For the Patriots, Tiznow the key to victory circa 2002
It all started back in early November, when the National Football League's New England Patriots were at a pivotal point in the season: Could they turn the corner and gut out the victories it would take to reach the playoffs?
That was when Patriots head coach Bill Belichick chose to show the team a videotape of reigning Horse of the Year Tiznow's stunning come-from-behind victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) at Belmont Park on October 27.
"We showed them the race, and we stopped it as all of the horses turned the final turn and headed for home and said, 'Okay if the race ended right here who would win?' " explained Belichick after a big win over the New York Jets.
"Well who cares?" he said. "It is about where we finish, not where we are in the middle of December."
Where the Patriots are right now is in New Orleans preparing for the Super Bowl. The wins have just kept coming since the Tiznow connection was established, and so have the inspirational items from the champion's connections at WinStar Farm near Versailles, Kentucky, where he stands, and at Taylor Made Farm, in Nicholasville, Kentucky. The two Kentucky farms in a joint venture purchased an interest in the dual Classic winner from owner Michael Cooper and the Cee's Stable of Pamela Ziebarth and Kevin Cochrane, the children of Tiznow's breeder, Cecilia Straub-Rubens.
"Week by week, we've been sending them stuff that has gotten to Coach Belichick and through to the team," said Lance Bell, who has been working with Taylor Made co-owner Duncan Taylor and Stonerside Farm owner Robert McNair (owner of coming NFL expansion team the Houston Texans) on the project. First came 100 caps emblazoned with the horse's name and the embroidered saying: "To the Patriot in all of us."
"Before the Oakland game, we FedExed round two, " said Bell. "Two of Tiznow's hind horseshoes, with the Patriots logo etched into the frame, and dedicated to Coach Belichick from fellow Massachusetts native Chris McCarron. And it said 'Kick Ass' on a brass halter plate on the bottom of the frame."
In a letter to Taylor, Belichick thanked him for the gifts. "As you know, your horse helped us during our preparations for the season's stretch run," Belichick wrote, "and to this point, the team has responded very well."
Bell said that the "final inspirational salvo" being sent to the team in New Orleans features a replica of the [Super Bowl Championship] Lombardi trophy and a head-on shot of the stretch run of the Classic, and is inscribed with the slogans 'It's the race in the horse, not the horse in the race,' and 'The fight is to the finish.'
Jockey Mike Smith is the go-between for the Tiznow connections and linebacker Bryan Cox, who is not only a dedicated horseplayer but also owns his own small string of horses, racing under the name Freakman Stable.—Adam Bruns