09/05/2001 12:00AM

Tiznow bids for second title


ELMONT, N.Y. - Tiznow has seven weeks to do this year what he accomplished in five weeks a year ago.

Last year, Tiznow was an up-and-coming 3-year-old who rode victories in the Super Derby, Goodwood Handicap, and Breeders' Cup Classic to a divisional championship and Horse of the Year honors.

This year, Tiznow will again have to cram a lot into a short period of time to have any chance at becoming the first repeat Horse of the Year winner since Cigar (1995-96). Multiple Grade 1 winner Point Given is the leading contender for Horse of the Year, but he has been retired because of injury.

"I guess it's conceivable because Point Given never beat older horses," trainer Jay Robbins said when asked about Horse of the Year.

Tiznow's task begins Saturday, when he takes on 2000 Preakness winner Red Bullet and Grade 1 winners Albert the Great and Lido Palace in the $500,000 Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park. The Grade 1 Woodward highlights the first weekend of stakes action at the 37-day Belmont meet which opens Friday. Belmont will play host to the World Thoroughbred Championships, highlighted by the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic, on Oct. 27.

The nine-furlong Woodward will be Tiznow's first race since he won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on March 3. In April, a back problem flared up just prior to him shipping to Maryland for the Pimlico Special. It would be something that Robbins would have to deal with throughout the spring and summer.

Opting not to use a chiropractor or acupuncture, Robbins chose to let time heal this wound. For the first month, Tiznow simply walked under tack.

"Thirty days after that occurred we scanned it and it didn't light up, but he was still very uncomfortable moving," Robbins said. "He was muscle-sore on each side of the vertebrae. That dissipated and we poulticed the back and put him on a muscle relaxer for a month or so."

In June, Tiznow began jogging. Although Robbins said Tiznow "could hardly move," he made the horse jog "because the veterinarians said we're not going to do him any harm," he said.

After a month of jogging Tiznow, Robbins summoned jockey Chris McCarron to gallop the horse one morning at Santa Anita. Although McCarron told Robbins Tiznow still did not feel quite right, Robbins said he could notice some improvement.

In mid-July, just before Robbins shipped Tiznow to Del Mar for the summer, he had McCarron work Tiznow three furlongs. Again, McCarron indicated to Robbins that Tiznow was not "quite right," Robbins said. "But after that I could see him getting better and better and then [McCarron] thought he felt fine."

Tiznow put in seven workouts at Del Mar prior to shipping to Belmont on Tuesday. McCarron was aboard for all of them.

"His first few works he got a little tired, which you'd expect," McCarron said. "As we got more serious he got fitter and fitter. He's training very well."

Robbins said he could have run Tiznow in last Sunday's Del Mar Budweiser Breeders' Cup Handi-cap. But, he didn't think Tiznow could beat El Corredor going a flat mile over that track.

Instead, he chose to ship Tiznow to New York, where he will meet the toughest field of handicap horses assembled this year.

"We're asking a lot of him first time back," Robbins said. "I think he'll run well. The race will be worth a lot of works. You can only get so much out of a work compared to a race. I don't think we could have done any more with our work schedule."

Robbins said win or lose, Tiznow would most likely ship back to California following the Woodward. He could ship back for the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Oct. 6 or run in the Goodwood at Santa Anita on Oct. 7. While the Gold Cup is weight-for-age, the Goodwood is a handicap in which Tiznow would have to concede weight.