10/17/2001 11:00PM

Stop and go traffic - and it's all Tiznow

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ARCADIA, Calif. - At first, there were no signs of rebellion. An innocent-looking Tiznow soaked in the sun opposite the quarter pole on the Santa Anita racetrack Thursday morning as Chris McCarron prepared to nudge him into his final workout before defending his Breeders' Cup Classic championship.

It was 9:30 a.m., and Tiznow had them right where he wanted. For the next

25 minutes, while trainer Jay Robbins and owner Michael Cooper watched helplessly from the grandstand apron, Tiznow went from racehorse to lunatic. He refused, balked, stopped, stood, waited, and quit. "He'll drive you crazy," Robbins said.

9:33 a.m. After three minutes in the sun, Tiznow and McCarron, accompanied on pony by Pedro Garcia, began to jog clockwise toward the six-furlong pole. Once there, Tiznow stood for one minute. The work was about to begin. Said McCarron: "[Pedro] wanted me to go right away, he didn't want to give [Tiznow] an opportunity to stop." It was too late. Tiznow had other ideas.

McCarron nudged Tiznow. No response. McCarron asked him again. Tiznow took a couple steps, balked, and stopped. Minutes ticked by. Tiznow reared, then stood motionless. He reared again. Stood still again. "Thank God he's not malicious, he could have thrown me off three or four times," McCarron said. Still, no progress.

9:39 a.m. Tiznow had traveled only one furlong and continued to refuse. At the five-eighths pole, Tiznow again stood still, for one minute that seemed longer. Tiznow finally began to walk, then jog. His tail was swishing, his head bobbing. He entered the stretch, still reluctant to work. He jogged and stopped again. McCarron could not get him to go. A worse scenario was playing out in Robbins's mind. "I thought we might have to change the flight," he said of plans to ship to New York on Saturday. "Or, not go at all."

9:45 a.m. Tiznow began jogging past the finish, toward the clubhouse turn. He appeared ready to break into a full-scale work. "I thought, beautiful," McCarron said. Nope. Tiznow stopped again. A few more steps. Stop again. Start. Stop. Start. Stop.

The Breeders' Cup Classic was looking farther and farther away for Tiznow's owner, Cooper. "What was going through my mind was how many [airplane] tickets was I not going to get my money back on," he said. "I had real doubts." So did McCarron as Tiznow came back up on the six-furlong marker. He had gone an entire lap on the one-mile track, without breaking out of a jog.

9:50 a.m. Tiznow and McCarron entered the six-furlong chute, turning away from the direction Tiznow was supposed to work. "I thought, as a last resort, let's give [blinkers] a shot," McCarron said. "But I could feel the tension in his body as soon as I put them on." The blinkers came off. Tiznow was no closer to working than he was 20 minutes earlier. The track would close for training in 10 minutes.

9:54 a.m. Suddenly, Tiznow broke into a jog toward the five-eighths pole. He picked up steam, went into a gallop. The half-mile pole was nearing, and Tiznow lowered his head. The work was on, and Tiznow delivered. At the half-mile pole, Tiznow was in a full breeze. McCarron, who wears a stopwatch on his wrist, did not move. "No way was I going to move my hands when he was going 40 miles and hour," he said.

Robbins hit his stopwatch, and Tiznow sizzled through the far turn. The first furlong went in 12 seconds, a quarter-mile in 23.80. Tiznow was on the move: three furlongs in 35 and a half-mile in 47.60. According to Robbins, he blazed five furlongs in 59.87, six furlongs in 1:11.69, seven furlongs in 1:23.40, and a mile in 1:35.67. The work was impressive, but was it worth the shenanigans?