Two races earlier, the connections won the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) when their undefeated filly Zenyatta handed the 2007 Eclipse champion Ginger Punch a no-doubt-about-it defeat. The Oaklawn was a much more difficult proposition.
Heatseeker, the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) winner last month for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and jockey Rafael Bejarano, hooked up with Tiago in upper stretch and appeared to have a slight advantage approaching the finish. But Tiago, with one last desperate lunge, caught the wire just right to prevail.
Both the Irish-bred Heatseeker and Tiago had done most of their recent running on synthetic tracks in Southern California. But the dual grade I winner Tiago, a half-brtoher to the Moss' 2005 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Giacomo, also won the 2007 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) last year on dirt. Tiago ran fourth, four lengths behind Heatseeker, in the Big 'Cap March 1.
Tiago rated in fourth or fifth as Silver Lord and Buzzards Bay dueled for the early lead, but he was never far back, moving into contention on the final turn and getting the lead in upper stretch. Tiago disposed of Buzzards Bay, but Heatseeker, traveling on the outside, was soon on Tiago's flank. Neither warrior gave an inch through the lane.
The late-running Reporting for Duty came on to finish a distant third, 6 1/2 lengths back for jockey Shaun Bridgmohan. Circular Quay, the 5-2 second choice in the seven-horse field, failed to threaten at any point in the race and was beaten a neck for the show dough.
The final time for the 1 1/8-mile event was 1:50.34 on an Oaklawn Park rated fast. Fractional times were not available.
Tiago, a 4-year-old colt by Pleasant Tap-Set Them Free (by Stop the Music), earned $300,000 for his fifth lifetime win in 13 starts, increasing his bankroll to $1,684,270. The victory was his first since taking Oak Tree's Goodwood (gr. I) by a nose at Santa Anita last fall. He followed that with a fifth-place effort in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic -- Powered by Dodge (gr. I), and had lost his first three starts of 2008.
Sent off as the third choice, Tiago carried 117 pounds to victory and paid $8.80, $3.80, and $2.80. The 2-1 choice Heatseeker, who carried high weight of 119, returned $3.40 and $2.40 and rounded out a $2 exacta worth $30.40. Reporting for Duty, last for the first six furlongs, was $3.80 to show for trainer Steve Asmussen.
Circular Quay was followed by Buzzards Bay, Fairbanks and Silver Lord.
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