Tiznow won the San Fernando Stakes in his first start since taking the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Tiznow won the San Fernando Stakes in his first start since taking the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Associated Press / Benoit

Santa Anita Racing Report: Tiznow Returns With Victory

Published in the Jan. 20 Blood-Horse
The 10-week interval between Tiznow's thriller in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) and the Jan. 13 San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. II) had been strewn with just enough drama to keep trainer Jay Robbins, a worry-wart by nature, looking to the skies for the next dark cloud.

A horse like Tiznow will do that to a man. He was a veritable machine in the fall, impervious to the rigors of a cross-country crusade that would have cooked others to a crisp. Nicks in the armor soon began to show, however, shortly after Tiznow's return from Louisville. Nagging foot ailments, most likely the backlash of his arduous late-season campaign, transformed a steady training routine into a day-to-day ordeal.

Compounding matters was Tiznow's limitless zeal. The stable hands were all worn out in the days following the Breeders' Cup, forcing Robbins to send the mammoth son of Cee's Tizzy back to the track earlier than anticipated. A mild sedative usually keeps him more tractable in his early morning gaits, says Robbins, always conscious of the gnawing feeling that the big guy may be too frisky for his own good.

"He makes me very nervous to watch him at times, just because he is so enthusiastic about what he does," Robbins admitted. "He's always galloped so strong. He does it at 45-speed rather than 33. I got a feeling that sometimes he gallops faster than he works."

His winter preparation was less than ideal, but a pair of smooth seven-furlong breezes were enough to convince Robbins and jockey Chris McCarron. Things were still up in the air when the Southland got drenched just prior to the San Fernando. But by raceday, track superintendent Steve Wood and his crew had the track groomed to perfection.

A slew of last-minute scratches left Tiznow with just five to deal with in his comeback, and his usual sharp break allowed McCarron to plant him in second, right on Wooden Phone's hip.

They raced a half in a reasonable :46.79, McCarron confidently peeking under his shoulder for threats; Corey Nakatani keeping Wooden Phone wide enough to present an enticing rail vacancy for Walkslikea-duck.

The Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) winner had stayed close throughout under Eddie Delahoussaye. With a gap the size of a canyon directly ahead and Tiznow hung three-wide rounding the far turn, Delahoussaye and the 'Duck made a dash for paydirt.

"I figured if I could get through and maybe get the jump on him, I might be able to outrun him," said Delahoussaye.

They had gone six furlongs of the 1 1/16-mile race in 1:10.91, and to everyone's surprise, it was Walkslikeaduck, not Tiznow, who blew by Wooden Phone turning into the stretch. McCarron, meanwhile, got his bearings, allowing Tiznow to find the right rhythm. A slight bump with Wooden Phone hardly phased the big guy--he simply straightened out and moved in for the kill.

The 'Duck, however, was still going strong.

"Then all of a sudden about the eighth pole," confessed Delahoussaye, "I could hear a horse on the outside coming. I knew it was Tiznow."

Tiznow bulled right on by, striding out to beat Walkslikeaduck by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:42.05. Wooden Phone held on for third.

It was not the blowout most expected a potential Horse of the Year to serve up in his 4-year-old debut. For those clutching tickets at 3-10, the final margin was way too close for comfort. But considering the recent interruptions and the chore of sating a high-maintenance competitor, Robbins was satisfied--and thoroughly relieved.

"Yeah, I guess I wish he'd won a little bit more facilely than he did, but I'm not disappointed," he said the next morning. "The distance bothered him, and he was packed pretty wide all the way. I was very happy the last sixteenth of a mile the way he came away.

"I trained him lighter through the foot problems," Robbins said. "I didn't do as much as I had planned on. I thought he was going to be alright going a mile and a sixteenth, and Chris loved the way he worked last Saturday, thought he had plenty left."

The goal, Robbins concedes, is a long-range plan designed to give Tiznow a Breeders' Cup title defense come October. Some marquee events over the next few months have been tentatively penciled in, though owners Michael Cooper, Kevin Cochrane, and Pamela Ziebarth have ruled out the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I).

Next on the docket is the Feb. 3 Strub Stakes (gr. II) at 1 1/8 miles.

Sporting Chance

With the anticipation of Tiznow's return permeating the air, railbirds caught their first glimpse of a hunk named Lasersport in the $107,500 San Miguel Stakes (gr. III) earlier on the card.

Purchased by owner Bill Herrick after two dynamite wins in Kentucky, the 3-year-old son of Gilded Time lit it up in his local debut. A quick jump from the gate let Lasersport grab a clear lead in the six-furlong San Miguel, and when Corey Nakatani finally pushed the button at the head of the stretch, they were gone. Lasersport won by two, stopping the timer in an eye-catching 1:08.60. Early Flyer, owned and bred by Verne Winchell and a Gilded Time colt himself, was second.

The seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) on Feb. 3 will be Lasersport's next stop. Though trainer Darrell Vienna admits the colt's pedigree may not be conducive to races of longer distance, Lasersport, now three-for-three, at least has the goods to warrant a try.

"This horse is very mature," said Vienna, who trained Gilded Time to the 2-year-old championship in 1992. "He's very composed. He's got all of the attitude and the desire that go with being a really good horse. We're keeping our fingers crossed."    

(Chart, Equibase)