Owner Benjamin Leon spoke highly of Tapicat following her third-place finish first time out at Belmont Park, and in three starts since then she has rewarded his Besilu Stables with three straight wins on the turf.
The sophomore daughter of Tapit earned her first stakes victory and was just off the track record Feb. 2 while rolling to victory much the best in the $150,000 Florida Oaks (gr. IIIT) at Tampa Bay Downs (VIDEO).
"We really love her," Leon remarked after his filly took the 1 1/16-mile grass event in what was initially reported as a final time of 1:39.78. "We look for excellent pedigree, conformation and racing ability, and she has all three. We expected her to do well. She is an unbelievable filly."
Sent off the 4-5 favorite in a field of 10 3-year-old fillies, Tapicat made every pole a winning one. She led through a revised opening quarter in :24.41 and a half in :48.59 with Raven's Rockette, Cotton Pickin, and Mariel N Kathy in pursuit, maintaining about a one-length advantage over her rivals while moving with an easy cruising style.
"It looked like she did it the same way in her maiden race and allowance company; it looked easy for her," Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said. "She has a tremendous amount of early speed and a nice stride. And she seems to be able to carry her speed, so that's a dangerous combination."
Jockey Joel Rosario was along for the ride as the chestnut filly widened the distance on her own through three quarters in a revised 1:12.11 and then quickened away for a 1:35.94 mile, easily holding off the late run of Kitten's Dumplings to finish up by a 2 3/4-length margin. Wave Theory, a neck behind the runner-up, completed the trifecta.
"This is a very nice filly to be riding," Rosario remarked. "She broke well and took the lead comfortably, she settled right down and I was able to get her to relax. I wanted to have enough for the stretch run and no one came after us. When we got into the stretch she was still going along well, she was looking around a little midstretch, just seeing where she was. We won with something left."
"She's had three races this winter and I kind of planned on not running her right back," Mott said. "I supposed we will have to consider if we want to take a chance on the synthetic in the (April 6) Ashland (gr. I) at Keeneland."
Tapicat returned $3.80, $3 and $2.40 while 8-1 Kitten's Dumplings paid $6 and $3.60 and 5-2 Wave Theory brought $2.80. Rusty Slipper, Raven's Rockette, Floral Sky, Cindys Casino, Cotton Pickin, Caraquista, and Mariel N Kathy rounded out the order of finish. Toasting and Jadira scratched.
Mott moved Tapicat from dirt to turf after her third-place debut at Belmont last Oct. 28. She broke her maiden by three-quarters of a length after leading at every point in a 1 1/16-mile event at Gulfstream Park Dec. 2, and came back Jan. 9 to take a one-mile optional claimer by 5 1/4 lengths in similar fashion.
Bred in Kentucky by Winchell Thoroughbreds and Gainesway Thoroughbreds out of the Storm Cat mare Zealous Cat, Tapicat was a $725,000 purchase at the 2011 Keeneland Associaton September yearling sale when consigned by Gainesway, agent. The Florida Oaks victory improved her record to three wins and a third from four starts, for earnings of $118,100.