkable performance, “Who knows, it could have been Cee kicking him in the ass.”

Regarding Tiznow’s induction in the Hall of Fame, Cooper said, “This celebrates the magnificence and mystery of a champion Thoroughbred. His 2000 victory in the Classic over European champion Giant’s Causeway was a mystery to horse players and a spiritual event for his connections, with Cee passing away three days after the race. In the 2001 Santa Anita Handicap, announcer Trevor Denman proclaimed him, ‘America’s Horse.’

“Seven months later Tiznow’s victory in a post 9/11 New York lifted the spirit of racing fans who had seen foreign-based horses win three straight Breeders’ Cup races. His heart and fight became a motivation and inspiration for many. All I can do is congratulate Tiznow.”

Cooper would not offer any personal feelings, believing his role was far too inconsequential.

“I’m tired of people talking about their ownership of horses, because in my opinion it detracts from the horse, who is the real star. It is proven every day that anyone can be an owner, but only a few horses are champions. Believe me, my association with Tiznow was extremely spiritual and emotional, but I don’t think for a minute I had anything to do with his success. I was just one of the lucky ones to be around him.”

Robbins said it was Tiznow’s first groom at WinStar Farm, where the horse now stands at stud, who described him best.

“She said, ‘He doesn’t look at things; he observes things. He observes everything going on around him,’ ” Robbins said. “I found that very accurate. As a racehorse, his tenacity was unparalleled. And he really enjoyed it. He was a once-in-a-lifetime happening.”