Life on the Backstretch in the Wake of 9/11

On the 20th anniversary of 9/11 it is only appropriate to reprint from my account of the events from a racing perspective following one of the most tragic days in American history, as well as adding new material pertaining to the 2001 Breeders’ Cup. ~ Steve Haskin

Life on the Backstretch in the Wake of 9/11

By Steve Haskin


It was Sunday evening and I, along with my wife and daughter, were flying back to Newark Airport from Lexington, Kentucky after attending John Henry Day at the Kentucky Horse Park, where I and trainer Ron McAnally signed copies of my book on the then 26-year-old legend. As we approached the airport from the north, flying along the Jersey side the Hudson River, I looked out the window and couldn’t help but be awestruck at the sight of the World Trade Center’s twin towers glistening like diamonds in the evening sun. I called Joan and Mandy to my side of the plane and they too marveled at this dazzling sight. Never before had I seen any structure shine so lustrously. Two days later they were gone.

Like everyone I was shaken and angry, and still numb from the cataclysmic events of September 11 that still seemed surreal several days later. But I was still a writer and almost three years into my job as Senior Correspondent and head writer for Blood-Horse publications. So that Saturday morning, September 15, I decided to drive to the Belmont Park backstretch, a diverse world unto itself, and see how the people, the horses, and the sport were coping with the disaster and how it affected life within its gates.

Although many have read this first part since I first posted it 20 years ago, it is still good to remind racing fans on this anniversary what it was like back then, especially with the Breeders’ Cup scheduled to be run at Belmont Park only 46 days later.

View From the Verrazano

Driving over the Verrazano Bridge into Brooklyn on the morning of Sept. 15, it was apparent why the New York Racing Association decided at the last minute to cancel racing until Sept. 19. Any thoughts of Belmont Park or Thoroughbred racing were obliterated by the sight of the now-naked skyline of Lower Manhattan off to the left and the deathly shroud that still hung over it.

The Statue of Liberty, once nestled under the shadow of the World Trade Center’s twin towers, now stood under an ominous ashen cloud that stretched across New York Harbor all the way to New Jersey.

After the initial shock of seeing nothing where the twin towers used to stand, one had to marvel at how the mighty city could have both its arms ripped out and still retain its ability to embrace.

Throughout New York, millions of hands linked to form an unbreakable chain. And beneath that gaping space where the World Trade Center once filled the sky, many of those hands scraped and clawed through tons of steel, oblivious to the crippled structures standing precariously above them.

With pride and sadness competing for dominance in the mind and heart, there was little room left for celebrations other than the discovery of life among the ruins. So, NYRA officials decided at 10 a.m. Friday that the cheers and the trophies could wait. Thoroughbred racing, like most everything now, is a mere speck against the cataclysmic events of Sept. 11, and New Yorkers were not quite ready for any diversions to take their mind off the horrific wounds they, and all Americans, had suffered.

But life did go on at Belmont Saturday morning, as horses and horsemen went about their daily chores. Unlike other athletes across the country, Thoroughbreds have been oblivious to the darkest day in American history. There were no billowing black clouds of smoke or haunting images to obscure their view. They still saw the same wide open spaces before them and felt the same crisp breezes blowing in their face. And on Wednesday, when Belmont reopens, just maybe, for a few hours, they will be able to help people see and feel something beautiful again after a week of unspeakable anguish.

“We understand we need to get back to normal and basically get on with our lives, but unlike the other tracks that are racing, we’re just so close to it,” NYRA president Terry Meyocks said. “There’s so much tension around here, we felt it wasn’t in the best interest of New York to conduct racing so quickly. We were going to race, but then baseball, football, golf, and NASCAR all canceled, and Friday was proclaimed a day of mourning. We’ve developed a good rapport with the communities over the years, and we realized that there’s a lot more to life than racing this weekend. It just wasn’t the right thing to do. The employees and the horsemen are still pretty somber, and this will give them another weekend to be with friends and family.”

All around Belmont were sights and sounds that continued to pummel Tuesday’s disaster into our psyche. On the Belt Parkway, just outside the gates of Aqueduct, a funeral procession headed east, escorted by two police cars and a fire engine, strongly suggesting it was for one of the deceased firefighters. On the Staten Island Expressway, another police car escorted a dump truck, filled with debris, to the Great Kills dump.

