Updated on 09/16/2011 8:56AM

Tic N Tin bids to be Zen master

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CHICAGO - It's not that easy to grind out a good living training horses at Fairmount Park in southern Illinois. Purses are on the upswing again, though at Fairmount something like a $20,000 purse is a pretty big pot indeed, and lower-level claimers rule the circuit.

But Ron Brandenburg does not have the usual concerns of a Fairmount-based trainer. Instead, he has Tic N Tin.

Tic N Tin is good enough to leave southern Illinois and race in Chicago, and he's often the horse to beat when he comes to town. Sunday, he faces seven rivals in the $50,000 Zen Handicap, a 6 1/2-half furlong sprint for Illinois-breds.

A 7-year-old by Lac Ouimet that the 53-year-old Brandenburg owns himself, Tic N Tin has been racing on this circuit since 1998. He was useful as a young horse, running out a maiden and two statebred allowance wins and even taking an open third-level allowance during the spring of his 4-year-old season. But later that year Tic N Tin started what at the time seemed like an inevitable descent into the claiming ranks, first running for $50,000, then dropping down for $25,000.

That's what Brandenburg paid for him in October 1999, and it proved to be the greatest bargain of his life. "He kept going to the front and would quit on the lead," Brandenburg recalled. "All I did was change the shoes on him. He was wearing those magnetic shoes to help his feet, but it looked to me like he wasn't getting hold of the track with them."

With his new footwear Tic N Tin reeled off three straight wins, the last in a stakes race, and had embarked on a new phase of his career.

Three seasons later, Tic N Tin still is going strong. He's won 18 races and about $500,000 since Brandenburg claimed him, including earnings of more than $320,000 the last two calendar years alone. Already this year Tic N Tin has won four times, twice in stakes.

"He's had his problems, but we just keep working on him and he keeps going," said Brandenburg. "He's the best one I've ever had."

There is another good Fairmount-based sprinter in the Zen, Too Many Bucks, who at age 4 still is lightly raced and improving. He took a little step backward July 19 when Tic N Tin beat him by six lengths in a Fairmount handicap, but in the $75,000 White Oak on June 22 at Arlington, Too Many Bucks seemed to have Tic N Tin beaten before the veteran came back late on the inside to nail him at the wire.

From across the Atlantic

With the Arlington Million and its two attendant grade 1 races, the Beverly D. and the Secretariat, only two weeks away, an unusually deep European contingent seems likely to ship in for the three races.

To Europeans, the Million is the least desirable of the three, since there are comparable spots for Europeans in the older-horse division. But in the Beverly D., for fillies and mares, and the Secretariat, for 3-year-olds, Europeans can compete in races with restrictions for age and sex they can't find as easily at home.

That said, the Beverly D. is likely to have the least European representation, with only one horse, Proud Wings, considered probable for the race. But as many as 11 or 12 other Europeans could come for the other two races.

The list of European probables for the Million has swelled to six. Joining Paolini, Freefourinternet, and Ulundi, who were mentioned earlier this week, are Cheshire, Toubogg, and Simeon. For the Secretariat. Jazz Beat, who was second here in the American Derby, is scheduled to make a return trip from Ireland for trainer Dermot Weld. Also expected are Guys and Dolls, Kaieteur, and Love Regardless. Arlington officials also said trainer Aidan O'Brien intends to send either Castle Gandolfo, who came for the Kentucky Derby, or Della Francesca.

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