"2000/2001 Breeders Cup Classic Winner on the
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Steve Haskin's Classic Story: All-American Win
By Steve Haskin
was happening all over again. America was a heartbeat away
from being conquered in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I).
This time, however, a defeat would have been an ignominious
end to the 2001 World Thoroughbred Championships. First,
it was a thrashing from the French in the Filly & Mare
Turf (gr. IT). Then, it was the Irish who decimated the
American youngsters, headed by the invincible Officer, in
the Juvenile (gr. I). Adding insult to injury, the Turf
(gr. IT) then went to the English, with the Irish finishing
off a one-two European coup-de-grace.
Now, the axe was about to fall. Godolphin's brilliant Arc
de Triomphe (Fr-I) winner Sakhee, with immortality a mere
furlong away, reached back to deal the fatal blow. But then
something happened, something we've seen before. Right before
everyone's eyes, last year's Superman, Tiznow, stripped
away the glasses and gray suit he had worn in his previous
two races. The Clark Kent of the Woodward Stakes (gr. I)
and Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) was becoming
airborne, just as he had in the 2000 Classic when another
European powerhouse, Giant's Causeway, dared to challenge
America's dominance on dirt.
racing fans had sought out other heroes this year to replace
Tiznow following the colt's back injury in the spring, two
defeats in the fall, and bouts of morning madness that had
trainer Jay Robbins and jockey Chris McCarron looking for
any available horse shrink.
But that was in the past. All Tiznow needed was an opponent
to re-ignite the fire in his eyes. One look at Sakhee about
to deal America another crushing defeat and the mild-mannered
colt once again became faster than a speeding bullet; once
again became more powerful than a locomotive. He reached
back into that undefinable reservoir we call heart, and
in the shadow of the wire, was able to leap the world's
tallest building with a single bound. America, for a fleeting
instant, was as she was before Sept. 11--untainted and unpenetrable.
The nation's fighting spirit that emerged in the face of
disaster had manifested itself in the form of a magnificent,
powerful Thoroughbred who simply refused to be defeated.
By thrusting his nose in front of Sakhee on the wire, Tiznow
had become the first two-time winner of the Breeders' Cup
Classic. And he did it by defeating the greatest international
field ever assembled for a dirt race. His victims included
the winners of the English Derby (Eng-I), Irish Derby (Ire-I),
Arc de Triomphe, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond
Stakes (Eng-I), and Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-I),
as well as two Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) winners.
But the road to victory had not been an easy one for Tiznow
and his connections. The defending Horse of the Year appeared
to be heading for further glory after romping in the Santa
Anita Handicap (gr. I). But that all changed on the morning
of April 12 following a six-furlong workout with McCarron
aboard. After the saddle was removed, the colt just stood
there and refused to walk. Robbins' initial reaction was
After that, Tiznow was unable to jog properly, and was
noticeably off in his hind end. Dr. Rick Arthur was called
in. A nuclear scan revealed that one of the vertebrae was
showing a good deal of heat. That was complicated by muscular
problems. Robbins' father, Jack, one of the foremost veterinarians
in the country before his retirement, also tried to figure
out what was wrong.
"We consulted with other vets around the country,"
Jay Robbins said, "and they had never seen anything
like it. It hurt me to watch him; he could hardly move."
"No one thought he'd ever run again," Jack Robbins
added. "He was so off behind, everyone was horrified.
If someone had told me then this colt would win the Breeders'
Cup Classic again this year, I wouldn't have believed it.
Dr. Arthur put him on Robaxin and prescribed lots of time
Tiznow began light exercise during the middle of May, but
his trainer felt the horse wasn't making much progress.
"We poulticed his back and put hot packs on it, then
walked him a lot," Robbins said. "He began to
show improvement, so we started galloping him. He still
didn't look that good and a lot of my peers said, 'Why don't
you just retire him?' Chris galloped him one morning in
July and said he didn't feel quite right behind. But I could
see improvement and he began to gradually get better. Finally,
Chris got on him one morning and said he felt perfect."
After the injury, Robbins had put Tiznow on tranquilizers
in order to make it easier to train him. "He's so into
what he does, I didn't want him to do too much every day,"
Tiznow made his return in the Woodward Stakes and finished
a close third, but didn't seem to have his usual spark.
Instead of improving off the race, he turned in an uncharacteristically
dull performance in the Goodwood, behind Freedom Crest and
Skimming. Following the Goodwood, Robbins took Tiznow off
the tranquilizers, and in the process, unleashed a terror.
Let's just say mornings with Tiznow were not quite as mellow
as mornings in Mr. Rogers' neighborhood. The colt became
obstinate and cantankerous, lashing out at his lead pony
and refusing to train until he was good and ready. Robbins
and owner Michael Cooper had to think long and hard about
returning east for the Classic. It finally was decided to
ship Tiznow back to New York to defend his title.
Meanwhile, events were taking place at Belmont and in England
that would set the stage for one of the greatest international
spectacles in the history of the sport. On Friday, Oct.
19, Godolphin's dynamic duo of Fantastic Light and Sakhee
went to the Belmont track for their first work. No decision
had been made in which races both colts would run, but everyone
had been led to believe that Fantastic Light, who had a
good dirt pedigree and who had worked on the Belmont main
track the year before, would go for the Classic.