Updated on 09/15/2011 1:21PM

Horse of the Year: Tiznow or Point Given?


ELMONT, N.Y. - If there's a race for Horse of the Year, it's a small field.

Point Given or reigning Horse of the Year Tiznow.

Those are only realistic options when Eclipse Award voters decide on the finest horse in the land during 2001.

The Thoroughbred Corp.'s Point Given, the soon-to-be-crowned 3-year-old champ, boasts a resume with wins in the Preakness, Belmont Stakes, Haskell, Travers and Santa Anita Derby. The knocks on him are that due to a career-ending injury in August he never faced older horses and missed the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships.

Cee's Stable's Tiznow's resume includes just three wins in six 2001 starts. But when two of them are the Santa Anita Handicap and a dramatic and courageous triumph over the Arc winner in the Breeders' Cup Classic, a rather compelling case can be made for Tiznow to wear the crown for a second straight year.

"I think we are pretty solid (to be named the champion older male," Tiznow's trainer, Jay Robbins, said Sunday after his horse became the first two-time winner of the Classic. "For Horse of the Year, I think we have an outside chance. Point Given didn't beat older horses and I don't know how strong the 3-year-old division was."

For Michael Cooper, the delighted owner of Tiznow, the debate is somewhat of a moot point.

"He's the horse of my life," Cooper said. "I'm not going to worry about the year."

Trainer Nick Zito received a close-up view of both Point Given and Tiznow through saddling A P Valentine, who was second in both the Preakness and Belmont, and Albert the Great, who finished ahead of Tiznow in the Woodward but was third in the Classic. He weighed the merits of both horses and labeled it a coin flip.

"The voters have a tough decision," said Zito on Sunday. "I couldn't begin to tell you what to do. I'm sure it will be an interesting and controversial vote."

Horse of the Year Poll: .

Aptitude took the long way home

The way trainer Bobby Frankel sees it, Juddmonte Farms's Aptitude may have finished eighth as the 2-1 favorite in the Classic, but he also had a lot more ground to cover than the rest of his rivals.

"When I look back, Aptitude looked great going into the Classic but had he had to run 100 yards farther than everyone else," said Frankel, whose horse broke from post 12 in a 1 1/4-mile race that was unkind to horses on the outside because it began midway on the clubhouse turn. "He got hung out wide."

Jockey Jerry Bailey said he had "No (bleeping) chance from that post" after he dismounted Saturday, and reiterated Sunday that post 12 prevented Aptitude from running with the power that was displayed in a 10-length victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

"He had no chance from that post. He was at least eight-wide the whole way," Bailey said. "I couldn't find a spot to move inside."

Dr. John Chandler, Juddmonte's American racing manager, said "chances are" that Aptitude would be retired, but added there's "an outside chance" Aptitude could return to the track for his 5-year-old campaign.

Sakhee comes out of Classic fine

Godolphin Racing assistant trainer Laurent Barbarin said Sunday that Classic runner-up Sakhee was fine Sunday after falling a nose short of becoming the first horse to win the Arc and the Classic.

"It was an exceptional performance by Sakhee," said Barbarin, who was uncertain of future plans for Sakhee. "He was one step short of making history."

Time for Zito to rebuild

There were mixed feelings inside Zito's barn on Sunday morning. Foremost there was a sense of pride over Albert the Great's third-place finish in the Classic, proving that a 19 3/4-length drubbing in the Jockey Club Gold Cup was just a fluke.

And yet, with the realization that the Classic was the final race of Albert the Great's career, Zito was aware he faces what could be called a rebuilding season in 2002.

"We were extremely proud of Albert's race," Zito said. "I'm very thankful that he went out on a high note. In the stretch, I thought we were really going to be no worse than second, because we had Tiznow beat. I couldn't believe how Tiznow came back."

With time to put two and two together, Zito said Albert's fourth-place finish in the Gold Cup was a case of a water-and-oil blend when jockey Gary Stevens was matched with Albert.

Jorge Chavez, who had ridden Albert the Great in his 11 races before the Gold Cup, was reunited with the 4-year-old son of Go for Gin in the Classic.

"The switch back to Chavez worked. Everyone knows now that (owner Tracy Farmer) wanted to switch to Stevens because he thought it would move the horse up. But Gary may have taken too much of a hold on him in the Gold Cup," Zito said. "Gary could have ridden Albert in the Classic, but he said to me, 'There were times when my father would take my brother off a horse because he didn't fit him. Maybe I don't fit this horse. Maybe you should put Jorge back on him.' Albert never ran a bad race with Jorge."

