01/31/2008 12:00AM

Slew's Tizzy enjoys the trips


ARCADIA, Calif. - In the wake of his impressive maiden victory at Turfway Park in January 2007, Slew's Tizzy had his people in the Greg Fox stable buzzing with excitement. They were convinced the handsome son of Tiznow was going to make headlines soon.

"He did," recalled assistant trainer Genie Mittleider. "But it wasn't quite what we had in mind."

No kidding. Slew's Tizzy was tossed into the deep end for his next start, the Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds, against a number of 3-year-olds who already were being touted as potential Derby talent, among them Circular Quay, Zanjero, and Notional. Horseplayers did not share the barn's enthusiasm and sent Slew's Tizzy off at 82-1. But at the very least, he was outrunning his price approaching the eighth pole, when he clipped the heels of a tiring pacesetter, tripped badly, and dumped jockey James Graham.

Graham escaped serious damage, while Slew's Tizzy acted as if such acrobatics were just part of the game.

"He seemed to be completely unfazed, acted as if it never happened," Fox said Thursday morning from his Kentucky stables, near the The Thoroughbred Center, a Keeneland-owned training facility. "He's incredibly resilient that way."

He is also a great traveler. Beginning last April, with his victory in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, Slew's Tizzy has raced nine times at nine different tracks for his breeder and owner, Joseph LaCombe. No. 10 will be Saturday at Santa Anita, when he faces major stakes winners Tiago, Air Commander, and Great Hunter in the $300,000 Strub Stakes, for 4-year-olds at nine furlongs on the synthetic main track.

"This may sound crazy, but we've been pointing for this race since last fall," Fox said. "We think that he is much more effective on a synthetic surface. I also think that Tiznow is turning into one of the best sires of synthetic-track runners."

Such locally campaigned horses as Tough Tiz's Sis, Well Armed, and Colonel John lend support to such an idea. Slew's Tizzy sports Tiznow's rich, dark brown coat, highlighted by a lightning bolt blaze. He can also help erase a nagging chapter in Tiznow's history, which includes not only his victories in the 2000 and 2001 Breeders' Cup Classic, but also a shocking upset by Wooden Phone in the 2001 runing of the Strub.

Still, the record shows that Slews Tizzy tends toward finicky when it comes to the ground on which he competes. Those last nine starts may have featured five solid efforts over a variety of surfaces - including a victory in the Lone Star Derby - but the other four were deadly dull, most recently a distant eighth in the Louisiana Handicap on Jan. 12 at the Fair Grounds.

"He needed that race," Fox said. "Even so, it wasn't what we expected. For some reason, he just does not handle every conventional dirt surface. I think he knows when it's happening and just decides to go back to the locker room to fight another day."

Slew's Tizzy should be commended. Self-preservation is an underrated personality trait among Thoroughbreds, and it could keep him around longer than most. In addition, Slew's Tizzy is an incredibly mellow colt, or at least he was in his stall Thursday morning, housed with the Santa Anita string of Doug O'Neill.

"Good thing, too," Mittleider said, as Slew's Tizzy begged for a treat. "He can be a handful on race day, but as big and strong as he is, I'd hate to see what he'd be like with a bad temper."

Mittleider, who worked her way up the Fox stable organizational ladder from freelance pony girl to assistant trainer, has been along for the Slew's Tizzy ride from day one. The Idaho native traveled alongside the colt for nearly every one of his 2007 field trips, taking her to such historic tracks as Belmont Park, Churchill Downs, and Monmouth Park, a long way from her old stomping grounds in Oregon and Northern California.

"I even trained racing mules," Mittleider said - and said it with pride. "I had Bar JF Party Animal, who was rated the third best mule in the country in 2001. There was Black Ruby, Taz, and Party Animal, and he was a bronc. He put three riders in the hospital before I got him."

Now handling a whole different kind of animal, Mittleider dotes on Slew's Tizzy and looks forward to his California debut.

"As a 4-year-old, I think he could be 10 times what he was at 3," Mittleider said. "He's bigger. He's stronger, and he's really trained well out here. He ships like a million, loves to fly. He just backs into his slip in the plane and puts his head down. The minute we take off, he goes to sleep, and he doesn't wake up until we hit the ground.

"Oh," she added, "and did you notice his skunk tail?"

Say what?

"His skunk tail," Mittleider repeated. "Here, look."

Mittleider peeled back the blanket covering Slew's Tizzy to reveal a cluster of white dots and streaks at the base of his tail. It was very stylish.

"Only a good horse will have a tail like that," Mittleider said. "At least, that's my experience."