With his hoof problems behind him, Kentucky-bred Tizway has hit his best stride this summer - and just in time for a possible trip to Churchill Downs and the Breeders' Cup Classic in November.
Tizway notched two straight Grade I victories with wins in the Met Mile at Belmont and the Whitney at Saratoga, the first horse to accomplish that feat since In Excess in 1991.
Trainer James Bond attributes the 6-year-old's turnaround in form to an emergence from health issues that have plagued him throughout his career. Tizway, son of back-to-back Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow, remains on target for the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont on October 1, a key race in determining which Breeders' Cup race he will enter. He's earned automatic berths for both the Classic and the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.
In an interesting move, Bond said he will likely ship Tizway to Belmont the day of the Gold Cup because the horse "likes to sleep in his own backyard."
Some questions linger, however, about Tizway's ability to last the Gold Cup and Classic distance of 1 1/4-miles. He finished third behind Summer Bird and Quality Road in the 2009 Gold Cup, his lone start at that distance.
Bond said he's not worried about Tizway's stamina.
"I'm sold on his ability to get the distance, and someone will have to prove me wrong," he said.
There's also uncertainty about his affinity for the Churchill Downs track, as Tizway finished fifth in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. He's only won one race outside of New York - his maiden-breaking win at Woodbine on June 1, 2008.
But his recent wins and his stellar work at Saratoga last week suggest Tizway is in peak form - and a contender for the year's top honor.
"Winning Horse of the Year would be fantastic, but one thing about this game is that you never know," Bond said. "It's a game of inches and any day can be devastating. I just hope we make it that far. As long as I can keep training him hard, I think he will show up and do his thing."
Photo: J.J. Hysell