10/21/2001 11:00PM

Classic: A nip of vodka for Tiznow


ELMONT, N.Y. - The pressure of training a horse for races like the World Thoroughbred Championships, or of training a reigning Horse of the Year, might drive a trainer to drink. But in the case of Jay Robbins, he's going to be the bartender, not the barfly.

Robbins on Monday at Belmont Park said he would give Tiznow a shot of vodka before he trains this week, in an effort to further calm Tiznow, whose morning behavior has been erratic of late. Although Tiznow, who arrived here Saturday afternoon, was better behaved on Monday morning than on Sunday, Robbins is trying anything he can to get Tiznow to mind his manners. He's hoping a good, stiff drink will make the colt more agreeable. Robbins did not say if Tiznow likes his vodka straight up, or mixed with juice.

"He was very good today, the best I've seen him in months," Robbins said after Tiznow galloped Monday morning. "We spent a little more time with him, waiting until he decided to go, and consequently he wasn't as unruly."

Tiznow, who won last year's $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic to nail down the Horse of the Year title, will be seeking to become the first horse to win the Classic twice when he runs Saturday. He will have 12 or 13 rivals in the Classic, depending on what Godolphin Racing principals Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum and Sheikh Hamdan decide to do with their Classic pre-entrants, Fantastic Light and Sakhee.

Final entries for all eight Breeders' Cup races will be due Wednesday morning. At that time, horses who have been pre-entered in more than one race - such as Fantastic Light and Sakhee, both of whom were also pre-entered in the

$2 million Turf - will have to be named for one race. Later in the morning, post positions for the races will be drawn. The fields will then be final. There is no also-eligible list for the Breeders' Cup. Every horse will race as a separate betting interest.

Had the 18th Breeders' Cup been run this past weekend, conditions would have been ideal. The New York City area was treated to spectacular fall weather from Friday through Monday, when the high was 74 degrees. Thunderstorms are forecast for the area on Thursday, however, and temperatures will drop in their wake. The predicted high for Saturday is 53 degrees, with partly cloudy skies, according to the National Weather Service.

The heat was on Monday morning at Belmont, when 17 Breeders' Cup horses had their final workouts. Several of them were particularly sharp, including Gander, who heads into the Classic following a front-running victory in the Meadowlands Cup.

Gander, without any encouragement from exercise rider Simon Harris, zipped through five furlongs in 59.24 seconds - according to official clockers the best time of 21 at the distance.

"He looked great. He was just galloping along out there," said Gander's trainer, John Terranova.

Gander figures to be forwardly placed in the Classic, but the horse they all will have to catch is Albert the Great, who was a disappointing fourth in the Jockey Club Gold Cup in his last start. Albert the Great was the only other Classic contender to work Monday. He went five furlongs in 1:02.82.

Albert the Great's last race was his worst performance at Belmont Park, a track at which he usually has excelled. Albert the Great has won 6 of 9 here, and has finished in the money eight times. He won last year's Jockey Club Gold Cup before finishing fourth in the Classic, run last year at Churchill Downs.

"If Albert isn't tired, he'll be right there. I'm hoping we can throw that last race out," said Nick Zito, Albert the Great's trainer. Jorge Chavez, who was on Albert the Great for his workout, is being reunited with him after the colt was ridden last time by Gary Stevens. Chavez has finished first or second on Albert the Great nine times in 11 races.

This year's Classic will be the final career start for Albert the Great, who will enter stud next spring at Three Chimneys Farm in Kentucky. Albert the Great was bred by Albert Clay, the father of Three Chimneys owner Robert Clay, and was named by owner Tracy Farmer in honor of the senior Clay.

"Mr. Farmer is anxious to see him go to the farm, but he wanted to give Albert a chance to go out the right way," Zito said.

Tiznow galloped on Monday after merely jogging Sunday. On Sunday, he repeatedly stopped and wheeled while traveling clockwise, the wrong way around the track, near the outside rail. Afterward, Robbins was annoyed. "He didn't have a very good day today," he said Sunday morning while puffing on a cigarette.

"It's not something from a physical standpoint," Robbins added. "It's all mental." On Monday, exercise rider Ramon Arciga let Tiznow dictate the pace of his gallop. "He wasn't wheeling, or trying to back down to the inside rail," Robbins observed.

Both Fantastic Light and Sakhee are scheduled to work early Wednesday with jockey Frankie Dettori. Afterwards, a decision will be made on whether to run both in the Classic, or split them. Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, said last week that they would not run in the same race.

A Fleets Dancer was scheduled to work Tuesday at Woodbine. Guided Tour was scheduled to work Tuesday at Churchill Downs. Trainer Aidan O'Brien's duo of Black Minnaloushe and Galileo were scheduled to arrive here on Tuesday from Ireland.

On Sunday at Belmont Park, Indiana Derby winner Orientate, who could be the longest shot in the field, worked six furlongs in 1:13.02.

The expected field for the Classic, including jockeys, is A Fleets Dancer (Robert Landry), Albert the Great (Chavez), Aptitude (Jerry Bailey), Black Minnaloushe (John Murtagh), Fantastic Light (Dettori), Freedom Crest (Kent Desormeaux), Galileo (Mick Kinane), Gander (Victor Espinoza), Guided Tour (Larry Melancon), Include (John Velazquez), Macho Uno (Stevens), Orientate (Pat Day), and Tiznow (Chris McCarron). If Sakhee runs here along with Fantastic Light, Dettori will have to choose between the two.