In 13 races with Chavez in the saddle Albert was never worse than third, and Zito knows he will be hard-pressed to find a replacement for his earner of $3,012,490. Add in the retirement earlier this month of A P Valentine and you have two gaping holes in Zito's barn. In recent years Zito had a promising 2-year-old to help him get excited about the coming year, but at the present time there's no one to follow in Albert the Great's or A P Valentine's horseshoes.

"There's a rebuilding season ahead," Zito said. "We really don't have anyone else in the spotlight now, so we're hoping some of the 2-year-old will step forward. It's a tough situation."

The future turned a little brighter later Sunday afternoon when Zito sent out the 2-year-old colt Silent Fred to break his maiden by 2 3/4 lengths at the expense of 2-5 favorite Orchard Park.

Silent Fred, a son of Zito's 1996 Preakness winner Louis Quatorze, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.12.

Delp angered by Velazquez's ride

As upset as Frankel was with how wide Aptitude ran, trainer Bud Delp was equally disturbed with the way jockey John Velazquez kept Include on the inside part of the track during the Classic.

"I don't know what (Velazquez) was doing," said Delp, whose horse finished seventh, 8 1/4 lengths behind Tiznow. "The Belmont rail was 'the kiss of death' and he never left it. I was at Belmont for two days and he never came by the barn. I had to call him on my cell phone to talk to him. You know, he had to know about the rail. Didn't everybody else?

"I knew at the five-eighths pole I had no chance. He was stuck on the rail and never made a move to get off it."

After the Classic, Velazquez said he never had a chance to get off the inside.

"He was on the worst part of the track," Velazquez said. "My horse ran a winning race . . . but it was on the worst part of the track."

Delp said Include would probably race again next year.

Macho Uno's done for the year

Macho Uno, who was fourth in the Classic, will not race again in 2001 trainer Joe Orseno said Sunday. The champion 2-year-old colt of 2000 will spend about three weeks at owner Frank Stronach's Ocala farm and will then be pointed to next year's Donn Handicap and Gulfstream Park Handicap at Gulfstream.

For starters, a change in the Classic?

The World Thoroughbred Championships will not be returning to Belmont Park until at least 2006 at the earliest, but one change Bailey would like to see when it returns is a switch in the placement of the starting gate for the Classic.

Instead of starting on a turn, Bailey would prefer to see the re-opening of the chute that was used for 1 1/4-mile races at Belmont until the ill-fated Ruffian-Foolish Pleasure match race in 1975.

"They should use that chute for the Classic," Bailey said. "I've been here since 1982 and they've never used it. They should."

One other option would be to increase the distance of the Classic to 1 1/2 miles, the distance of the Belmont Stakes. The longer distance would give horses a longer run to the first turn and fans a chance to see the horses break from the gate directly in front of them.

"I wouldn't mind running the Classic at 1 1/2 miles here," Zito said. "I could never understand why they have the biggest race of the year and then they start it from a spot where you have to go across the street to the old Esposito's restaurant to see it."

Breeders' Cup Limited President D. G. Van Clief, Jr., pointing to Unbridled's victory from post 14 in the 1990 Classic at Belmont, countered that there was no pressing need to make a change.

"Obviously winning from an outside post is achievable at Belmont because Unbridled did it, and it's very unlikely we'd change the distance. A mile and a quarter is the classic American distance."

When asked if starting the Classic in front of the fans would add even more excitement to the race for the on-track customers, Van Clief said, "I've never heard of anyone who didn't like the Classic because of where it started."

The clock's ticking on Arlington's bid

Van Clief said Sunday that the clock is ticking on Arlington's bid to host the 2002 World Thoroughbred Championships. Though the Chicago track is in line to be the next site, Van Clief said the deal will collapse unless state and local governments allocate funds so that Arlington's facilities can be expanded.

If that happens, Van Clief said Churchill Downs is the "first back-up" to become host of the 2002 Championships.

"Because of the size of Arlington, we have to expand the facility with temporary facilities and it's expensive to do that. To make the event work financially we would need some support from state and local governments. We don't have that and we won't sign a contract with Arlington until we have that commitment," Van Clief said. "We can't wait very long. I'll be back in Lexington next week and it will be a priority to push on this. I think the signs are hopeful that we will be getting that commitment, though it's not in final form yet.

"We haven't set a specific time line for an answer, but within the next couple of weeks we're going to need to know something. There's no doubt about it. We're already behind the curve in terms of planning for next year."

Looking ahead to 2005, when the Championship are tentatively scheduled to be held at Lone Star Park, Van Clief said that due to a possible conflict with NBC's college football coverage, the Championships could be held as late as the second week in November.