Friday, October 19, 2012

Breeders' Cup Flashback: Tiznow

By Mary Cage

“Tiznow wins it for America!”
Tiznow
Photo by Terri Cage

How fitting Tom Durkin’s words were as the gallant Tiznow crossed the wire in front in the 2001 Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI). The intrepid Thoroughbred had won the same race in similar fashion the previous year at Churchill Downs and in both circumstances, the colossal Tiznow had denied international superstars victories in his nation – the nation in which he ruled the horse racing world.

Interestingly, Tiznow never went off at odds under 6-1 in his two Breeders’ Cup excursions. In the 2000 Classic, the grand horse was sent off at odds of 9-1, coming off a victory in the Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap (GII). Not even the European superstar, the great Giant’s Causeway, loaded into the gate at odds lower than 6-1. Rather, all the money was on that year’s Kentucky Derby (GI) victor, Fusaichi Pegasus.

But it was Tiznow and Giant’s Causeway that put on the greatest show. Breaking just inside of Giant’s Causeway on the far end of the starting gate, Tiznow broke sharply under the Twin Spires and was sent to the vanguard by Chris McCarron, settling just to the outside of Albert the Great. His dark, intimidating frame grew even with the Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI) winner as they crossed the finish line for the first time, taking the lead as the star-studded field of thirteen entered the clubhouse turn.

Tiznow continued to lead narrowly as the classy Thoroughbreds galloped into the backstretch. As Tiznow set an initial half-mile in 47.55, Albert the Great joined him yet again on his inside, taking the lead by a small margin. Tiznow remained comfortable as he galloped alongside Albert the Great, a few paths off the rail. Just behind him sat the liver chestnut frame of Giant’s Causeway, whose legs carried him forward, closer to the battle that would be forever etched in Breeders’ Cup history.

Tiznow, at ease beneath McCarron, held the lead as the field turned for home, his long, dark legs stretching over the ground in lengthy strides as the Breeders’ Cup Classic contingent arrived at the top of the stretch. To his outside, the European monster set his sights on the lead that Tiznow had, growing closer to him as the wire neared. As they reached the final furlong marker, Giant’s Causeway was within a length of Tiznow and shortly, the two were neck and neck, their noses bobbing as they raced side by side.

Giant’s Causeway had every chance to get by, but Tiznow dug in, as his heart, and not just McCarron, urged his nose back in front. As his dark mane flowed, his face found itself ahead of Giant’s Causeway as he lunged forward, fighting for the victory. In the words of Tom Durkin, “Tiznow prevails!

Tiznow was not only awarded the Eclipse Award for 2000 Champion Three-Year-Old Male, but also Horse of the Year. He began the next year with a victory in the San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes (GII) before finishing second in the Strub Stakes (GII). Following a romp in the Santa Anita Handicap (GI), Tiznow was injured and did not return to the races until his third-place finish in the Woodward Stakes (GI). After yet another third-place result, Tiznow reached the final start of his career, returning to the stage that had defined his career: the Breeders’ Cup. This time, however, it was not the shadow of the Twin Spires that loomed over him; it was the shadow of the immense grandstand of Belmont Park.

Tiznow had landed in New York, the state in which less than two months earlier, a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center had left our country mourning. Belmont Park was just miles from Ground Zero and reminders of 9/11 were everywhere. America needed the presence of a true American champion, an American Thoroughbred that could prove to be a hero on that autumn day in New York.

The American horses started off strong on the Breeders’ Cup card, but as the feature race, the Classic, approached, things began going downhill for the United States horses. In the three races that preceded the Classic, European-based Thoroughbreds had gathered victories. It seemed it would be the same in the Classic – the Europeans had an assembly of three horses, including not only the menacing group one-winning Galileo, but also the winner of that year’s Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (GI) – one of the most prestigious races in the world – in Sakhee. It seemed as if Tiznow, coming off two losses, had lost his edge, but what better horse to look to than Tiznow, the reigning champion of the Classic, to become America’s hero?

Breaking from the tenth gate of thirteen on the far side of the expansive track, Tiznow inched closer to the lead under McCarron as the field raced through the opening stages of the renowned event. Towering over his rivals, the dark Thoroughbred found himself in third as the field entered the backstretch, galloping about two lengths off the leader. Another two lengths back was Sakhee – the Arc winner. Tiznow proceeded to run just off the leaders, comfortable in his position on the outside. As Albert the Great led through the far turn, Tiznow inched closer to him, grasping second as the track curved beneath his hooves. To his outside, Sakhee began to grow nearer, threatening to outrun Tiznow.

He did. As the field turned for home, Sakhee was ahead of Tiznow, who was in between horses as they arrived at the top of the stretch. Tiznow appeared as if he was destined to finish in the money, but not carry the blanket of flowers into the winner’s circle. That honor seemed to belong to Sakhee, the European. It appeared as if America would be kept from victory.

But the valiant Tiznow dug in, displaying his sheer determination. Suddenly, he was even with the Arc winner, stretching out his neck in tenacity. Against all odds, he stuck his nose in front, crossing the wire with a nose advantage to become the only horse to ever win the Classic twice. To the roar of the crowd, Tiznow had become an American hero. The imposing horse had denied the foreign horses another Breeders’ Cup victory and had shown America that with perseverance, you can overcome all odds.

The end of Tiznow’s career was not the end of his reign. The effect of the magnificent horse can still be felt in the Thoroughbred racing industry, as Tiznow is one of the top sires in the nation, having sired nine grade/group one winners. Regardless of his successful stud career, the striking stallion will forever be fondly remembered by racing fans, as Tiznow is a true American inspiration, champion, and hero.  

Tiznow at WinStar Farm
Photo by Terri Cage

2 comments:

  1. And let us not forget who is related to - that's right the great Man O War!

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    1. Yep, he's a direct male line descendant of the great Man O' War! Thanks for reading! :)

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