At the Belmont stable gate, a sign was tucked into the window of the booth, showing the American flag, with the words “Pray For America.” Media pins no longer wielded the same authority as before. “I can get that in a box of Cracker Jacks,” the security guard said. “Let me see the ID number on the back.” The guard, who wished to remain anonymous, later said, “You can imagine what it’s been like around here. It’s pretty morbid. But everyone has been showing solidarity. Everyone is proud to be an American. A lot of people were very upset when they originally announced they were going to race.”

Tony Pittelli, a security guard directing traffic inside the backstretch, was happy to see planes flying overhead once again. “The mood hasn’t been too good,” he said. “One of my sons lost his sister-in-law, and one of the riders here lost his son-in-law. His daughter and son-in-law had been married for two years and have a one-year-old baby. Unbelievable. It’s just terrible.”

Buzz Tenney, assistant to Shug McGaughey, can’t believe how quiet the backstretch has been. “It feels like it does when a meet is over and you’re just hanging around waiting to move to the next track,” he said. “We’re all going through our work, but there’s been only one topic of conversation.”

As Tenney spoke, Tiznow, who has been stabled in their barn, walked down the shed with Ramon Arciga aboard. Last year’s Horse of the Year, has been unable to return home to California following his third-place finish in the Sept. 8 Woodward Stakes. “We’re stuck here,” Arciga said. “We were supposed to have left Wednesday, then again on Friday. Now they say Tuesday, but we’re not sure when we’ll be leaving.”

One barn that has been affected in a much different way is the Godolphin stable of Sheikh Mohammed. The Godolphin grooms are all Pakistanis, and they have been told by assistant trainer Laurent Barbarin to keep a low profile. “It’s a very difficult situation,” Barbarin said. “I spoke to them and told them to stay quiet. It’s safer for everybody. But we’re all holding up very well.”

Another trainer, Bobby Frankel, was scheduled to return to California on Monday, following You’s appearance in Sunday’s Matron Stakes. “It’s tough getting a commercial flight, so I’ll stay through the week and leave after I run Squirtle Squirt in the Vosburgh Saturday,” he said. Frankel ran into racing secretary Mike Lakow, who was driving out of the stable area, and said about canceling the races, “You definitely did the right thing.”

Neil Howard, who had entered Secret Status in Saturday’s Ruffian Handicap, was also forced to remain in New York. He had originally been scheduled to fly out of LaGuardia to Louisville on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. “I’ll just stay here for a while, and point Secret Status for the Beldame. Even if we had won the Ruffian, how can you go in the winner’s circle and act happy?”

One person who has been doing everything he can to offer assistance is veterinarian Russell Cohen, who purchased two dozen work gloves from True Value and several cases of soda, then brought them to the fire house on 48th Street and Seventh Avenue, which had lost 14 firefighters – one third of its entire crew. He also brought other goods to a police precinct in the Bronx. From 48th Street, he walked down to Canal Street, offering his services in case the police needed any assistance with their horses.

“There’s nothing much we can do, but every little bit helps,” Cohen said. “I’ve done work for the ASPCA before, and was on the Animal Planet (network) once, so a lot of the people know me. I just found out that one horse owner, a member of a syndicate, was killed at the World Trade Center. And there’s probably more that we don’t know about.”

So, Belmont Park sits back and quietly waits for the country to return to some sense of normalcy. Because of the timing factor, four of the five stakes scheduled this weekend have been canceled, while the Jerome Handicap will be run next Saturday.

Returning back over the Verrazano, smoke from newly ignited fires continued to rise from the ashes of Lower Manhattan, adding to the hell-like conditions. But beneath the smoke, the Statue of Liberty could be seen, still sparkling like an emerald in the morning sun. Uptown, the Empire State building still stood as tall as ever, with both iconic symbols of New York City reminding us that there is still a great powerful city out there waiting to get on with its life.

A Breeders’ Cup Unlike Any Other

Weeks later, America, especially New York City, was still in shock over the catastrophic events of 9/11, and there was talk about many of the Europeans not showing up for the Breeders’ Cup, whose officials, along with the New York Racing Association, was trying to figure out a way to stage the event under adverse conditions never before seen or even imagined. But Ballydoyle trainer Aidan O’Brien assured the Breeders’ Cup that he’d be there with his powerful arsenal.

