Tiznow - Patriots Redux

The New England Patriots are in the Super Bowl for the fifth time since 2002, which means it is time once again to resurrect the story of how a Thoroughbred racehorse inspired the Pats and, whether a mere coincidence or not, helped build a dynasty in the early 2000s.

The Thoroughbred was Tiznow, whose second consecutive courageous victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2001 had a profound effect on a then floundering football team, who on Feb. 5 will attempt to win its fourth Super Bowl, nearly 10 years to the day after upsetting the powerful St. Louis Rams for their first victory.

The day after Tiznow’s memorable victory in the Classic, in which he came again after appearing to be beaten, the Patriots were defeated 31-20 by the Denver Broncos to fall to 3-4 on the season.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick, like his former boss Bill Parcells, was a fan of Thoroughbred racing and decided to try something different to motivate his players. He showed them a tape of Tiznow winning the Classic to instill in them that same kind of courage and fighting spirit, and a never-say-die attitude.

Belichick informed his players as to the importance of the Breeders' Cup, in which the greatest equine athletes in the world gather to do battle. There before them was an athlete facing defeat square in the face, as the pride of Europe, Sakhee, appeared on his way to victory. Then, Tiznow, reached back and pulled out that something extra that only champions possess. He dug in and came back to snatch victory in the final strides.

Belichick told his players that their situation was not unlike Tiznow's; that as the season wore on it would come down to which team wanted to win the most.

Word of Belichick’s motivational ploy eventually got back to Tiznow’s trainer, Jay Robbins. ‘It’s been a long time, but the way I remember it, I heard about it from Mike Smith, who was told about it by Patriots linebacker Bryan Cox,” Robbins recalled.

Robbins’ reaction was simple: “(Belichick) couldn’t have picked a better example. I thought it was great of him to honor Tiznow that way.”

Of course, no one can say for sure what kind of impact Tiznow had on the team, but the fact is, the Patriots went on to win 11 of their next 12 games, their only loss coming at the hands of the 2000 Super Bowl champs St. Louis Rams 24-17. The Pats roared through the playoffs and concluded their extraordinary season by upsetting the Rams in the Super Bowl. Their victory, as well as their upset win over the Oakland Raiders in the playoffs, was decided, like Tiznow’s victory, in the final seconds.

The Patriots didn’t make the Super Bowl in 2003, but won it in 2004 after Belichick reached back into his bag of equine tricks and showed the team a tape of Secretariat’s Belmont Stakes. This time the motivation was not courage and determination, but what true greatness looks like. The Pats won the Super Bowl again in 2005, and regardless of how one wishes to look at it, their dominance began after the showing of Tiznow’s Classic, with a little help, of course, from a young quarterback called in to replace the injured Drew Bledsoe named Tom Brady.

During the Christmas holiday of 2001, Jay Robbins received a Christmas card from Belichick that read simply: “Thanks for the inspiration.” The following February, Belichick presented the Eclipse Award for champion older male to the connections of Tiznow, a fitting ending to a remarkable story.

Belichick said at the time, "I am very excited to be participating in this year's Eclipse Awards. As an avid horseracing fan and someone who appreciates greatness in all sports, it is truly an honor to be involved with recognizing the finest horses and owners in the world."

And thanks in part to one of those horses, Belichick and the Patriots were able to reach incredible heights and now are in position to add a fourth Super Bowl by beating Belichick’s former team, the New York Giants, who in 2008, upset the Patriots in the Super Bowl, depriving them of a historic undefeated season.

On four occasions, Tiznow was given the opportunity to exact revenge on a horse who beat him or finished ahead of him, and all four times he turned the tables on his conqueror.

We’ll find out on Sunday whether the Patriots can once again emulate their equine hero.


Leave a Comment:


It is a great story, and those 2 Breeders' Cups still give me the chills.  I still can't believe Tiznow pinned his ears back, dug in and came home first both times.

