Horse of the Year dreamsink in for Robbins

November 28, 2000 3:03 AM
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Jay Robbins would sooner join The Rockettes on centerstage at Radio City Music Hall than blow his own horn.

So when a low-key trainer like Robbins says Tiznow deserves Horse of the Year honors, it bears considerably more merit than, say, a lawyer trumpeting the cause of one of his clients.

"Initially, when I was asked if he deserves to be named Horse of the Year, even prior to (winning) the Breeders’ Cup, I felt if he won that race, he would at least have to be in contention (for the honor)," said Robbins, who will be 55 on Dec. 2. "But the more I look at it now and the more I read, I think maybe he’s the front-runner."

And why not?

Tiznow, the first California-bred to win a Breeders’ Cup race in 49 attempts, should be named Horse of the Year on his performance, if not by process of elimination.

The crown belonged to Fusaichi Pegasus had he won the Classic, but he stubbed his toe, finishing sixth, some eight lengths behind Tiznow.

Riboletta, the alleged super mare, could have earned the title merely by staying in her stall on Breeders’ Cup day. But owners Aaron and Marie Jones magnanimously chose to put up $400,000 and run her in the Distaff, where she lumbered home seventh as the 2-5 favorite. So much for sportsmanship.

As astute observer Trevor Denman so graphically pointed out, Kona Gold won only one race away from his home court of Southern California--the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. That was his only Grade I victory this year. Other than that, he simply beat up on the same recycled horses.

No other horse deserves serious consideration, so when Horse of the Year is announced early in 2001, it will be Tiznow.

Charismatic, a reformed claiming horse, accomplished far less in 1999 and won it. Tiznow, while no Secretariat, clearly achieved more than Charismatic.

Tiznow is expected to make his 4-year-old debut in the San Fernando Breeders’ Cup Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 13 at Santa Anita.

"That’s the race he’s pointing to, the second leg of the Strub series," Robbins said. "He’s doing very well. He looks great, he acts great. He’s been back to the track already. I could only get away with giving him about four days off when he returned home (from winning the Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4), because he was feeling so good. He looks great and his weight is good."

Robbins, whose best horses before Tiznow included Reign Road, Nostalgia’s Star and Flying Continental, has to pinch himself occasionally to believe Tiznow’s rapid ascent to racing’s pinnacle.

"It’s still kind of difficult to comprehend at this point, to think that he’d come along so fast," Robbins said. "He only broke his maiden on May 31. I mean, I could have dreamed about all this happening, but it wouldn’t have been a dream based on reality. But Tiznow realized it."

EYE ON THE FUTURE BOOK

The 2001 Kentucky Derby is six months away, but future book bettors would do well to consider a Godolphin 2-year-old named Street Cry for next year’s Run for the Roses on May 5.

Winning the Derby has been the primary goal of Godolphin, and that objective has been in steely focus since Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashad Al Maktoum brought in former Bob Baffert assistant Eoin Harty to train and develop a barnful of well-bred youngsters half-way around the world in Dubai.

"Absolutely," answered Harty, when asked if winning the Derby is still his No. 1 priority. "That was the game plan coming in and it’s still the game plan today. But we won’t be racing any Godolphin horses again in the U.S. until the spring. We plan to go back to Dubai in mid-December and return, hopefully, for the Derby."

Harty wouldn’t say flat-out that Street Cry was his most promising Triple Crown prospect, "but obviously, right now, he’s the horse that’s showed the most of all of them. I’ve got some very promising colts (among them, Jendalawai). Whether they’ve got Derby potential or not remains to be seen. I’m satisfied with how our operation is going. I think it’s gone well. The Sheikh came over here looking for a Derby contender and he’s got one in Street Cry, who’s probably the third-best 2-year-old in the country, off his race in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (third behind Macho Uno and Point Given)."

THE HOMESTRETCH: Impressive maiden winner Millennium Gold could be the best horse David Hofmans ever trained, and that includes 1997 Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold. "He came out of his maiden win in really good shape and he acts like he hasn’t even run," said the 57-year-old Los Angeles native. "But he has that kind of way about him. He’s very low key. For being a May foal, he’s more mature mentally than he is physically. I thought he would run as well as he did, but I was worried about the one hole, but that was my only concern, because he had shown quite a bit of talent in the mornings. I think talentwise, at this stage, this horse is right there at the level of Touch Gold and General Meeting." The son of Cryptoclearance is scheduled to make his next start in the Hollywood Futurity (Gr. I) on Dec. 16 . . . Gary Stevens made a casual comment to Corey Black, asking him when he "was going to retire and become my agent?" The 31-year-old Black, fighting a career-long weight battle, decided to take Stevens up on his off-handed offer. Black has retired as a jockey and replaced Harry Hacek as Stevens’ agent. "After a while, it gets pretty tiresome riding nothing but one 20-1 shot a day," said the loquacious Black. "Gary and I talked over philosophies about what we expect from one another and it was a pretty easy decision for me. Gary is a great rider, he sells himself, works hard and he communicates very well." . . . Terry Mangrum, former assistant to the late Rodney Rash and John Shirreffs, has taken a position as a private trainer on the Florida and Saratoga circuits.