The first surreal sight came at JFK International Airport on Oct. 11 when Sheikh Mohammed’s private 747 jet, which had departed Stanstead Airport in England at 1:30 p.m., touched down at the Saudi Arabian cargo terminal. On board were three of Godolphin’s biggest stars — the brilliant Sakhee, runaway winner of the Arc de Triomphe and Juddmonte International; the globe-trotting Fantastic Light, a major stakes winner in the United States, Ireland, England, Hong Kong, and Dubai, and third, beaten a neck, in the Japan Cup; and the top miler, Noverre, winner of the Sussex Stakes.

Awaiting the trio upon their arrival were two FBI agents, four customs agents, and three carloads of Port Authority police. The horses, under the car of head assistant Tom Albertrani, were vanned to Belmont, joining the other Godolphin horses.

At 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 22, an Air Transport International DC-8 taxied up to the same Saudi Arabian terminal at JFK. Veterinarian John Miller boarded the plane and took the blood on the seven Ballydoyle-trained horses arriving from Shannon Airport. The blood would then be flown by Lear Jet to Ames, Iowa, where lab technician John Eli would meet the plane and take the samples to the lab for analysis. Expediting the procedure would allow the Ballydoyle horses to clear quarantine by 10 p.m. the following day.

The Ballydoyle contingent was believed to be the most expensive shipment of Thoroughbred racehorses in history. An insurance company appraised their value at $200 million, with Galileo, winner of the English Derby, Irish Derby, and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, alone valued at $65 million. Also on board were the brilliant undefeated 2-year-old Johannesburg, St. Leger winner Milan, and top-class stakes horses Black Minnaloushe, Bach, Mozart, and Sophisticat.

About an hour after the arrival of the Ballydoyle horses, an Air France 747 pulled up to the Air France terminal, carrying three French-trained horses — Banks Hill, Spring Oak, and Slew the Red, all trained by Andre Fabre in Chantilly.

This three-pronged European force was the strongest and deepest ever sent to the Breeders’ Cup.

On Oct. 24, the morning of the entries, Godolphin sent shock waves rippling through the backstretch when it was announced that Fantastic Light would run in the Turf and Sakhee would go for the Classic in an attempt to climb Mt. Olympus and enter the pantheon of greats.

Breeders’ Cup Day was unlike anything ever seen at a racetrack. Police dogs were used to search random automobiles entering the track parking lot. Soldiers were stationed throughout Belmont, armed with AKA assault rifles. Snipers were positioned on the roof, observing the crowd with high-powered binoculars. The whole scene was surreal.

As part of the opening ceremonies prior to the races, dozens of jockeys, accompanied by members of the New York Police and Fire departments, lined up, each holding the flag of his country. The National Anthem was sung by Carl Dixon of the New York Police Department following a bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

Alastair Donald of the International Racing Bureau was expecting a big day from the powerful European brigade. “If we get our asses kicked, we’ll have to think up some good excuses,” he said.

By the time the Classic rolled around, America was a heartbeat away from being embarrassed by the European horses, and a defeat would have been an ignominious end to the 2001 Breeders’ Cup. First, it was a thrashing from the French in the Filly & Mare Turf by Banks Hill. Then, it was the Irish who decimated the American youngsters in the Juvenile, as Johannesburg burst clear to win going away. Adding insult to injury, the Turf then went to Godolphin’s Fantastic Light, trained in England.

With an Arab-owned horse having won the second biggest Breeders’ Cup race, it was up to horses like Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Aptitude and Tiznow and Albert the Great, who both would have to rebound off disappointing efforts in order to close out the event with a much-needed victory for America in the Classic.

But after making a big sweeping move on the far turn, Apitude began to falter. It was now up to Tiznow and Albert the Great. At the top of the stretch, however, it was another Godolphin horse, Sakhee, who came charging up on the outside, having all the momentum. Albert the Great tried to battle back but it was apparent he had fired his best shot. It was now all up to Tiznow, who was between the two in third and still in the mix. But that fire from the previous year seemed to be gone, especially coming off two uncharacteristic defeats. Plagued by severe back problems and behavioral issues in the mornings, this was not the same tenacious fighter we had seen the previous year.

