Jay Robbins figured it was time to smell the roses while both he and the flowers were still above ground.
The only trainer to win back-to-back Breeders’ Cup Classics, the
67-year-old Pasadena native officially called it a career Wednesday
after more than four decades on the job. He will go down in racing
history as the only trainer to send out a repeat winner of the Classic,
having done so in 2000 and 2001 with the California-bred Tiznow, who was
named Horse of the Year in 2000.
“I’ve been thinking about retirement for a year or so,” said
Robbins, who saddled his first winner with Kenavo in 1971 at Hollywood
Park. “The uncertainty of the industry was more of a concern to me than
anything else. I don’t handle what’s going on here that well.”
Another difficult but less important transition for Robbins will
be adjusting to new sack- time hours. “The hard part will be learning
how to sleep in,” he said. “All these years I’ve been used to getting up
at 3:15 to be at the barn by 4:45.”
Agent Scott McClellan, who represented Tiznow’s jockey, Hall of
Famer Chris McCarron, recounted a memorable incident during his long
association with Robbins.
“Chris was scheduled to breeze Tiznow a mile before the 2001
Classic but the horse was getting smarter in his old age,” McClellan
recalled. “A week before the mile breeze, McCarron was on Tiznow to
break off at the wire but the horse wouldn’t break off.
“He goes into the turn and he’s stopping, refusing, won’t break
off. Now he’s over by the gate, still won’t break off. He finally got to
the half-mile pole--this is 40 minutes later, mind you, not 10--so I
suggested to Jay, ‘Why don’t we see if we can get him in the gate?’
“He says, ‘That’s a good idea,’ and just then, Tiznow broke off
at the half-mile pole. He worked a mile, from the half-mile pole, all
the way around back to the half-mile pole, in 1:35 and change.
“Now I’m thinking, Jay ain’t gonna ship and run this horse. He
won’t even work. Sure enough, a week later, he wins the Breeders’ Cup.”