Not the same platform of world champions to be sure, but if Belichick is looking for a new video to show, he could do worse than Caracortado's Daytona run at Santa Anita on Jan. 8.  I really like that horse, but have to say I agreed with the announcer's impression up the stretch that "Caracortado didn't fire today" and then the booster rockets kicked in.  And, yes, he benefitted from the speed duel up front, but from the time his head got to the tail of the 3rd place horse until the time his nose hits the front was, I think, 8 strides.

But Tiznow, oh my, what a horse.  What a champion.  What a legend!  Thanks again for the memories, Steve! (and go pats!)

31 Jan 2012 2:37 PM
Matthew W

Tiznow was everybody's horse out West, and I mean from the start--everyone was talking about him because he looked the part, in fact, Tiznow looked the part like no other horse--I can remember viewing Effervescing for the first time, and I was transfixed! The firse time I saw Tiznow, it was even moreso--he was the maiden, then the non-winner of two--that you cound not take your eyes off of--but by the time he had dissapointed for the fifth or sixth time, I was resigned to admit Tiz was 100 times the better looker than he was runner--his Super Derby awoke that earlier belief in me, then when I saw him in the stretch of the Goodwood, where he held a half length the length of the stretch to Captain Steve, who was some kinda good and an older horse, I knew he was for real--I'll never understand why I didn't bet him in the Classic, why I played Giants Causeway, maybe it was because The Iron Horse from England looked so good on the track, but so did Tiz--and I knew when they hooked up and Giants could not initially pass him--I knew he would not, despite the losing of his whip--Giants Causeway did not need a whip in the stretch--Tiznow, obscurly bred by one who was dying, days from taking her last breath--Tiznow was that rare example of the little guy, breeding, owning, living and dying and loving--an animal who looked the part, then became the part, a rare combination of incredible looks, cruising speed, stamina....and heart.

31 Jan 2012 2:42 PM
Linda in Texas

Steve - i take back my words re: The Super Bowl and

"the east playing the east" comment in an earlier post. I was suffering from the indignation and pain of a series of terrible Cowboy losses.

With your article, you have now resurrected my interest and

I will be pulling for The "Pats" as i love Tiznow and if he inspired the team and Mr. Belichick and he enjoys the horses, I can certainly lend my support to all of them.


and Thanks Steve. I feel really guilty. :(

i love the east,one of my favorite places to visit.

31 Jan 2012 3:05 PM

Once again you provide another example of why you are an all-pro in your profession.The article captures the moment in time we are at and how it relates to horseracing.BTW this years Super Bowl is the team that is on a 10 game winning streak(odds on favorite)against the Giants who are just reaching their peak playing level(now horse)who are you taking.Keep in mind that last years NFL champs the Packers ran the table also going on a long winning streak, including the last game of the season.

31 Jan 2012 3:06 PM

Thank you Steve for another great piece. I tear up every   time you write about my hero, Tiznow.

31 Jan 2012 3:56 PM

New information for me - great PR for the industry!

31 Jan 2012 4:09 PM

Thoroughbred owner Wes Welker will catch the winning pass!  Pat's 27- Giant's 25.

31 Jan 2012 4:17 PM
steve from st louis

Steve, what wasn't universally known was that "Belichick secretly taped Sakhee's workouts prior to the race so that he and Robbins would know what the European's tactics for the big race would be." Wouldn't doubt it.

31 Jan 2012 4:20 PM

I loved Tiznow but it will take more than a racehorse to inspire the Patriots if Gronkowski with his high ankle sprain is unable to either play or is forced to play hurt.

31 Jan 2012 5:07 PM
Old Timer

Steve, I loved it the first time you wrote about Tiznow and the Pat's and it still is very cool to read your work. Tiznow always was one of my favorites. First I cashed a healthy ticket when he beat Giant's Causeway to win that first Classic. Then I was there at Belmont when he had that amazing stretch duel with Sakhee.

I am always on the lookout for horses by Tiznow and he has been a very respectable sire.

Thanks again for another nice piece.

However, lastly, as far as this year's big game, I must say "Go Giants."

