Tiznow, winning the Santa Anita Handicap under Chris McCarron.

Tiznow, winning the Santa Anita Handicap under Chris McCarron.

Associated Press / Chris Urso

Another Wild Morning for Tiznow

A change of scenery for Tiznow has not made life any easier for trainer Jay Robbins, as the defending Horse of Year had another of his eventful mornings Sunday, balking, kicking, backpeddling, and sidestepping his way around the track.

The son of Cee's Tizzy went to the track after the break, accompanied by Andy, a pony owned by Pam York, who is an exercise rider for Shug McGaughey. Robbins and Tiznow's exercise rider Ramon Arciga decided it was best just to let the big chocolate bay do whatever he felt like, and allow him as much time as he wanted to jog around the track the wrong way.

While walking to the track, Tiznow suddenly lashed back with his right hind leg. At Santa Anita recently, he kicked his pony on the left leg, which is not particularly easy to do, considering he is walking on the pony's right side. This time, fortunately, there was no one near him and no harm was done. Once on the track, Tiznow immediately went into his now-infamous routine, stopping dead in his tracks, backpeddling, and sidestepping precariously across the track. Robbins, watching at the gap, with a cup of coffee in his hand, could just sigh in exasperation.

When Tiznow eventually finished his long journey around the mile and a half oval, Robbins decided to call an audible and told Arciga as he was leaving the track to return and go around again. "I just want to confuse him," Robbins said.

Walking the few yards from the exit gap back to the entrance gap, Tiznow gave another wicked kick, and this time came pretty close to the pony. The second time around went much better, as Tiznow after a few anxious moments passing the stands, walked calmly down the backstretch behind the pony. But after passing the six-furlong pole, Tiznow, possibly having spotted the horses working on the turf, began to act up again. York remained in front of him, having been told not to take hold of him. Tiznow backed up again, then wheeled and scooted across the track. With other horses heading down the backstretch, the Belmont outrider took it upon himself to grab hold of Tiznow and provide an escort the rest of the way back. By now, the colt had worked up a good deal of lather on his neck. Robbins said he will take him to the track earlier on Monday, right before the break when there are fewer horses training.

That was the bad news. Now for the good news. Tiznow, although a bit leaner than when we last saw him at Churchill Downs last year, looks fantastic. When he stepped off the van at 4:40 p.m. Saturday, his coat was bursting with dapples, despite being dull from the long trip. Walking onto the grassy area behind McGaughey's barn, Tiznow gave a shake, raising a cloud of dust. Arciga let him graze for a while, and the colt was bright and alert, and made a magnificent appearance. This morning, after being groomed, Tiznow was a feast for the eyes, and just seemed to overhelm all the horses around him with his demeanor and physical presence. He's one of those rare horses that you can spot a half-mile away.

How all these antics are going to affect him in the Classic, obviously no one knows. Robbins is confident on one hand and concerned on the other. He doesn't know if the horse's back problems this year have affected him mentally in some manner. Tiznow began losing his cool this summer at Del Mar, and no one has been able to figure why or how to stop it. All Robbins does know for sure is the colt is perfectly sound, and is ready for a huge effort in the Classic. Once Tiznow decides to get down to serious running, he suddenly turns from Mr. Hyde to Dr. Jekyll. His mile workout in 1:35 2/5 the other day at Santa Anita was sensational, and in no way reflected the cantankerous goofball who took 40 minutes to decide he was finally ready to work. Tomorrow, he will have his first gallop, and we're sure not going to miss that one.