Sakhee gained a narrow advantage and looked as if he were on his way to a sure victory. With immortality a mere furlong away, he reached back to deal the fatal blow. But then something happened, something we’d seen before. A desperate Chris McCarron hit Tiznow once left-handed and the colt surged forward. Right before everyone’s eyes, last year’s Superman again took on the role of superhero, just as he had in the previous year’s Classic when another European powerhouse, Giant’s Causeway, one of the gutsiest horses seen in Europe in many years, dared to challenge America’s dominance on dirt. No matter how hard he tried he could not get by Tiznow, who prevailed by a neck.

Now, in the blink of an eye, that Tiznow was back; his problems behind him. All he needed was an opponent, apparently a foreign invader, to re-ignite the fire in his eyes. One look at Sakhee about to deal America it’s most crushing defeat and Tiznow reached down into that indefinable reservoir we call heart, and in the shadow of the wire was able to snatch victory away from Sakhee. America, for a fleeting instant, at least in the realm of horse racing, was as she was before Sept. 11– untainted and impenetrable. The nation’s fighting spirit that emerged in the face of disaster had manifested itself in the form of a magnificent, powerful Thoroughbred who simply refused to be defeated.

It is now 20 years later. The 24-year-old Tiznow has been retired from stud duty, but is still represented by major stakes winners and dams and sires of major stakes winners. And we are about to embark on another Breeders’ Cup, this year at Del Mar.

But first and foremost it is a time to remember all the heroes, living and dead, who sacrificed their lives and their health to save thousands of others, and also those who lost their lives so senselessly on a gorgeous, cloudless September morning.

And in our own little realm of Thoroughbred racing, we must remember the sport we love and a gallant warrior named Tiznow for shining even a dim light on a world that had turned dark.

Photo courtesy of Racingfotos


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61 Responses to “Life on the Backstretch in the Wake of 9/11”

  1. Deacon says:

    Absolutely a stunning piece of writing. I always tell myself that Steve can’t top his last piece but you always seem to. I think I have seen that BCC between Tiznow & Sakhee 50 times and I still get chills. The Giant’s Causeway BCC was equally as thrilling for me.
    I try to put what I really feel about posts like this but my words pale to do the justice Steve deserves.

  2. Paula Higgins says:

    Steve, a remarkable piece of writing. You brought the backstretch to life during that horrific time. I can only imagine what people were feeling there, so close to it all. I re-watched Tiznow’s race just the other day. It still gives me goose bumps. “Tiznow wins it for America” will be the stuff of racing lore in this country forever. I still cannot believe he pulled it off. You never knew which Tiznow would show up. The great one did that day.

    • Paula Higgins says:

      One last comment, Sheikh Mohammed of Godolphin donated all his second place wins to the 9/11
      Family/Victim Fund. Pretty impressive.

      • Steve Haskin says:

        Thank you very much, Paula. Yes, I remember he did that. Anyone in NYC should go to the 9/11 museum on the site. It is amazing and is a full day thing and filled with emotion. It is huge

        • Kara says:

          I’m responding here because I always Enjoy your comments, Paula – and your way of thinking.
          Steve, this is another piece of writing that would touch far and wide, as Secretariat himself really did. One truly feels pulled in to the emotions and movement and the standing-still of time. Your description of the race lives up to the race itself – as the race lives up to your description of it…. and the horses who embody the day really do just that ~~ your words are worth a thousand paintings
          Horses, and the animal kingdom (which IS what it is) really do provide solace, whether we know it or not.. And especially for children (of All ages) ~~ This reminds me of a very large ‘Therapy Horse’ that I read about who visits people in hospice care within a hospital in France! He stands in the hallway and faces the direction of the patient he wishes to see next! And boy, is that person surprised and filled with love
          Thankyou, and Thank You !!!

          • Kara says:

            ps, Titled “‘Doctor Peyo’: the horse comforting cancer patients in Calais – in pictures”, is an utterly amazing story ~ and can be found at ‘’, Fri, 12 Mar 2021. I would put this in All Capitals, bold print, underlining with hundreds of !!!!!!!!; it is an ‘OMG!!!’~ (as IS!)

            • Steve Haskin says:

              Thank you Kara, that sounds fantastic. Horses are so miraculous. The centuries old bond with humans is still as strong as ever.

