The two-time grade I winner heads a deep field in the 1 1/8-mile San Antonio, the last major prep locally for older horses with designs on the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) March 7. Among those lining up to face Tiago on Santa Anita's Pro-Ride main track are grade I winners Well Armed, who is the defending San Antonio winner, and Champs Elysees, a turf standout in 2008 who carries top weight of 120 pounds.
Owned and bred by Jerry and Ann Moss, Tiago looks to snap a four-race losing skid in the San Antonio. The last victory for the 5-year-old son of Pleasant Tap came in April when trainer John Shirreffs shipped to Arkansas to win the Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) by a head over Heatseeker. The big bay has proven his proficiency at Santa Anita, winning both the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) in 2006 and the Goodwood Stakes (gr. I) the following year.
Tiago brings a 5-3-4 lifetime record into the San Antonio with earnings of $2,334,270. Regular rider Mike Smith will break Tiago from the 8 post under 119 pounds.
Following Well Armed's perfectly timed win under Aaron Gryder in the Goodwood, trainer Eoin Harty opted to go in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile instead of the Classic. But the race was loaded with trouble for the WinStar Farm homebred, who was made the 6-5 favorite. The son of Tiznow did not break with leaders, as he usually does, and was forced to steady a couple of times, struggling home ninth of 12.
Well Armed returned in the Jan. 10 San Pasqual Handicap (gr. II) as the 3-2 choice. He stalked the pacesetter Cowboy Cal into the lane, mounting a challenge mid-stretch. But Well Armed was steadied late and was tagged for third by San Antonio foe Magnum while two lengths behind Cowboy Cal.
Harty hopes to get his 6-year-old charge back on his game for the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) March 28, a race Well Armed finished third in last year.
Gryder will once again ride Well Armed, who won last year's San Antonio by a head over Heatseeker in a front-running effort at 14-1. The bay gelding has won six of 21 starts and earned $1,539,803. They will break from post 10 while also carrying 119 pounds.
The versatile 6-year-old Champs Elysees, trained by Bobby Frankel for Juddmonte Farms, ran eighth in the Breeders' Cup Classic. The British-bred son of Danehill, out of Hasili, returned to top form, however, with a half-length triumph in the Dec. 6 Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. IT), his most recent start. Third in the Santa Anita Handicap last year, Champs Elysees also won the Northern Dancer (Can-IT) on a yielding Woodbine grass course in September.
Garrett Gomez takes over on Champs Elysees, who is positioned between the other two big guns in the San Antonio in post 9. Champs Elysees has a career mark of 5-6-5 in 21 starts while earning $1,354,761. Champs Elysees worked five furlongs on the Pro-Ride Feb. 1 in 1:01.
Trainer Darrell Vienna is expecting a big effort from the Argentina-bred Magnum, who ran third in the San Pasqual at odds of 77-1 in his first start in nearly six months. The 8-year-old was gelded prior to the San Pasqual.
“He ran well,” said Vienna. “He had a problem with one of his testacles, so we gelded him about two or three months before the San Pasqual.”
Magnum’s only stakes win in 17 U.S. starts came in the 2006 Lone Star Park Handicap (gr. III). The son of El Compinche has a 5-3-2 record from 25 starts, with earnings of $699,249.
Informed , who was nosed by Cowboy Cal in the San Pasqual at odds of 28-1, breaks from the far outside post under Michael Baze with a feathery 113-pound impost. The 5-year-old son of Tiznow was floated out late by Cowboy Cal after making a four-wide bid to nearly get the upset. The bay horse seeks his first stakes win for Doug O'Neill.
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer opted for this spot rather than the Strub Stakes (gr. II) a day earlier for the 4-year-old Dakota Phone, who ran second to Nownownow with a big late charge in the San Fernando Stakes (gr. II) Jan. 17. The Zavata gelding will have to overcome the rail post but enlists the services of top jockey Rafael Bejarano.
The millionaire Becrux switches from the turf for trainer John Sadler following a fourth-place finish in the San Gabriel Handicap (gr. IIT) Dec. 28. The Team Valor and Gary Barber-owned 7-year-old Italian-bred gelding ran third in the Citation Handicap (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park a month before the San Gabriel. He also won a conditioned allowance race on Santa Anita's synthetic track during the Oak Tree meet last fall.
$200,000 San Antonio Handicap (gr. II, Race 8, 4:07 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Dakota Phone (KY), 116, Rafael Bejarano
2. Becrux (ITY), 116, Chantal Sutherland
3. Stream Cat (KY), 115, Joseph Talamo
4. Magnum (ARG), 113, Joel Rosario
5. Marchfield (ON), 116, Patrick Husbands
6. Racketeer (KY), 112, Tyler Baze
7. Ferneley (IRE), 115, Victor Espinoza
8. Tiago (KY), 119, Mike E. Smith
9. Champs Elysees (GB), 120, Garrett K. Gomez
10. Well Armed (KY), 119, Aaron T. Gryder
11. Informed (KY), 113, Michael C. Baze