31 Jan 2012 5:18 PM
Steve Haskin

Steve From St. Louis, funny. I liked that.

Will, there is no way Gronkowski wont play. He should be OK running north and south, but planting the foot and cutting horizonatlly is going to be really tough.

I've been a big Pats fan since the Tiznow story, but I've also been a Giants fan since 1958, growing up in NYC. Therefore, I will be rooting for whoever wins :). No pressure.

31 Jan 2012 5:28 PM

I hate football, sorry guys.  Ok, ok don't all jump on my head at once!  Even after reading Steve's great article here I could not tell you who the heck is in the Super Bowl this year.  Football makes me sleepy, it is soooo boring to me and I grew up an athlete and am married to an elite one.  Football is the only sport I cannot get into, I'd rather watch the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet than the Super Bowl.  But you can all have your football, give me the NBA, soccer, baseball, and my favorite horseracing.  I like the inspiration that Tiznow gave the team though and the interconnection in the sports is great.  The four-legged athletes should be inspirational to many of the two-legged ones, and they have much better characters and should be emulated by the two-legged athletes more often!!!  My new sports heroes walk on four legs.

31 Jan 2012 6:09 PM
Criminal Type

Great Story Steve, I love Tiznow and he is a perfect example of that never give up spirit that true champions have.

Steve from St Louis, very funny comment. I feel the same way about Belichick. I love football almost as much as I love horse racing.  I live in Maryland, and Marylanders were described recently as having an intense love affair with our football team. We love our Ravens, no matter what and We hate the Patsies almost as much as we hate the Steelers. So I gotta go with the Giants in the Super Bowl.

Perhaps Steve Bisciotti should talk to the people at Winstar about letting Tiznow kick for us.

31 Jan 2012 8:58 PM

What a great idea, to merge two great sports and find a link between them; the reason i root for the pats is because of a guy named Tom Brady; Tom Brady was picked in the 6th round, very low in the draft; he wasn't supposed to amount to a hill of beans and of course now he is a legend and destined for the hall of fame; what he has in common with Tiznow is a huge heart and determination. Go Pats.

31 Jan 2012 9:50 PM
Paula Higgins

This is a wonderful story Steve. I come originally from Mass. but I am not a Tom Brady fan at all, so it's the Giants for me. I like the Mannings. They are good people and not all ego. I live in a house divided since my husband is rooting for our old home town team. Belichick is a good guy and a great coach. Without him, their record would look very different.

31 Jan 2012 10:07 PM
Mike Monarchos

Nice story Steve! I love Tiz. Saw him win the Classic in NY in 2001. It was a great race by a great champion! I haven't seen Tiz in several years. I was lucky enough to see him at Winstar farm several times. I even raced him in his paddock once. Actually I was outside the fence. I said, "Hey Tiz! Wanna race?" I then took off running and he chased me. I actually had the lead on the only 2-time B.C. Classic champ for about 10 or 15 yards! It was great! I love that horse! He's a character. He loves peppermints. I did a painting of him for Larry Whaley, his former groom. I also did a painting of Tiz winning the 2000 Classic over Giants Causeway.

Tiz signed it with a front hoof thanks to Larry. Chris

McCarron later signed the painting inside the hoof print. It's on my wall.

01 Feb 2012 1:06 AM
The Deacon

Man O man Steve where do you come up with these stories. Had no idea that there was a connection between the Patriots and Tiznow.

Back to back for the wonderful Tiznow, amazing feat to say the least.

Thanks for the story Steve, good read.

01 Feb 2012 2:25 AM
Rachel NH

Steve, you forgot to add that Tiznow's team sent the Pats 2 horseshoes before the Superbowl game, with an inscription that said "Kick A**".

If I remember correctly, I think Coach B stopped the race at different times and asked the team "who's going to win?"...then at the end he said something to the effect "it ain't over 'til it's over..." (totally paraphrased)

Also, Tiznow's Breeders Cup cap: "Tiznow-2001-To The Patriot In All of Us"...referring to 9/11 ("wins it for America")and the tie with the team.

