Trainer: Time is ripe for Tiznow’s return

August 21, 2001 7:22 AM
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            It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to call Jay Robbins “The Horse Whisperer.”

            In a profession where braggadocio is as common as the word “like” in a Californian’s limited vocabulary, Robbins speaks softly and lets his training talk for him.

            The 55-year-old Los Angeles native is taking his customary low-profile approach in the resurrection of Tiznow, who will try to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic for the second consecutive year on Oct. 27, despite a baffling back ailment that has kept him out of action since winning the Santa Anita Handicap on March 3.

            Tiznow had his second seven-furlong workout on Aug. 14 as he prepares for either the Woodward at Belmont Park on Sept. 8 or the Del Mar Breeders’ Cup Handicap on Sept. 2. Tiznow was clocked in 1:24.60 under regular rider Chris McCarron.

            “He’s probably going to go in the Woodward,” Robbins said of the 4-year-old California-bred gelding, who surprised the racing world in 2000 by being named Horse of the Year despite the fact that he didn’t break his maiden until May 31.

            “I kind of wanted to run him at Del Mar in the Del Mar Budweiser Breeders’ Cup Handicap at one mile, as opposed to the mile and one eighth of the Woodward,” Robbins said. “But the Woodward is a one-turn mile and an eighth, and I think he’ll be fit enough to run a one-turn mile and an eighth. It’s just that I thought it was asking a lot of him to run against Albert the Great and Lido Palace and maybe Red Bullet first time back. And of course, we’d have to ship. But he’s training very well.”

            A victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on such an accelerated schedule would be remindful of the heroics of Seabiscuit, the wonder horse of seven decades ago. Seabiscuit’s trainer, taciturn Tom Smith, and owner Charles Howard, frequently had different opinions on where the horse should run, with Smith always having the final say.

            Robbins prefers the one mile race at Del Mar for Tiznow’s return. Co-owner Mike Cooper opts for the Woodward.

            “Differences between an owner and a trainer happen on a regular basis, practically,” Robbins said, chuckling. “But I thought staying in California would be easier on Tiznow considering it’s his first start in over six months. I would have thought it would have been a little easier on him to run him over the track he’s trained on all summer.”

            If all goes as planned, Robbins would have one more race after the Woodward before Tiznow’s defense of the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

            “I don’t know what that would be,” Robbins said. “There’s the Jockey Club Gold Cup at a mile and a quarter on Oct. 6, which is three weeks in front of the Breeders’ Cup, and there’s the Goodwood at Santa Anita on Oct. 7 at a mile and an eighth. My preference would be not to run him a mile and a quarter three weeks in front of the Breeders’ Cup.”

            It’s only because of Robbins’ patience and diligence, and a turn of good luck, that Tiznow will race again. His back problem has stumped the experts.

            “It was really a nebulous injury,” Robbins said. “Nobody had seen anything like it. A nuclear scan showed he had a lumbar vertebrae that really lit up when he got very uncomfortable. We walked him under tack for 30 days and didn’t take him to the track. When we nuclear scanned him again, the vertebrae didn’t light up, but he was very stiff and had muscular soreness on each side of the vertebrae. But he finally got through it.”

            How Tiznow recovered could remain an eternal puzzle.

            “Everybody was kind of mystified about his problem,” Robbins said. “No one knew how much time was adequate for him to recover. When we rescanned the vertebrae after a month, it didn’t light up. He didn’t appear to have a problem there. Right now, he’s doing well.”

            THE HOMESTRETCH: Despite legislation signed in California by Gov. Gray Davis that authorizes home account wagering and calls for the unionization of backstretch personnel at the state’s race tracks, many questions remain before the bill becomes law on Jan. 1. A major one is this: will Santa Anita join forces with the Television Games Network (TVG), the home account wagering operation based in Santa Monica, when it opens its four-month meet on Dec. 26? Santa Anita is owned by Frank Stronach’s Magna Entertainment, which also operates Golden Gate Fields and Bay Meadows in Northern California. None of those tracks is aligned with TVG and thus have not allowed its signal to be picked up by TVG. Stronach, on the other hand, presently has no home account venue of his own in the Golden State. “The major decisions (on whether the Santa Anita signal will be made available to TVG) will be made by Stronach,” said one insider. “About all you can say now is to restate the fact that Magna controls three of California’s five tracks, but has no delivery system, and that TVG has the systems in place but doesn’t have the tracks. Stronach has repeatedly expressed an interest in developing his system and he now controls the tracks in Oregon, where he can open his own hub, plus he’s got the Pennsylvania system, so he’s got the pieces to the puzzle but still needs to put it all together.” Meanwhile, according to The Thoroughbred Times, Gemstar-TV Guide International, Inc., parent company of TVG, reported a net loss of $134.8 million, or 33 cents per share, during the second quarter, compared to earnings of $28.9 million during the same period last year . . . Robbins on the bill that allows for unionization of backstretch workers: “I don’t know if it’s going to be good or bad. I have to take a kind of wait-and-see situation. A couple guys I’ve had working for me for quite a while, but on the other hand, there’s quite a turnover in many barns.” . . . Trevor Denman on Officer, heralded in the same breath as Dr. Fager, after the undefeated son of Bertrando won the Best Pal Stakes by seven lengths for his third straight: “If there’s a better 2-year-old in the country, I’d love to see him. You’d have to bring back Pegasus to beat this guy.” Officer’s next start will be in the Del Mar Futurity on closing day.