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Jan 21, 2011

Tapizar proved he is for real

By: by Jeff Frank, Sports Analyst

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Only four other horses lined up to face Tapizar this past Saturday and the son of Tapit showed why with a 4 1/4-length victory over Clubhouse Ride in the 11th running of the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita.

Tapizar burst on the scene last November (after three straight defeats) with a 10 1/2-length score at Churchill Downs and the public bet him down to even- money in his three-year-old debut.

The Steve Asmussen-trained colt battled with Uncle Sam early in the 1 1/16- mile race, dueling for the lead in a sharp 22 3/5 first quarter. He followed that up with another 22 3/5 second quarter while opening up a two-length advantage. All Tapizar had to do from there was hold off a slight charge from Clubhouse Ride and he did so with ease, despite vigorous urging at the eighth- pole from jockey Garrett Gomez.

The time in the 1 1/16-mile race was a brisk 1:40 1/5 but the bay colt did run his final 2 1/2-furlongs in a slow 31 2/5 seconds. However, the final clocking was still a full second faster than Indian Firewater, who ran in the San Fernando Stakes for older horses later in the card.

Despite Tapizar's two-race winning streak, it's not a given he'll be a major player on the first Saturday in May since his Tapit-Winning Call pedigree isn't geared to winning over the 10-furlong Kentucky Derby distance. His big test will come in his next race: the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at 1 1/8-miles on Feb. 12.

Monday's three-year-old stakes race at Santa Anita was the San Pedro. Indian Winter (10-1) rallied late for the one-half length victory over City Cool. Nevertheless, the one to watch is Sinai, who not only broke a step slow out of the gate, but also had to steady approaching the far turn. The third-place finisher is not a Derby candidate due to a sprinters pedigree, but he has a chance to improve in his next outing.


Super Saver's half-brother, the undefeated Brethren, is scheduled to make his next start in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 12. Now it looks as if he will have some company in the form of Manicero, who prevailed by one-half length in the seven-furlong Pasco Stakes.

This was Manicero's fourth victory in a row, the last three coming in stakes events. The Florida-bred colt has yet to race past seven furlongs but don't be shocked if he's able to carry his speed much farther since his pedigree suggests he'll be even stronger as the distances increase.

His dam Ritzy Blitz is a half-sister to Thunder Blitz - fourth in the 2001 Kentucky Derby. In addition, Ritzy Blitz's granddam, Ratifia, is a half to Sassafras, the 1970 Arc de Triomphe winner. In addition, Manicero's sire, Mass Media, is by 1997 Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold, who is a half-brother to With Approval - the 1989 Canadian Triple Crown winner.

Surprisingly, the March foal wasn't the favorite in the Pasco as the public backed Read the Contract, who finished a dull fourth. Manicero paid $7.60 for the win after holding off Bert B Don. Depeche Chat rallied late for third. The time of 1:24 2/5 was four-fifths of a second faster than three-year-old filly Devilish Lady needed to win the Gasparilla two races earlier.


Saturday at Golden Gate Fields was another big day for Positive Response, who won his third straight taking the California Derby by 2 3/4-lengths over Jakesam. The 7-5 favorite showed a different tactic coming from off the pace after a pair of gate-to-wire victories. Nevertheless, he ran his final 2 1/2- furlongs in a slow 32 4/5 seconds and the field he beat was second rate. If trainer William Morey keeps him in Northern California, he'll surely be tested by Comma to the Top in the El Camino Real Derby on Feb. 12.

The Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park gave trainer Donnie Von Hemel another Derby prospect to go along with Alternation.

Caleb's Posse avenged his loss to Grant Jack in the Springboard Mile with a 2 3/4-length triumph at odds of 4-1. It was his first win in three tries at the one mile distance. Caleb's Posse, who has now won three of his last four starts, might return next in the one-mile Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 21.

Over at Aqueduct, Fort Hughes ran the fastest six-furlong race at the current meeting (1:08 1/5) downing five foes in the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes at 7-5 odds. However, don't expect the son of Henny Hughes to stretch his speed around two turns.

Besides the five stakes races, there was one allowance event from Saturday at Oaklawn Park that could go a long way in deciphering the Kentucky Derby picture.

Alternation and Elite Alex hooked up in a tremendous race with the former getting the victory by a head while the latter finished a neck in front of Commander for second. It was a gap of almost 10-lengths to the fourth-place finisher.

The final time of 1:42 was not that impressive considering $7,500 claimers went 1:41 3/5 two races later. Still, it was a full second faster than Caleb's Posse ran in the Smarty Jones. Furthermore, one could argue that even in defeat, Elite Alex came away with a license to improve down the road.

Making his first start since early July, the Tim Ritchey-trained colt broke extremely slow from the gate, costing him several lengths in the process. After trailing by a good 10-lengths early on, he closed stoutly in the five- path approaching the top of the stretch and just missed in the three-horse photo while finishing his final quarter-mile in 25 seconds flat.

Finally, in maiden races last weekend, first-time starter Supreme Ruler rallied to win by a length in the race just prior to Alternation. The son of Don't Get Mad paid $71.20 for the victory despite his dam, Smolensk, being a half-sister to Better Than Honour, who produced two Belmont Stakes winners in Rags to Riches and Jazil.

At Gulfstream Park on Saturday, another firster, Heron Lake, got the job done by a head over Hammersmith. The favorite, Arch Traveler, finished a disappointing third, with Break Up the Game fourth in the seven-furlong race. Heron Lake is by Bernardini out of a Storm Cat mare whose dam is a half-sister to 1985 Belmont Stakes winner Creme Fraiche.

Also on Saturday, Richard Dutrow Jr. unleashed Flashpoint to a 6 1/4-length score over Simba's Story at Aqueduct. As is the case with the Jimmy Winkfield winner, Fort Hughes, it is doubtful the son of Pomoroy will be keyed up to win races over a mile in distance. However, don't count him out in the seven- furlong Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 26.

On Sunday at Santa Anita, Bob Baffert saddled Da Ruler to victory in 1:14 2/5 for 6 1/2-furlongs. With The Factor in his barn, it's unrealistic to think he'll pit both of them against each other in the San Vicente on Feb. 20, but keep an eye on Da Ruler, who easily ran to his workout tab with a solid win over Albergatti.


The first three-year-old "race of the year" comes up this weekend and it's not the LeComte Stakes at Fair Grounds where Wilkinson should turn the tables on Justin Phillip.

Friday's ninth at Gulfstream Park lines up six Kentucky Derby contenders led by Nick Zito's Dialed In. The 1 1/8-mile allowance race also sports Soldat, the second-place finisher in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf; Cool Blue Red Hot, who rolled by 3 1/4-lengths at 1-10 odds to break his maiden last November; Lauburu, another colt that won first time out; Beamer, who won by 5 1/2-lengths in his second start for the same connections that won the 2007 Kentucky Derby with Street Sense; and Financial Empire, who like Lauburu won his debut for trainer Todd Pletcher.

This will be a tough test for Dialed In considering he's stretching out from 6 1/2-furlongs to 1 1/8-miles off a two-month layoff, and other than Lauburu, he's the only horse in the race that has not gone at least one mile. Furthermore, since there are no graded earnings on the line, there's no urgency to win at all costs.

All in all, a very contentious race with the top three or four finishers moving forward to the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 26.

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