Go Pats!

01 Feb 2012 5:57 AM
Steve Haskin

Rachel, I didnt forget. I was unaware of it. Thanks for pointing out another fascinating aspect of the story. If you know for sure about the horseshoes and can substantiate it I can add it to the story for the archives.

01 Feb 2012 7:47 AM

Steve, I hear ya about the Pat's tight end, but I was just in Sarasota, FL, visiting my mother.  Living two doors down from her in Palm Aire Country Club is a guy who was the team doctor - an orthopedics specialist - for the Patriots under both Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. He expressed real concern about the effects of a high ankle sprain on Gronkowski's soundness to perform in the Superbowl if at all. Told me this kind of sprain would not completely heal until long after the Superbowl. After returning home to Nebraska, I then heard Skip Bayless on ESPN's First Take bail on the Patriots because of the report that the sprain might require off season surgery. Both he and Stephen A. Smith gave the Pats no chance if the report proved true. Gronk took his protective shoe off yesterday, but said he was day to day. Much uncertainty here that doesn't look good for the Pats. The use of the Tiznow story by Belichick was quite interesting, but it seems a little incomplete unless Belichick told the whole story - that Tiznow had a back injury in 2001 that would have finished most horses and that he seemed disinterested and to have lost his competitive drive when he returned to the track, and then suddenly reversed himself in training just before the Breeder's Cup. Off form and having been given little or no chance by the racing press to repeat, Tiznow somehow stirred himself in the stretch under McCarron's urging after having been headed by Sakhee, dug in gamely, and came back stirringly to best the Arc winner and Franly Detoori at the wire. That's the full Tiznow story and Belichick must have used it all. He's been a really promising sire, and it's a shame we did not get to see Tizway perform in the Classic. I understand Pepper's Pride was bred to Tiznow and would love to see Rachel, Zenyatta, Blind Luck, and eventually Havre de Grace and Awesome Feather bred to Tiznow as well. I understand his stud fee has been relatively low for a horse of his caliber because of his unusual pedigree. Apparently, he is one of the few modern thoroughbreds whose sire line does not end at the Darley Arabian. He is though a direct male line descendent of Man o' War whose blood line ends at the Godolphin Arabian. Looking forward to seeing more of his offspring on the track in the years to come and hope that the unusual pedigree doesn't limit his breeding potential.

01 Feb 2012 8:09 AM

Alex'sBigFan: I'm with you. All MY sports stars walk on four legs too. In fact, till I saw a commercial the other day, I didn't know there was a football game coming! Anyway ... it was a cool story about Tiznow. Thanx Steve - as usual, you're the man!

01 Feb 2012 10:46 AM
Pedigree Ann

Tiznow had to keep moving while his back was healing, to use up all that pent up energy a stabled TB can develop. Therefore the trainer gave him tranquilizers when he went out to gallop so that he wouldn't run too hard and re-injure himself. Somehow this taught the big guy he didn't need to extend himself, leading to his losses in the Woodward and Goodwood. But in the final few yards of the Goodwood, he made a sudden spurt that wasn't enough to win, but showed he remembered what the point of racing was. I knew then he was going to be ready to contend for the Classic; when I saw him in the post parade, he looked like his old self. Wasn't at a location where I could bet, worse luck.

01 Feb 2012 10:50 AM
Margaret Ann

If the Coach is looking for another horse racing moment to inspire the Patriots, he might want to use Wild Again's win in the first Breeder's Cup.  I remember reading, after Wild Again died, Pat Day saying that as he urged Wild Again in the stretch, he could hear the horse grunting with each lunge forward.  Will to win, courage.  Great horses, great people, I guess even great teams have it.

01 Feb 2012 1:55 PM

Great story Steve. Must of read at least 3 different versions,all with the same ending.

Tiznow and Queen Z are my two favorite horses in my lifetime.

