Stabled much of the year just a couple furlongs from the main track at Saratoga Race Course, Jim Bond’s stud 6-year-old Tizway had to sit idle during last year’s Grade I Whitney on his home course.
An injury to the wing bone on the outside of his left foot knocked him out of the race and shelved him for four months.
“Unfortunately, in this game, you can’t look back. Yesterday was yesterday,” Bond said. “I don’t dwell on it. I just, if I made a mistake, try to make it better for next time.”
And better Tizway has been.
After being nerved by Bond’s preferred veterinarian, Alan Nixon, leaving the son of Tiznow numb in that foot, Tizway soon returned to training and won his first graded stakes, the Grade II Kelso, in his first race back. Most recently, he won the Grade I Met Mile at Belmont impressively in 1:32.90, just 0.66 off the track record.
That stellar performance is due, in large part, to how Bond has been able to train Tizway since his treatment for the wing bone, which he suspects had hampered the horse’s training for some time.
“As I keep reflecting on football players and basketball players, when you’ve got that little Archie’s tendon, or whatever it is, in your life, you just can’t go out there and do that 60 minutes of hard work,” Bond said. “Well, it catches you. Unfortunately, I think it might have caught this horse for the last couple years, now. Knock on wood, we’re able to train him now, and he hasn’t missed one day, he hasn’t missed one oat.”
That doesn’t mean Bond is running his prize pupil ragged.
This year, Tizway was taking five to six weeks between races. After his score in the Met Mile on May 30, Bond drew that back a bit. He opted to not race him again until the $750,000 Whitney, a race in which he finished fourth two years ago, 23⁄4 lengths behind Bullsbay.
“He ran three big races, and that last race was the second-fastest mile in history, basically. A good race,” Bond said. “You’ve got to regress off that if you come back quick, I think. I figured, let’s just get up here. He’s based here from April ’til November. He’s been up here four years now. This is his home court. So get him up here and get him ready for this one. It’s a long season. We’ve got the fall yet. So hopefully, this will be the kickoff for the fall.”
In the Whitney, which will be drawn today at 11 a.m. in the paddock, Tizway is likely to kick off the fall against graded winners Apart, Duke of Mischief, Giant Oak, Mission Impazible and Morning Line.
The fall calendar has a big circle drawn around the Breeders’ Cup Classic, even though the win in the Met Mile guaranteed a berth to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
Tiznow ran the BC Dirt Mile last November after his Kelso win, but finished a disappointing fifth to Dakota Phone under regular jockey Rajiv Maragh, who drew the ire of Bond for a poor ride. Bond said although he refused to comment on the ride for two months after the race, he treats it like he treats the rest of the business and puts it behind him.
Besides, Maragh has been good with Tizway before and since.
In his three races aboard this year, Maragh guided Tizway to third-place finishes at the Grade II Gulfstream Park Handicap and the rain-soaked Grade III Charles Town Classic, then the win in the Met Mile.
That big win and the 113 Beyer number put up by Tizway, though, had no impact on Bond’s Breeders’ Cup decision. He said the plan always was to aim for the Classic.
“There’s six million reasons — one million is the Jockey Club Gold Cup, five million is the Breeders’ Cup Classic,” Bond said. “If I can basically make him three lengths better than he was two years ago, which I think he is right now, I could be a $6 million man.
“Right now, the bottom line is, he won the Kelso pretty quick, he won the Met Mile, and that’s a sire’s race. We’ve got that kind of under our belt, and you can’t take that away. So I’m looking at bigger mountains to climb.”
Also, he has run well against some of the top competition available in recent years, coming up just short to some great horses before his treatment.
In 2009, he was third to Summer Bird — winner of the Belmont and Travers that year — in the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup. Tizway was third to Quality Road in the 2010 Met Mile, the last race before his injury was discovered. Quality Road won the Woodward and was second in the Whitney last year.
Bond said he doesn’t see a Quality Road in the older division right now. With no horse blowing by the competition, it’s a good time to take a shot.
If he reaches the summit, Tizway will see the spot his sire, Tiznow, etched his name into stone as a two-time Classic winner.
“That would be just the ice cream, as they say, on the cake,” Bond said. “You have your main course in life, and that’s fantastic. If your desert is as good as the main course, well, what a restaurant you’ve been to. Of course, that would be the end-all, because this is probably going to be his last year. He’ll be retired and go find a bunch of cute girls, and hopefully, send me a bunch more just like him.”