  3. 100 lengths says:

    Steve – Great remembrance piece as you always do! Of course Tiznow didn’t let Sakhee get by – his genes wouldn’t allow it….he is a tail-male descendant of the greatest of ‘em all – Man o’ War, his great x5 granddaddy! I am reminded of this powerful anonymous ode: “Hold your strength till the barriers fly, then close with the leaders eye to eye. Thundering hooves and the mad jammed race, blood in the nostrils, sweat in the face. And children, remember wherever you are, you carry the blood of Man o’ War.” Best, Dave

  4. Ms Blacktype says:

    I read your entire piece, Steve, although it was painful. Then I watched the Irish Champion, after reading all the exhilarating comments about that race. Topped it off with the replay of 2001 Classic, which I saw in person (if you can say watching from the 8th pole is in person). So many great horses in that field, and Tiznow beat them all.

    • Matthew W says:

      Beat them all in 2001….AND 2000, which was one of the strongest 10 furlong dirt races ever….Tiznow. Giants Causeway…Albert the Great…Fusaichi Pegusas…Lemon Drop Kid…Captain Steve…

  5. Derek Manthey says:

    Steve that day was for me filled with emotions that swung from somber to handicappers joy back to somber. Coming in from north Jersey crossing the GWB and looking down river to plume at the WTC was tough then seeing armed units at Belmont certainly was sobering. Then the Sprint, my favorite race. back when the fillys would take on the boys. Then Exogenous flipped leaving the paddock, this was not good. I hoped we weren’t going to have another Requiem at Belmont like in 90. It was tough crossing her off the program under those circumstances. The races were great and luck was with me. I caught 3 signers that day. The funny thing was that in the grandstand only 2 IRS windows and there was the same guy there for 2 1/2 hours probably some IRS scam. It took me 2 hours after the Classic to get paid. I decided to take the long way home and went to Manhattan and took the Staten Island Ferry just to get back to reality. Looking back at Manhattan certainly did the trick. Looking back now 9-11 brought us all together and now we have lost our way. There has to be a way back without another 9-11.

  6. perimeister says:

    Steve, thank you for posting this beautiful reminder.

  7. EddieF says:

    Beautiful words, Steve. Americans needed every positive event, especially in the world of sports, in those following weeks and months to raise their spirits. In so many ways, there was a world before 9/11 and a very different world after 9/11.

  8. Marcy says:

    I remember this BC like it was yesterday. So emotional. Durkin’s call. All of it.

  9. Susan Goldsworthy says:

    How does one become a friend here? I don’t see it? Thanks.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Only Facebook has friends. Anyone can come here anytime and read or comment, whatever they like. Hope to see you here again and please comment whenever you wish

      • Matthew W says:

        Horse Racing….where you bet against your friends, and everyone talks to everyone….after the epic Beholder/Songbird battle, I’m walking through the track apron. …fist pumping complete strangers— all of us in awe of what we just witnessed…

  10. Jo Anne says:

    A reminder that life does go on after horrible events. That Classic race was amazing!

  11. Davids says:

    Aye, Steve, it was a grand performance by Tiznow as was Sakhees, for that matter. I was hoping for another sterling performance from Aptitude but realistically, it was more emotion than faith. What a race though, and Durkin was in top form as well. Amazing field, all round.

    Steve, did you catch the Irish Champion Stakes? What a race, St Mark’s Basilica might have been lucky to keep the win but all three deserved to win. Poetic Flare and Tarnawa were not disgraced in defeat either. Those Irish lads know how to prepare horses for big races. Going by how St Mark’s Basilica ran today it might just be his last race.

    With the loss of Galileo, St Marks Basilica’s import at stud naturally increases.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      I thought he was going to kill the photographers who had to scatter. That was worse than Swain. I would consider Poetic Flare for the Classic. I dont think he knew St. M was even on the track.

      • Davids says:

        Initially, I thought Moore was searching for the best going, then, is it the injury, then, it’s sheer intimidation of Tarnawa. I agree with you Steve, Poetic Flare would have lost focus slightly. The Classic for Poetic Flare is an interesting call, I’d go for the Mile, less daring. Ha ha

      • Dewey Hebert says:

        Yes, I also thought of Swain when witnessing the extraordinary finish of St Mark’s Basilica in the Irish Champions Stakes.

        Swain (or Frankie?) was looking the hot dog stand in the stretch run of the BC Classic. It was one of the most disappointing racing performances of any horse that I ever bet on and I lost a significant amount when Swain failed to finish 1st or 2nd. I was literally sick to my stomach and heaved up for several minutes thereafter. That was the first and only time that a race had such an effect on me. In my opinion, it was an inexcusable blemish on Frankie Dettori’s career.