01 Feb 2012 2:04 PM

If only our pro football teams exhibited the integrity and heart of our thoroughbred champions..we might have more to look forward to in the Super Bowl.

Sorry, Steve...Cowboys' fans never die, they just make a big stink about other teams...and they DO NOT root for the AFC in a championship.  Go Giants!

(It really was an excellent article, Steve, but I'm still a sore loser...uhhh...non-winner, I mean.)

01 Feb 2012 3:13 PM
Criminal Type

Trebloc, good to see you, Hope the family is well. I see your girl has a Rock Hard Ten filly. I will be watching for her next year.

01 Feb 2012 5:12 PM

All I want to do is watch the commercials -- and we don't get them in Toronto.

OK, I also want to watch the half-time show but is it me or is it becoming shorter and shorter each year?  Didn't they used to be the whole half-time and not just 8 to 10 mins of boredom?  (Except Shania Twain and her coat -- I loovved that one).

Also, one other bet this year: good game / bad game : what are the odds I will bother to watch the whole thing?  

p.s. Tiznow and Giant's Causeway - what a beautiful race.  

01 Feb 2012 5:15 PM

Steve, weigh in if you would on Pedigree Ann's comment about the use of tranquilizers to keep Tiznow from re-injuring his back when he galloped, how that taught him he didn't have to extend himself, leading to lackluster performances in the Woodward and Goodwood when he returned to the track. I've always wondered about the horse's seeming lack of interest in those two races and his sudden return to form in the Classic. Were you aware of this explanation ? Seems to be a fitting analysis for Tiznow's dull efforts in the Woodward and Goodwood. Those two races sure set him up for a price on BC day and, if Ann is right, we owe it all to tranquilizers.

01 Feb 2012 5:19 PM
Steve Haskin

He was given tranquilizers, which may have affected him in the Goodwood. When he came off tranquilizers he was a terror in the mornings and started doing all kinds of wild things, like trying to mount the pony, bolting across the track, and refusing to train until he was ready. Fortunately, he got rid of that several days after arriving at Belmont Park. Jay Robbins tried to get some vodka for him after his first day at Belmont, but all the liquor stores were closed.

01 Feb 2012 6:55 PM

Hey Steve, got any ideas about what thoroughbred inspired Cowboys coach Jason Garrett to freeze his own kicker? Sorry, but I just couldn't resist.

01 Feb 2012 6:58 PM
Stellar Jayne

Great story!  Smart man and coach that Belichick!  To bad people outside of the industry do not know this story about Tizway and how he was a model of courage for the Patriots.  It might inspire the public to attend races.

01 Feb 2012 7:47 PM


Thanks!  But long live all the football fans I don't begrudge them their sport.  My brother is a HUGE Jets fan and he and I have stood in MSG and talked hoops with Clyde himself but football is not my cup of tea or forte.  And all the little kids I saw in Morocco in the summer were sporting "Messi" shirts, Barcelona's star striker.  Very cool.  

On a lighter note the four-legged sports stars stay locked in all night, don't run amok getting harrassment charges slapped on them, mind their trainers, and don't send ridiculous text messages.

Some of the two-legged stars should follow their example!

01 Feb 2012 9:14 PM
Pedigree Ann

Re: Tiznow and tranquilizers

Sounds like he had withdrawal symptoms after being taken off the tranks. Can happen with many drugs, not just narcotics, and individuals vary in their susceptibility.

01 Feb 2012 10:47 PM

To anyone not enamored of football, may I suggest tuning into Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl?  It is the absolutely cutest sporting event on earth.  Puppies!  A kitty half time show!  Hamsters in an overhead blimp!  And, new this year, a piglet pep squad!  Watch the Super Bowl for the commercials and Puppy Bowl for the action.

02 Feb 2012 1:46 AM
Rachel NH

Whew, what an assignment, Steve...tracking down stories from 2001!

I have referenced an article that talks about the back and forth between Winstar, Taylor Made and Jay Robbins..

I can't find an article (yet) about the coach stopping multiple times to ask "who's going to win"...but I know it's out there!


