06/18/2001 11:00PM

Scan clears Tiznow to train


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Early Tuesday, the connections for Tiznow were considering the possibility of retirement, but they breathed a sigh of relief after a nuclear scan revealed no signs of impairment to the colt's lower back. Co-owner Mike Cooper said Tiznow, the Horse of the Year in 2000, will train on, but there is still some concern about his status.

The outlook was not as positive earlier in the day, when Cooper, trainer Jay Robbins, and veterinarian Dr. Rick Arthur were awaiting results of the scan.

Tiznow has not raced since winning the Santa Anita Handicap on March 3, and has not returned to serious training since suffering a strained lumbar vertabrae in a workout at Santa Anita on April 20. Although he resumed galloping last week, his body language indicated something was still amiss.

According to Cooper, an examination by Arthur revealed nothing wrong with Tiznow, but Robbins was concerned at Tiznow's apathetic attitude. Notorious for his energetic gallops, he has been uncharacteristically laid-back in his training. "For a year, he was such a feel-good horse that it was scary," Cooper said.

Though results of the nuclear scan revealed nothing wrong, questions remain why Tiznow has changed. Cooper admits to being puzzled but notes that nothing physically has changed. "Rick [Arthur] couldn't find anything wrong with the scan, so we'll just keep him in training," Cooper said.

Tiznow's ascension last year was extraordinary. He debuted in late April, won his first race on May 31, and five months later raced gate to wire in the Breeders' Cup Classic. As a 3-year-old, he won five times, finished second three times, and earned more than $3.4 million. Tiznow was bred by co-owner Cecilia Straub-Rubens, who died three days after Tiznow won the Breeders' Cup.

This winter at Santa Anita, Tiznow, a son of Cee's Tizzy, won the San Fernando and finished second in the Strub, prior to his five-length victory in the Santa Anita Handicap under regular rider Chris McCarron. Following his April 20 setback and subsequent uncertainty regarding Tiznow's racing career, interest from buyers intensified.

Cooper recently allowed Japanese breeders to inspect the horse. "They asked permission to look at him, but I said we weren't taking any offers right now. I understand they really liked him."

Regardless of Tuesday's test results, Cooper is certain of one thing - Tiznow will not race past his prime. "There's no way I'd let this horse run at less than 100 percent. He's given racing too many thrills."

Abscess sidelines Early Flyer

Early Flyer, scratched from the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap on Sunday when he came up lame in the left hind, popped an abscess Monday and will be temporarily sidelined. Winner of the Grade 3 Laz Barrera and Grade 2 San Vicente, Early Flyer would have been favored in the Affirmed, which Until Sundown won in a workmanlike effort.

Trainer Ron McAnally said recovery time varies with a foot abscess. "It's day to day, some heal in a hurry, some take three weeks," he said. "Smile Again had the same thing last winter, and it took him two months."

Depending on how quickly he heals, Early Flyer could be nominated to the Grade 2 Triple Bend Handicap, a seven-furlong race on July 1. Early Flyer has won three races and $272,860 from seven starts for owner-breeder Verne Winchell.

Aptitude stays home for Gold Cup

Aptitude is staying home to run in the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup, instead of shipping to New York. After analyzing his third-place finish June 10 in the Californian, trainer Bobby Frankel said Aptitude deserved another chance. "It wasn't a bad race at all. He was close early, dropped back, and was still running at the end."

Frankel said Aptitude will add blinkers "to help keep him in the bridle a little bit more. Instead of rushing him, let him settle and come with a big run." Frankel also must find a new rider for Aptitude; he said Jerry Bailey had a riding commitment in the East on Gold Cup Day.

Aptitude finished second in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes last year, but troubled trips prevented him from top efforts this year. He encountered traffic while finishing sixth in the Dubai World Cup, and was third in the Californian after being blocked on the far turn. Aptitude is beginning to look like the type of horse that finds trouble. "Yeah, but he shouldn't be in trouble," Frankel said. "He should be at the back, away from the field, and come with a run."

The Gold Cup is shaping up with a small field. Aptitude will be coupled with Californian winner Skimming, while Californian runner-up Futural is the only other confirmed starter. Captain Steve is possible.

'Happy' highweight, Astra favorite?

Happyanunoit was assigned 122 pounds for the Beverly Hills Handicap on Sunday, one more than she carried to victory in the Grade 1 Gamely Handicap on May 26. Despite her status as highweight, there is increasing sentiment that Astra may be favored Sunday in the $200,000 grass race for fillies and mares at 1 1/4 miles. Astra picks up three pounds off her Grade 2 win the Santa Barbara, and goes into the Beverly Hills with 121.

With Beautiful Noise and Crazy Ensign skipping the race, and Frankel considering shipping High Walden to New York, the Beverly Hills could come up with a short lineup. Probable starters include: Happyanunoit (122), Astra (121), Kalypso Katie (116), Timi (115), Polaire (114), and Jig (113).