Tiago, Johnny Eves Vie in 'Fernando
Photo: Benoit
Tiago returns to action in the San Fernando Stakes Jan. 12.
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Tiago, a two-time grade I winner last year making his first start since a fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic Powered by Dodge (gr. I), takes on Malibu (gr. I) victor Johnny Eves in the $200,000 San Fernando Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Jan. 12.

A field of a dozen 4-year-olds entered the 1 1/16-mile San Fernando, the second leg of Santa Anita's Strub series, which will be contested on Cushion Track. It is the richest of three graded races on the Santa Anita card.

Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss' Tiago, winner of the Goodwood (gr. I) and Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) last year, was given a 10-week break from racing following the Oct. 27 Breeders' Cup, in which the Pleasant Tap colt finished more than 18 lengths behind Curlin on a sloppy track at Monmouth Park. Prior to that effort, Tiago, racing on Santa Anita's synthetic track during the Oak Tree meet, nosed Awesome Gem gamely while racing on the inside in the Goodwood. Tiago's win in the Santa Anita Derby came on the conventional dirt track by a half-length over King of the Roxy.

During an outstanding 3-year-old campaign Tiago also won the Swaps (gr. II) while taking four of eight starts overall with earnings of $1,240,270. The bay will be united once again with Mike Smith, who has been aboard since the Santa Anita Derby.

“He looks like he’s ready,” trainer John Shirreffs said.

The California-bred Johnny Eves goes after his third successive victory for owner Mooncoin and trainer Jay Robbins. The Skimming gelding dueled on a sharp pace while racing on the outside down the backstretch of the seven-furlong Malibu Dec. 26 and won by one length. David Flores is the regular rider of Johnny Eves, who made his graded stakes debut at odds of 11-1 in the Malibu. The bay has competed almost exclusively as a sprinter during his 10-race career, which includes five victories and purses totaling $324,720.

Ravel, one of the leading 3-year-olds in the country last February before going to the sidelines for more than seven months with a leg injury, looks to bounce back from a fourth-place finish as the 6-5 choice in his first try against older horses in the 1 1/18-mile Native Diver Handicap (gr. III) at Hollywood Park Dec. 8. The Todd Pletcher trained son of Fusaichi Pegasus  , breaking from the rail in the Native Diver, proved difficult to handle in the early stages but finished up evenly for Garrett Gomez, who rides once more.

“Ravel is ready to go,” said Mike McCarthy, assistant to Todd Pletcher. “He had a bit of a troubled trip in the Native Diver. Every time Garrett wanted to move, he encountered problems. We’re hoping for better luck Saturday.”

Also looking for better after a sub-par performance is trainer Doug O'Neill, whose J. Paul Reddam colt Great Hunter returned in the Malibu. Making his first start since finishing 13th in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), Great Hunter was never involved in the Malibu at a distance far shorter than his best. The Aptitude colt wound up 11th. He will be seeking his first win since the Robert B. Lewis (gr. II) at Santa Anita in March.

Monterey Jazz switches to the Cushion Track for Craig Dollase after a front-running one-length win in the one-mile Sir Beaufort (gr. IIIT) on the grass Dec. 26. The 4-year-old Thunderello colt, with back-to-back turf wins to his credit, finished third in an allowance optional claiming race at six furlongs on the Santa Anita Cushion Track during the Oak Tree meeting.

Monzante, who defeated an allowance field in his U.S. debut for trainer Mike Mitchell at Hollywood Park in November, began his career in England with Roger Charlton. The Maria's Mon gelding won on a synthetic track at Kempton as a 2-year-old

Frank the Barber won the Garden State Handicap for New Jersey breds Oct. 25 at Monmouth in his most recent start for trainer Gregory Sacco. The Malibu Moon   gelding returns to the barn of Gary Stute for the San Fernando.

$200,000 San Fernando Stakes (gr. II, Race 10, 4:15 p.m.), 4-Year-Olds, 1 1/16 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Ravel (KY), 116, Garrett K. Gomez
2. Big Bad Leroybrown (CA), 118, Tyler Baze
3. Air Commander (KY), 116, Aaron T. Gryder
4. Johnny Eves (CA), 120, David R. Flores
5. Monzante (KY), 116, Michael C. Baze
6. Sahara Heat (KY), 118, Rafael Bejarano
7. Tiago (KY), 122, Mike E. Smith
8. Frank the Barber (NJ), 118, Victor Espinoza
9. Smooth and Savvy (KY), 116, Jon K. Court
10. Great Hunter (PA), 120, Corey S. Nakatani
11. Hurry Up Austin (FL), 116, Alex O. Solis
12. Monterey Jazz (KY), 120, Joseph Talamo

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