07/06/2001 12:00AM

Tiznow 'not quite right'

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Tiznow did not gallop to jockey Chris McCarron's satisfaction on Friday, leaving doubts about when the colt can resume serious training.

Since late April, Tiznow, a 4-year-old, has fought back problems that have limited his exercise to jogging and galloping. Trainer Jay Robbins asked McCarron, who has ridden Tiznow to five stakes wins, including the 2000 Breeders' Cup Classic, to gallop Tiznow to check the his status.

Shortly after 7 a.m., McCarron jogged Tiznow 1 1/4 miles and then galloped 1 1/8 miles.

"He was not quite right," McCarron said. "He's showing some signs of stiffness somewhere. I think we were hoping for some more enlightening news."

Robbins said that Tiznow, the 2000 Horse of the Year, will continue to gallop over the weekend and that he will consult with veterinarian Rick Arthur.

Despite McCarron's concerns, Tiznow has shown signs of enthusiasm during exercise. When McCarron turned him loose from the pony at the start of the gallop, Tiznow took off quickly, appearing for a moment as if he was starting a workout.

"His eagerness was there," McCarron said. "At one point, he tried to run off."

Before Friday, McCarron had not been aboard Tiznow since late April, when the back problem developed.

Tiznow was diagnosed with a strained lumbar vertebrae. Although he resumed jogging in late May, he underwent additional medical tests in June, which slowed his progress.

"He's vastly better than he was," Robbins said. "There were mornings he didn't want to gallop."

The setbacks have led to talks of retiring Tiznow and there has been interest from stud farms in California, Japan, and Kentucky, Robbins said. Still, Robbins is hopeful that Tiznow can defend his Breeders' Cup Classic title, but is worried there may not be time to run in a prep race before the Breeders' Cup.

"The time factor is a big issue," he said. "I wouldn't want to breeze him until the exercise rider said he feels like he used to feel. I don't think he'd need a lot of work. He's getting enough out of this, but you want him to feel the way he did before."

Congaree leads Swaps field

Led by Congaree, the third-place finisher of the Kentucky Derby, a field of six is likely for the $500,000 Swaps Stakes next Sunday, the top race of the final weekend of the spring-summer meeting.

The weekend also includes Saturday's $150,000 Hollywood Oaks and two major stakes on Sunday - the $200,000 Sunset Handicap over 1 1/2 miles on turf and the $100,000 Hollywood Juvenile Championship over six furlongs. There are two minor stakes on closing day, July 16.

Congaree will be a heavy favorite, facing Until Sundown, Top Hit, and Bayou the Moon, the first three finishers of the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap on June 17, and Jamaican Rum, who has lost two stakes following a sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. On Friday, Speedy Pick, a maiden winner on June 15, was added to the Swaps field.

The Sunset Handicap and Hollywood Juvenile will not have large fields. Blueprint, the winner of the San Luis Rey Handicap at Santa Anita in March, leads the Sunset. Expected Program, who has swept the first two legs of the 2-year-old open stakes at this meeting, will be favored in the Juvenile Championship.

Landaluce absentees

The $100,000 Landaluce Stakes for 2-year-olds fillies last Saturday lacked two of the division's leading participants - Fertile and September Secret, who are recovering from injury.

Fertile won the Nursery Stakes over five furlongs on May 19, but has not started since. Trainer Jeff Bonde said Fertile had a training setback following that race, but has resumed exercising. "We decided to stop on her for awhile," Bonde said. "It was nothing major, but we don't want to overdo it early." Bonde is hoping she can return in August.

September Secret made a smashing debut on June 10, winning a five-furlong maiden by a length in 57.07 seconds. Later, trainer Mike Machowsky said she was diagnosed with a bone chip in her right knee while undergoing a veterinary examination for a sale. In the end, she was not sold, but had the bone chip removed.

"She'll go back in training in the middle of August," he said.