        • Davids says:

          I can’t imagine how you must have felt watching Swain being mercilessly being whipped to the grandstand. As much as I like Frankie Dettori he has had quite a few clunkers. On a good note, it is such a relief that whip restrictions have been introduced.

          Watching some closely run major races of the past can be appalling, with the type of whip, how many times, and where the horse were thrashed to win or just miss out.

          • Dewey Hebert says:

            Hey, Davids, I agree with the recent regulations regarding the use of the whip. I’ve seen jockeys abuse their mounts even when they are giving everything they have but are not up to the task.

            One of the top riders in the States, Joel Rosario, just completed a fabulous week at Kentucky Downs winning 17 races in just 6 days. This all turf course is unique in the States for its kidney shape with tight turns and hilly slopes. Kentucky Downs is a challenge for mpst jockeys, yet Joel Rosario was able to study the ground and place his mounts in the best position to rally when entering the stretch. A patient, yet aggressive, rider, Joel sparingly uses the whip and hand rides most of his mounts to the finish. He communicates with his horses through his hands which is a skill that few jockeys seem to have.

            As for St. Mark’s Basilica, do you think we will see him race in the Breeders’ Cup? His wide drifting in the Irish Champion Stakes aside, I do enjoy watching SMB run. He brings a special sense of excitement to a race.

            • Davids says:

              Hi Dewey, I agree with you that Joel Rosario is an extremely gifted rider. John Velasquez, Flavian Prat, Luis Saez, Tyler Gaffalione, Junior Alvarado, and the underrated Joe Bravo are other jockeys I prefer than some that are over zealous with the use of the whip. Moreover, you can see their minds working more so than say, the whip.

              Joel Rosario would be a star in Europe without a doubt.

              I seriously doubt St Mark’s Basilica would cross the Atlantic and, by what Aidan O’Brien said after the Irish Champion Stakes, he is most likely off to stud. Hopefully, not, but that’s usually the pattern. We’ll have to wait for the next Siyouni star to appear on the horizon. It won’t be a long wait. Ha ha

              • Dewey Hebert says:

                Sad to hear that we may have seen the last of St. Mark’s Basilica on the track. Just when I get attached to a horse they disappear from the scene leaving me disappointed and on the look for some other noble steed to take their place in my heart. Alas, racing does have a vast array of up and coming stars to take center stage and attempt to steal our hearts. That’s the beauty of this sport….. we are never at a loss to find a new favorite to root for.

                Davids, I must say, you are an astute judge of riders. I share your appreciation of the jockeys you mentioned and, indeed, can credit them for helping my bottom line show a profit at Saratoga this season. If only I could do that on a regular basis. lol

                • Davids says:

                  Well, Dewey, if we all too efficient at betting then we’d lose racing altogether. Ha ha My ‘magnum opus’ in punting came in 1990 with Chelsea Girl in the Lonsdale Stakes at York, now known as the Lonsdale Cup.

                  As students, we were running short of holiday money in England, we pooled our money together and put it on Chelsea Girl. She romped in at 15 – 1, we were ‘high on the hog’ for a few months longer after that windfall. I warned them, ‘she can’t lose,’ bless her heart.

                  • Dewey Hebert says:

                    Good show, Davids. I enjoy hearing stories of “magnum opus” wagers. All punters should be so lucky to have at least one such score to inspire them. Love the name, Chelsea Girl.

                    My “magnum opus” came about in the 1994 Kentucky Derby. Some friends and I would get together to play gin for stakes. A couple of weeks before the Derby, I was on a tear and won close to $300. So, I see Go for Gin entered in the Derby, saw that he had a legitimate chance and bet my $300 on Gin to win. He went off at 9-1 and I collected $3,030. Oh, Happy Day! Ironically, Go for Gin never won another race. Despite finishing 2nd in the Preakness and Belmont, he would go 0 for 9 before retiring.

                    • Davids says:

                      Sometimes, the ‘racing gods’ are shining down on you. Good stuff!! Romantically, I was hoping that Go for Gin was going to return the Ribot line back to prominence.

                      As a child reading about Ribot he inspired, and still does for that matter, reverential adoration.

