08/06/2001 11:00PM

A sound Tiznow works and issue now is fitness

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Tiznow's head hung low after a taxing seven-furlong workout Tuesday at Del Mar, but the mood was decidedly upbeat at trainer Jay Robbins's barn after the reigning Horse of the Year moved closer to a comeback that seemed improbable only three months ago.

"I think he's back, it's just a question of getting him fit," Robbins said after the work. "He's got the same desire, and when he's right, he likes to keep going."

On Tuesday, Tiznow wanted to keep going.

The 4-year-old was galloping out strongly after the 1:24.60 work, but before Chris McCarron could gear him down all the way, Tiznow was spooked by a loud noise from the maintenance yard and took off again. "I wish he hadn't done that, because he was already tired," McCarron said. "He jumped forward again. It made him want to [continue]."

Tiznow's eagerness, and raw ability, provide hope that he can defend his title in the Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 27 at Belmont Park. The Breeders' Cup seemed unimaginable this spring, when Tiznow battled a sore back that forced him to miss nearly three months of training and jeopardized his career. Instead, Tiznow trained through the impairment and enters late summer perfectly sound. Now, the issue is fitness.

In training last year at Del Mar, Tiznow bounced off the track following workouts. Circumstances are different this season, because Tiznow is playing catch-up. Winner of the Santa Anita Handicap in his last start March 3, Tiznow has not missed a beat since a three-furlong comeback work July 13. That preceded a half-mile July 20; five furlongs July 26; and six furlongs Aug. 1. After his Tuesday work, he was weary and satisfied.

"He's a tired camper, but a happy camper," McCarron said watching Tiznow cool out. "He's fitter today than he was two weeks ago, he's moving terrific, he's a lot sounder. The eagerness has always been there; his soundness and fitness are the difference. Every work he's doing better, stronger. He's getting fitter each week."

Tiznow broke off fast in the 9:15 a.m. work; McCarron estimates he went the first eighth in 11.60 seconds. "His first eighth was the fastest, but once I talked him back, he went 12-12-12 all the way around. He's getting the look of an athlete again."

Robbins also was pleased. "I was very impressed. He got a little tired, but we pushed him today." Assuming Tiznow continues to progress, Robbins and owner Michael Cooper must plot a comeback. Robbins said the Aug. 19 Pacific Classic has been ruled out.

Cooper has suggested the Grade 1 Woodward on Sept. 8 at Belmont Park for Tiznow's return, while Robbins believes Tiznow would be well served by a two-start California campaign leading to the Breeders' Cup. Those two races would be the one-mile Del Mar Budweiser Breeders' Cup on Sept. 2, followed by the nine-furlong Goodwood Handicap on Oct. 7 at Santa Anita.

Until Sundown works for Pacific Classic

Tiznow's work at Del Mar was not the only impressive move Tuesday morning. At nearby San Luis Rey Downs, 3-year-old Until Sundown posted a scorching six-furlong workout in 1:10 that sets him up as the sleeper for the Pacific Classic.

Gary Stevens was aboard for Until Sundown's work, described by trainer Laura De Seroux as "unbelievable." A typical six-furlong work at San Luis Rey is about 1:13. "Gary thought he was going along nice and easy, then the poles started going by faster and faster," she said.

According to De Seroux, Until Sundown worked in company with an unidentified workmate. "He just cruised up and past his workmate, he went the last quarter in 23.40 [seconds], galloped out seven-eighths in 1:22, and a mile in 1:38. He wasn't even blowing afterward. It was perfect. He was relaxed, it was easy as could be."

Until Sundown will be getting a seven-pound weight break as the only 3-year-old in the Pacific Classic. "This is a horse that has the frame, size, and breeding to go long," said De Seroux. "I believe he's a mile and a quarter horse, and the timing between races is perfect."

Until Sundown's last race was a runner-up finish July 15 in the Grade 1 Swaps, which followed a June 17 win in the Grade 3 Affirmed. In six starts, he has three wins and three seconds. Gary Stevens will ride the son of Smart Strike, whose projected rivals in the Pacific Classic include Skimming, Futural, Captain Steve, Euchre, and Dixie Dot Com. Smile Again, Guided Tour, and Redattore are considered possible.

Nakatani rides Swept Overboard in O'Brien

Regular rider Corey Nakatani will be back aboard Swept Overboard when he starts Sunday in the Grade 2 Pat O'Brien Handicap at seven furlongs. Swept Overboard comes off a troubled third-place finish in the Bing Crosby Handicap on July 22. In that race, Swept Overboard was squeezed and took up at the break, then finished only 1 1/4 lengths behind winner Kona Gold.

"Corey knows this horse so well, that we're going to go back with him," said Swept Overboard's trainer Craig Dollase. Nakatani has ridden the horse three times, with two wins and a second. The racing office was kind to Swept Overboard in assigning weights. He will carry 116 pounds, while probable highweight El Corredor carries 119 in what will be his first start since winning the Grade 1 Cigar Mile last November at Aqueduct. El Corredor worked five furlongs Tuesday in 59.60 seconds. Caller One was assigned 122 pounds, but is not expected to start.

Other leading contenders for the Pat O'Brien include Elaborate, Lexicon, Ceeband, Stormy Jack, National Saint, and Figlio Mio.

* Dr. Park has been assigned 120-pound highweight for the Grade 3 La Jolla Handicap on Saturday. The mile and a sixteenth turf race for 3-year-olds is expected to include consistent Romanceishope, Dim Sums, and Bayou the Moon.

Go to Del Mar coverage.