Tapiture put away early leader Laddie Boy in the stretch and then drew off to register a 4 1/4-length knockout victory in the $175,200 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) Nov. 30 at Churchill Downs (VIDEO).
The Winchell Thoroughbreds' homebred entered the race as a maiden but the Tapit colt had shown his ability in the Iroquois Stakes (gr. III), where he seized the lead in mid-stretch of the Sept. 7 test at Churchill Downs before finishing a close third. Tapiture entered off a third-place finish in an Oct. 27 maiden special weight race at Churchill where he led early and carried that advantage into the stretch before fading.
Returning to his rating style in the Kentucky Jockey Club, Tapiture delivered a key move entering the far turn. He quickly improved position from fifth to second, responding to encouragement from jockey Ricardo Santana Jr., who secured a Churchill graded stakes for the first time in his career.
"My horse is a little green; he doesn't know how to run yet," Santana said. "He's been waiting to go long. I loved my horse today. I thought I had a big chance. My horse had run three times already and he's learning. I had a lot of confidence in my horse. When I asked him he finished really good."
Tapiture tracked Laddie Boy through the far turn before striking the front in six furlongs in 1:11.86. Tapiture then put on a show as he drew off to the easy victory, completing 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.51 on a fast track.
Trainer Steve Asmussen picked up his second Kentucky Jockey Club victory as he saddled Private Vow to victory in the 2005 edition of the 1 1/16-mile race for 2-year-olds. Asmussen said it's nice to have another quality homebred for the Winchells. Tapiture will move on to Fair Grounds for the winter and spring.
"It was pretty crowded going into the first turn," Asmussen said. "I really liked the way he handled and got good position. Ricardo rode him really well."
Tapiture returned $8.60 to win, $4.60 to place, and $3.20 to show. Kevin Jacobsen's Laddie Boy, sent off at 19-1, held second and returned $19.20 to place and $8.20 to show while John Oxley's Awesome Sky, who made a big move in the far turn, settled for third and paid $5.20 to show.
With the victory and his third-place finish in the Iroquois, Tapiture now has 12 points in the early going in the Road to the Kentucky Derby points standings. Saturday's race awarded Tapiture 10 points, Laddie Boy 4, Awesome Sky 2, and fourth-place finisher Buck Magic 1.
The victory by Tapiture follows the September Churchill score by Winchell Thoroughbreds' homebred juvenile filly Untapable, also by Tapit, in the Pocahontas Stakes (gr. II). Out of the winning Olympio mare Free Spin, Tapiture is a full brother to stakes-winning colt Retap and stakes-winning filly Remit.
The complexion of the race changed when 6-5 morning-line favorite Almost Famous, who figured to race on the lead from his inside post position, was scratched a few hours before the race because of a stone bruise in his left hind foot.
"So we've got a horse that's not at 100% and we've decided we can't take a risk and run him. It's just bad timing, but unfortunately that's the game," said trainer Pat Byrne. "It's a timing thing. The bottom line is it's a timing thing. It's the kind of thing that happens all the time. If it happened last week or next week, we'd be fine."