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Tiznow Shows Championship Mettle for Second Year in Row

By Steve Haskin
The eyes are the windows of the soul. That has been said many times, but on Oct. 27 the racing world saw proof of it. For the second year in a row, we witnessed the same fire being lit in the eyes of Tiznow. And for the second year in a row, we were provided a rare look into the soul of a Thoroughbred.

It is quite obvious that whenever a fire is lit in Tiznow's eyes, in the form of a tenacious, foreign invader, it ignites something in the deepest recesses of his soul. What emerges is an unrelenting determination that pushes him beyond any pre-conceived limits.

But perhaps we did more than look into the soul of the Thoroughbred. Perhaps, in some way, Tiznow allowed us a look into our own soul. Late last year, the colt's trainer, Jay Robbins, received a Christmas card from New England Patriots football coach Bill Belichick, who wrote: "Thanks for the inspiration." Belichick had used a tape of Tiznow's courageous victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) late in the season to show his team what can be accomplished if one wanted it bad enough. The Patriots were 7-5 at the time, and in need of a victory in hopes of gaining a playoff berth. They came from behind to win their next game, and eventually went on to win the Super Bowl.

In the wake of the Sept. 11 tragedy, Tiznow's victory was not merely a horse battling back from apparent defeat. In the realm of Thoroughbred racing, this was an American battling back against a foreign invader, as he had done the year before, to restore a sense of order and, most important, a sense of pride. Tiznow's victory over the European titan Sakhee was the way it was supposed to be. With American racing fans reeling after three consecutive European victories, in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT), Bessemer Trust Juvenile (gr. I), and Turf (gr. I), it took one final, desperate thrust of Tiznow's head at the finish to turn them into an aberration.

It was then up to the Eclipse Award voters to determine whether Tiznow's Classic victory, and its transcendence of the Sport of Kings, plus his dominating win in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) in March, were enough to snatch Horse of the Year honors away from Point Given.

It will not matter in the grand scheme of things that Tiznow was not awarded back-to-back Horse of the Year titles. What Tiznow accomplished on Oct. 27, 2001, will forever be remembered as one of racing's greatest and most profound moments. For the record books, the California-bred son of Cee's Tizzy became the first horse to win two Breeders' Cup Classics, and only the fourth horse to win a Breeders' Cup race in successive years.

Until his epic farewell performance at Belmont Park, he had been a source of constant frustration for trainer Jay Robbins, majority owner Michael Cooper, and jockey Chris McCarron. First, there were his recurring back ailments in the spring and summer that threatened to end his career, and then, his bizarre, self-destructive antics in the mornings, in which he would lash out at the pony at times and refuse to train until he was good and ready.

On Oct. 27, when Sakhee, coming off a six-length triumph in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I), looked him in the eye, Tiznow was ready. He had been called to battle, just as he had the year before at Churchill Downs when another pride of Europe, the indefatigable warrior, Giant's Causeway, challenged his superiority

The comparable photos of the 2000 and 2001 Classics have appeared side-by-side in numerous formats, and the only way to determine which is which is by the color, markings, and silks of the horse on the outside. On the inside in both photos is the victorious Tiznow, his striking white face and clenched teeth forever frozen in time.