Breeders’ Cup replay: the victory of the inspiring classic from Tiznow 20 years ago
It’s been 20 years since Tiznow won the Breeders’ Cup Classic for the second year in a row. The victory in 2001 came after a gallant duel with Sakhee at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. Here’s a look at Tiznow’s career, what was going on back then (less than two months after 9/11), how the race went, and even how it perhaps inspired the New England Patriots to their first Super Bowl victory. The 38e The Breeders’ Cup will take place November 5-6 in Del Mar.
By Maryjean Wall
As the football season wore on in December 2001, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick had every reason to show his team a video of that year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. Belichick needed a way to stoke the fighting spirit in his players – and he found it in Classic winner Tiznow.
The Patriots reversed their season after seeing Tiznow regain the lead at the end to win the 2001 Classic. Deep down the straight, Tiznow appeared to be heading for loss when he sank again and, with a great determination, caught the European wonder, Sakhee, on the wire.
The following February, the Patriots underdogs may have had Tiznow in mind when they won their first Super Bowl, as they faced the St. Louis Rams, 20-17. Most likely, they had a racehorse to thank.
On this 20e anniversary of the second of Tiznow’s two classic victories, the horse’s determination model for the football team is a story worth telling.
2001 Breeders’ Cup day filled with unease after September 11
Tiznow became the first to win two successive Classics. But it’s that second victory in 2001 that people remember the most, because it happened in Belmont Park, Elmont, New York, while the United States was still reeling from the 9/11 terrorist attacks. 2001.
The Tiznow Classic triumph took place even as snipers lined up on the roof of the grandstand. If you stared in front of Belmont in Manhattan, you could still see smoke billowing from the site of what used to be the World Trade Center. Two commercial planes piloted by terrorists had collided with the Twin Towers of the Trade Center just two months earlier, causing the towers to collapse. The feeling during this Breeders’ Cup was sadness for America, as well as real worry that Belmont Park might be under attack as the crowds attended the championship horse races. A feeling of unease weighed heavily on the spectators.
Tiznow is coming
Tiznow made it look like all was well in the racing world, giving spectators the kind of day they expected from the Breeders’ Cup championships. The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner (Sakhee) faced American Horse of the Year (Tiznow) for the lead all the way to the end of the stretch and appeared to take the lead – before Tiznow fought back and got enough ahead to win by a nose on the finish line. Albert the Great was third after leading an initial three quarters at the kilometer post.
Tiznow’s forward nose was not much different from how he won the Classic the year before, with a 2,000-neck margin on the Giant’s Causeway. Like Sakhee in 2001, Giant’s Causeway came from Europe to race. Churchill Downs was the site of the 2000 Breeders’ Cup and Tiznow had Chris McCarron in the saddle, just as he would when he won the following year.
Reminder of Tiznow’s career
The difference between the 2000 Classic and the race the following year was that in 2000 Tiznow had the mile lead and held it for the remaining quarter mile.
The two classic wins were the crowning achievement of Tiznow’s two-season racing career at 3 and 4 years old. He did not run at 2 years after suffering a broken leg. At 3, he packed a lot in a season that only started for him in April. In July, he almost seemed to have finished as a racehorse when one leg filled up behind a knee. Coach Jay Robbins was concerned it was a suspensory ligament injury.
It turned out that the swelling was related to an infection developing in one of Tiznow’s feet. With the diagnosis confirmed and not as severe as Robbins had feared, Tiznow came out to win the Asserted Handicap. After the run, his foot was fitted with a patch to support the affected area on his hoof.
Tiznow was a fascinating tall bay horse who had his quirks. Sometimes he didn’t want to breathe, and on one occasion before the 2001 Breeders’ Cup he resisted McCarron’s signals to speed up his gallop in practice mode. He resisted for about 40 minutes. It was like John Henry’s routine breaks that he took each morning on his way to the track from his barn.
After retiring to the WinStar Farm stud farm near Lexington, Ky., Tiznow acquired another quirk: he learned to unlock his stall door. He would let himself out into the stable hall: not a good idea when other stallions are present in their stalls and might get too excited.
Tiznow comes from a modest breeding
Tiznow came from a humble breeding (by Cee’s Tizzy and Cee’s Song), horses you might not have heard of until Tiznow arrived. For this reason, Tiznow was an unknown for his potential as a stud. His sire had produced a respectable winner but at the same time the sire’s foal production in 1996, for example, had only 16 offspring. Breeders in those days could get two seasons at Cee’s Tizzy for the price of one, at $ 2,000. The father’s success improved markedly after Tiznow, and by the time of his death in 2015, Cee’s Tizzy had sired 39 Stakes winners and several champions in California.
Tiznow was destined to outdo his father. He led the first year sire list in 2005. His first production included 2005 Eclipse Award winner and champion juvenile filly, Folklore. She, like her father, won a Breeders’ Cup race. Tiznow then sired Da ‘Tara, 2008 Belmont Stakes winner, Armed, 2009 Dubai World Cup winner, Colonel John, 2008 Travers Stakes winner, and Gemologist, 2012 Wood Memorial Stakes winner.
Last year, WinStar Farm announced Tiznow’s retirement from stud farm to live out his golden years in green pastures.
A thank you from Belichick
Remembering Tiznow, it’s worth recalling a footnote on the video shown from his 2001 Breeders’ Cup to the New England Patriots: Coach Belichick sent a Christmas card to coach Tiznow, Robbins. The card had the inscription âThank you for the inspirationâ.
Maryjean Wall is the former Lexington Herald-Leader turf writer. She retired from this publication after a career that spanned four decades and included three Eclipse Awards and one AP Sports Editors Award. She holds a doctorate. in US History, taught history at the University of Kentucky, and continues to write about horse racing as a freelance. She has been published in Sports Illustrated, Wall Street Journal, Forbes Life, Cincinnati, and Keeneland, among other publications. She is the author of two books focused on horses and racing: How Kentucky Became Southern: a Tale of Outlaws, Horse Thieves, Gamblers, and Breeders; also, Madame Belle: Sex, money and influence in a southern brothel. When she’s not writing, she photographs, always pursuing the creative muse.