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Tiz the Season for Cal-Breds With Classic Run

Horse racing: Tiznow caps a day of surprises by ending state's 17-year dry spell and making supplemental gamble pay off.

November 05, 2000|BILL CHRISTINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A lot of goofy things have happened over the 17 years of the Breeders' Cup. An Illinois-bred (Buck's Boy) won a race one year. A horse from France (Arcangues) once won at 133-1. A horse that had always raced on dirt (Prized) won the first time he tried grass. A horse that had run only once in 21 months (Da Hoss) won a Breeders' Cup race.

So when the Breeders' Cup's annual fall clambake was run Saturday at Churchill Downs, there was no immunity from the oddball. Almost on schedule, the first of eight races was won by a 55-1 shot. Then the second race of the day went to an improbable 47-1 shot.

But the real craziness didn't start until the finale, the Breeders' Cup Classic, which was worth $4,296,040. Tiznow won that race. What's crazy about that, you say? What's off-kilter about a mere 9-1 shot, a horse that went into the Classic off two solid prep races?

Well, if you were handicapping the Classic based on birthplaces, Tiznow's price should have been something like Arcangues'. Bred in California, Tiznow had every license to run like all the other California-breds in the Breeders' Cup. Which is to say, up the track.

Ridden by Chris McCarron, Tiznow took the lead with a quarter-mile to run, but by midstretch it looked as if this 3-year-old colt was going to go the way of all California-breds. Giant's Causeway, a grass specialist and interloper from Ireland, a horse so rattled by the crowd of 76,043 that he went into the gate wearing a fire-engine-red blindfold, was on his immediate outside, his nostrils flaring and his legs moving like pistons. The reason Giant's Causeway never did go past is located in Tiznow's heart.

"That other horse got to my horse's throatlatch, but what a fighter my horse is," McCarron said. "He's a true fighter."

Winning his fourth Classic, pulling even with jockeys Pat Day and Jerry Bailey in that department, McCarron knew that the last sixteenth of a mile was going to be hardest. At the wire, it was Tiznow by a $2,438,800 neck, the amount of money his owners--Cee Straub-Rubens and Mike Cooper--hauled out of Kentucky after they had gambled a prohibitive supplementary fee of $360,000 to get their horse in the race.

Before Tiznow, there had been 48 California-breds that failed in Breeders' Cup races, including two of them earlier on the card. Even a horse from New Jersey and another from Oklahoma had won Breeders' Cup races before a Californian did.

"It's important to me that I won my first Breeders' Cup race with a Cal-bred," said Jay Robbins, the trainer of Tiznow. "I was also bred and raised in California. But I don't really know why a Cal-bred has never won one of these things."

The Classic and other races Saturday were supposed to unravel the horse-of-the-year puzzle, but this was another reminder of an imperfect world. The so-called definitive races failed to define a favorite for the title, especially after Fusaichi Pegasus, the Kentucky Derby winner and the 6-5 favorite in the Classic, ended his career on a hollow note. Fusaichi Pegasus was never in contention and finished sixth. In the Breeders' Cup opener, Riboletta, another horse-of-the-year aspirant, scuttled her chances by running seventh in the Distaff.

There's really no obvious horse-of-the-year candidate. Every last one of them has a hole or two. Tiznow, unraced last year because of a broken tibia, was beaten in four of his first six starts this year, before uncorking pre-Classic wins in the Super Derby at Louisiana Downs and the Goodwood Handicap at Santa Anita. Tiznow probably will be voted best 3-year-old male after squashing the Kentucky Derby winner and dumping older horses twice, but McCarron, whose day started disappointingly with the ride on Riboletta, went all the way after the Classic, making a pitch for the top prize.

"He was second in the Pacific Classic in his first start against older horses," McCarron said. "Then he broke a track record at Louisiana Downs. Then he beat older horses in the Goodwood, and today he beat the best horses in the world. That makes him horse of the year."

The vote, among turf writers, track racing secretaries, Daily Racing Form staffers and--this year for the first time--the chart-callers that record the races, comes in late December.

Giant's Causeway, running his first race on dirt, is also a 3-year-old. He finished 3 1/4 lengths ahead of Captain Steve, with Albert The Great fourth as 3-year-olds sewed up the first four spots. Lemon Drop Kid, whose fine season turned to tatters with two losses in the last three weeks, probably will still get horse-of-the-year consideration, even though he was fifth in the Classic, followed across the wire by Fusaichi Pegasus, Cat Thief, Vision And Verse, Gander, Pine Dance, Dust On The Bottle, Guided Tour and Golden Missile. Euchre had a cough and was scratched.

Tiznow, the fifth betting choice, paid $20.40 to win. His time for the 1 1/4 miles was 2:00 3/5, over a Churchill surface that was a packed-down lightning fast.

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