05/14/2003 12:00AM

Bulldog George threatens Tic N Tin's reign


COLLINSVILLE, Ill. - In the fall of 1999, trainer Ron Brandenburg claimed Tic N Tin for $25,000 at Hawthorne in partnership with the late Bob Austin. It proved to be a once-in-a-lifetime move.

Since that time Tic N Tin has earned more than $570,000, won numerous stakes both at Fairmount Park and on the Chicago circuit, and was named Fairmount's horse of the meet in 2000 and 2001. But at 8 years old, Tic N Tin is winless in three starts this year and a younger rival is looking to knock him off his perch.

Bulldog George, owned by BJK Thoroughbreds, was named horse of the meet last year as a 3-year-old. After Bulldog George's win in last Friday's $15,000 Blunt Man Handicap, with Tic N Tin more than two lengths back in fourth, a changing of the guard appears imminent.

"This year I have been training him to rate off the pace a little more, and he has shown maturity," said Jimmy Wiser, the trainer of Bulldog George. "Running against other 3-year-olds last year he could go to the front and not look back most of the time, but he needs to be more versatile now."

Brandenburg won't concede that Tic N Tin is no longer king of the hill, noting the horse encountered traffic trouble when he finished sixth in an allowance race in late April.

"In that race he was between horses down the backside and they just kept bumping him around," Brandenburg said. "He was really knocked out for a while after that. He started to pick up in his training getting close to the Blunt Man and ran pretty well. He may not be as good as he was, but I still believe he will come around and have a good year.

Bulldog George and Tic N Tin could hook up on June 3 in the Red Doggit Handicap, but Brandenburg refuses to commit Tic N Tin until he sees the weight assignments. In the Blunt Man, Tic N Tin carried 122 pounds, four more than Bulldog George.

"If the weights aren't a little more fair, I just won't run him. I will find an allowance race in Chicago," Brandenburg said.