07/16/2003 12:00AM

Tic N Tin gets 25th career victory


COLLINSVILLE, Ill. - Ask Ron Brandenburg what he did on October 16, 1999, and he is sure to grin broadly and say, "I claimed Tic N Tin." Brandenburg was already successful then, having won seven training titles at Fairmount Park in the 1990's, but Tic N Tin was, as Brandenburg put it, "a dream come true."

Last Friday night at Fairmount, Tic N Tin won a classified allowance race at Fairmount, his 25th career victory, another milestone in a long career that has been a joy ride for his owner-trainer. Among Tic N Tin's most admirable traits are his durability - he has started 76 times and usually races 15 times a year - and his consistency, having hit the board 46 times. Along the way he has been Fairmount Park's horse of the year in both 2000 and 2001. He may have kept the title last year were it not for his frequent trips to run elsewhere.

Of Tic N Tin's $691,366 in career earnings, almost $600,000 has come for Brandenburg, who owned the horse in partnership with the late Bob Austin until Austin's death in September 2001.

But money and recognition are not the things that Brandenburg enjoys most about Tic N Tin, who is known as "Tigger" around the barn.

"Just having a horse this good is what it really is all about," Brandenburg, 54, said. "I had done pretty well up until he came along. The money and recognition weren't all that important by then. Just to have a horse this good is what mattered."

Tic N Tin has scored eight stakes wins, most notably back-to-back victories in Arlington's White Oak Handicap for Illinois-breds. Brandenburg thinks Tic N Tin's best race came in defeat, when he finished second to Bet on Sunshine in the $100,000 Arlington Sprint Handicap in 2001.

"He had the lead every step until the last one, and that was just a head bob," he said. "His head was in front the next stride past the wire."

Now 8, Tic N Tin got off to a slow start this year, leading some to believe that his best days were behind him. But Brandenburg predicted that his horse would come around, and on June 28 Tic N Tin ran well to be beaten a nose in Fairmount's Shecky Greene Handicap. In Friday's race he overcame a stumble at the start to get up for the win, suggesting that those who had counted him out may be eating crow before season's end.