If you give me an email address I can send you a picture of the framed shoes, cap and inscription.

02 Feb 2012 9:47 AM
Rachel NH

I can send you a picture of the poster, too.

02 Feb 2012 9:48 AM

Hi Karen from Texas,ty for introducing me to that fabulous website.Is there any way you can provide me with one of the promo codes so that I can receive more points for playing Derby Wars.

02 Feb 2012 4:21 PM
Dick Downey

A very nice story, and moving too, but I think I will bet on the Giants.

02 Feb 2012 7:06 PM


You are so right.  The Puppy Bowl is cute.  Yeah, the kitty half-time show!  What a scream!  And don't they have the dogs "tailgating" partying too!  And there is a camera under the water bowl at each goal so when the puppies stop to take a drink you see their faces lapping up the water!  If a puppy should have a little puddle accident on the field the ref guy picks up the puppy, sprays the field, and says, "puppy foul!!!" And the puppies can make touchdowns by carrying the stuffed animals or balls to the goal lines.  There are all breeds of puppies and they play and stumble over each other!

A very creative idea from Animal Planet.

02 Feb 2012 7:33 PM

Thanks Steve, great article. I recall the story the first time around and I also remember reading somewhere of Bill Belichick starting and stopping the tape and asking "Whose going to win"?

We were at the 2001 BC at Belmont right in the corner of the Clubhouse apron, at the gap up against the fence just past the finish line with a great view.  We were packed in with a lot of "Euros" who had been celebrating Johannesburg's earlier win in the Juvenile.  As the Classic approached there was a lot of good natured jawing going on as they were touting Sakhee big time.  As they came to the top of the stretch, they were going bonkers as we all thought Sakhee had it.  Then Tiznow displayed his grit and tenacity as we all were screaming watching him drive to victory.  We "Yanks" broke into the "USA,USA" cheer, letting the "Euros" have it, all in fun of course.  What a memorable afternoon and race, one of the most exciting live races I've witnessed and I've been to a few.

This past November we had our VIP Tour of WinStar, our last prize from winning the RoadtotheRoses.com contest from 2010.  It was a cool, rainy day and as we visited all the stallions in their paddocks, I walked over to Tiznow wanting to get some good pictures.  He was about 20 yards away, looking off and I quietly tried to coax him over closer, telling him what a great day that was watching him win his second BC Classic in a row.  He finally began to wander over, taking his time and came right up to me at the fence.  I took some good shots and he let me rub his forehead for a couple of seconds.  Though he was damp with some caked dirt on him and a scraggly, unkempt mane, he exuded class and majesty.  That moment is frozen in my memory.

Thanks, Steve, for reminding us of how champion thoroughbreds can touch us in so many different ways.    

02 Feb 2012 10:18 PM
Karen in Texas

NASCAR PRO---Glad you like the site, but I don't know anything about promo codes. Sorry!

Steve, thanks for the reminder of Tiznow's connection to the Patriots. I actually replay that 2001 BC Classic periodically as a source of inspiration for myself!

02 Feb 2012 11:41 PM

Thks, Steve, for weighing in on the tranquilizer question. Oh, drug withdrawal and its side effects, be it horse or man.  Glad to hear Robbins failed in his effort to get the colt on the hard stuff. Tiznow was strung out enough as it was on his sedatives.

03 Feb 2012 12:14 AM

Rachel NH, the story about Belichick stopping the tape and asking his team who he thought would win was printed in a Jan. 31, 2002, story in -- how would you say? -- a rival publication.

03 Feb 2012 12:57 AM

Oh, what a great article.  I also enjoyed reading all the posts too.  Thanks to Steve and all.

Tiznow was one of my first big intros to the sport.  

03 Feb 2012 4:34 PM

Hmm, Tom Coughlin must have shown his Giants the tapes of Forego's 1976 Marlboro - down to the wire and boom!

05 Feb 2012 10:33 PM

Recent Posts



Social Media

More Blogs