                  • sceptre says:

                    Hi David,

                    “Reply” not offered in your comment re- Ribot so I placed it here. “Ribot” by John Aiscan is a book you may enjoy, just in case you’re not aware of it. Ribot, quite probably, was among the top 5 or 10 greatest of all time. Always loved his look and type, and missed seeing him in the flesh at Darby Dan by about 2 mos. (after his death)- I think Steve has seen him. I do remember Molvedo’s Arc, and Ragusa and Graustark were my favorites of his sons. Ragusa may have most resembled Ribot. Had Graustark more passed along the speed that he (Graustark) possessed, my guess is that the Ribot sire-line would be more prominent today.

                    • Steve Haskin says:

                      I was very close with Ribot. Have great photos of him. I gave his specially made bridle to Michael Blowen, given to me by ribot’s groom Floyd.

                    • Davids says:

                      Hi sceptre, I have read “ Ribot Racing & Breeding Performance – John Aiscan but oddly don’t seem to have a copy. A Christmas present for oneself coming up. There are quite a few 1st Editions to be had, even in German. Yes, I use to follow all his progeny. Even got to meet Boucher (1972 St Leger Stakes winner) when at stud in Australia.

                    • Davids says:

                      Steve, did you know Ribot when he was safe to approach? That was very generous of you giving Ribot’s bridle to “Old Friends.”

    • EddieF says:

      That stretch run in the Irish Champion was incredible. I thought the announcer might spontaneously combust, which wouldn’t be surprising considering that it looked like the horses and riders were going to the wire like it was the Indy 500.

      • perimeister says:

        Incredible. The turn of foot shown by St Mark’s Basilica and Tarnawa was unreal. I couldn’t believe the video feed wasn’t on fast forward. I’m still out of breath, just thinking about it.

        • Davids says:

          For sure, Tarnawa will go to Siyouni so there is something to look forward to.

          • perimeister says:

            There’s probably something obvious that I’m missing because I am not so much on top of the Euro pedigrees, but I am having a time coming up with a stallion for Tarnawa following the principles of inbreeding to an outstanding mare, and where the cross has the structure of recreating the cross that created the stallion. Siyouni is a product of the right lines, but there’s no doubling down on any dominant mare close up.

            • Davids says:

              Sea The Stars might be the stallion you’re looking for, and at an Aga Khan Stud.

              • perimeister says:

                Yes, Sea the Stars and Golden Horn are both suggestive, being by Cape Cross. To breed Tarnawa to them would double up on Park Appeal. I don’t have any sense of whether that would pack anything like the punch of duplicating, say, Ta Wee.

                • Davids says:

                  Look further back with Sea The Stars and Golden Horn’s pedigrees there is also Foreign Courier and thus Courtly Dee but with these type of pedigrees you are expecting influential broodmares on both sides.

                  The Rasmussen Factor – inbreeding to superior females within five generation through different individuals –is pleasing to see, especially when it appears to work as in Danehill, as an example.

                  • perimeister says:

                    Did you catch my encouragement under the last colummn on Arlington, in the comments, for your idea of breeding St Mark’s Basilica and Sottsass to Galileo mares?

                    Thinking about Tarnawa being sent to Golden Horn amd Sea the Stars, the inbreeding to Foreign Correspondent would fit within the 5 generation paradigm, but neither in her case nor in Park Appeal’s would the mating produce the Rasmussen factor, because its through the same individuals. But perhaps it’s the best we can do with what stallions we have.

                    Now I’m going to go have a smile over the thoughts of Catch the Moon as the R-factor in the future.

                    • Davids says:

                      Yes, I threw in the Rasmussen Factor to offer, possibly, more scope to the pattern you are considering. In Australia, you see the Rasmussen Factor quite often in pedigrees especially when Star Kingdom was dominate there. Perhaps, accidental, through necessity rather than by choice.

                      I did read your post in the previous Arlington ‘article.’ It should be fascinating watching how Coolmore replicate the highly potent Siyouni – Galileo cross with their sons of the former.

                    • Davids says:

                      P.S. Have you been following the Keeneland September sales? I really like Hip 331, the Tapit colt that Whisper Hill snapped up. Cool headed like Essential Quality. Good luck to them, it must be time they hit a home run.

                  • perimeister says:

                    I’m loosely following along with KEESEP 2021. I watch a few dozen sales each day, and marvel at how the live video tends to vertically stretch reality, while the catalog photos tend to vertically compress it. Grin.

