Tiz a Slam did not win the Northern Dancer, the Grade 1 turf race over the Pattison Canadian International course and distance which is the major local prep for the $800,000 main event at Woodbine. But the Chiefswood Stable homebred, who is conditioned by Roger Attfield, was beaten just two lengths in a sixth-place finish and played a crucial role in the outcome.
With Steven Bahen in the irons, Tiz a Slam forced the pace of the favoured English invader Hawkbill, who finally gave up the ghost to finish eighth in the field of 10.
“He sort of got messed by the speed horse, although I think we got blamed for that horse not running well,” said Attfield, alluding to the fact that Hawkbill's rider Jamie Spencer had been unhappy with Tiz a Slam's close attention.
“We wanted to sit just about a length off that horse, and then that horse started to take us out right from the get-go–to the middle of the track, almost–going up the hill. Then my horse got on the bridle, and never really relaxed after that and we were sort of running in tandem, almost, the whole way.
“We really killed each other, but we killed him more than he killed us. We were just a target for everybody else.”
Tiz a Slam will be looking to give Attfield, Chiefswood and Bahen their first Canadian International wins and showed no signs of flagging when breezing five furlongs in a bullet :58.40 on a “good” turf training course last Sunday.
“It was a very good, solid work,” said Attfield.
Tiz a Slam displayed talent from the outset of his career, winning on the Tapeta his debut at age two and becoming a stakes winner later that year in the restricted Cup and Saucer on the turf.
But the Tiznow colt, who went on to finish second in the following year's Queen's Plate and to win the Grade 3 Ontario Derby, can still be defined as a late-bloomer as he has been in the best consistent form of his career in his recent forays.
“He's a big, big, still-growing horse,” said Attfield. “I think he's just starting to mature now. He can play now, a little bit. He's got some coordination– he never did, all his life. Some horses take a lot longer to come to themselves. When I first got him, I really didn't believe that I'd ever start him as a two-year-old.”
Tiz a Slam's recent resurgence has coincided with a take-no-prisoners approach under new rider Bahen.
“He has a big, big, strong stride and he needs to be able to use that stride,” said Attfield. “You can't check him in a race and then get him going again. He doesn't have to be on the lead but if he's on the lead, and he's striding well, that's all I want to see.”
And that is exactly what Attfield did see when Tiz a Slam led throughout both the Grade 3 Dominion Day on the Tapeta and the Grade 2 Nijinsky on the turf with Bahen riding to the trainer's instructions.
“He enjoys getting out in a big rhythm and then he just keeps that rhythm up,” said Attfield. “He doesn't have a really big turn of foot.”
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