                    My sampling is deliberately non systematic. There’s really little to not like in Book 1 or 2 on short acquaintance. Though, I was surprised at the supplemented 399B, the Justify half sister to Knicks Go, whose faults include being horribly tied in at the knee, base narrow and, related, the least athletic walk I have seen at the sale. I really wanted to be able to like her, but she seems completely unlikely to grow gracefully into her size and scope. She was an out, blessedly.

                    Curious, how can you tell from a distance, based on the available information, that hip 331, Mandy Pope’s Tapit acquisition, is of the cool headed variety?

                    • Davids says:

                      That’s true, you have only a snapshot for say 5 – 10 minutes on the internet but over many years an impression can often be right. Friends who are at the sales inferred the same disposition. Moreover, those seriously interested in buying would have vetted him numerous times and watched, and watched.

                      Even so, things can change overtime but hopefully, Hip 331 makes his mark. Hope, springs eternal. In The Blood-Horse, a few years back now, I remember reading that of the yearlings in the September Sales at Keeneland – 7% win at Grade 1 level, 17 % at Graded 2 -3 so there are no guarantees.

                    • perimeister says:

                      Okay, I will allow you to rely on insider information to inform your liking of hip 331.
                      I’d prefer to buy a Tapit that’s known to be level-headed, myself, given the choice, and I like this one’s caboose in particular. Nice short cannons. He’s better shown off by his walk than his photo.

                      Keep in mind that I have been spoiled, perhaps, by spending lots on time admiring the front ends that Honor Code puts on most of his.

                    • Davids says:

                      Agree, Hip 399B doesn’t look the type that’s going to grow into a graceful swan yet she may turn out to be a wonderful broodmare to the right line.

                      We all have our predilections though. Sometimes you can be hypercritical which is problematical and that’s why you admire those who can balance everything in proportion. There are certain sires I prefer but the broodmare always determines the interest initially.

        • EddieF says:

          Fast forward! That’s exactly what I was thinking. 🙂

      • Davids says:

        Yes, totally exhilarating. You hate seeing anyone lose in races like that, imagine if they had stayed close?

        • perimeister says:

          I’m okay with not imagining how it might have been, though that’s ordinarily part of the fun. Maybe later. For now, I am content in the belief thaf I am not alone in the certainty that I will remember the race far longer than I will these horses’ win/loss records.

  12. Someday Silent says:

    I can’t believe this happened more than half my lifetime ago.

    I’m not crying right now, but I’m going to play the 2001 BC Classic on YouTube and I’ll probably sob like crazy.

    Thanks for this article, no matter how hard it may be to read and remember.

  13. Matthew W says:

    After winning the Big Cap by four lengths I thought Tiznow was on the cusp of greatness, but he had his problems….returned in early September, beaten 2 lengths at Belmont and then the unthinkable….and I know my life changed greatly…..

    The big horse was delayed, in his return to his home base, and he again ran 3rd, in his final prep…..there was talk of Bin Laden having laundered his money in Dubai…..

    Breeders Cup day, and it’s dark and cloudy at Belmont. Snipers on the root—its dark and rainy in Oregon, where I watched the races, played $10 win bets all day, losing them all until the final race, where I had Tiznow….Dubai horses winning big races, and the final race…like I said 911 hit me hard, the following weeks were real stressful…watching that 2001 Breeders Cup was almost a guilty pleasure—–it is and was the best sports moment of my lifetime, because it came at a time that was all-important, I needed that…..hard to even look at my phone right now, hard to focus on the letters.

  14. Rita M. Pierce says:

    Great read as usual Steve!! It is really weird when you think of all the different years and decades that when America is in dire need of heroes it seems like God gives us a horse hero too. In 1938 it was Seabiscuit, in 1973 It was big Red. Just a couple to mention I’m sure if you are a racehorse enthusiast you know what I’m talking about. So in 2001 the worst year in American history it was another one of our great ones that for a while gave us happiness The mighty Tiznow. Thank you ole great one for the happy memory!!

  15. Rebekah Lane says:

    Evocative story. As I read each sentence, I saw Tiznow surging in my mind’s eye. The only thing that would’ve made the Classic better was for Cecilia Straub-Rubens to have been in the stands, but I know she was watching her boy from above. I did feel a bit sorry for Sakhee, though— he ran into the indomitable spirit of America that day.