Off his scintillating front-running triumph in the San Fernando Stakes (gr. II) lat month, Tapizar will be a heavy choice when he faces seven opponents in the $200,000 Strub Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Feb. 4.
The 1 1/8-mile Strub, like the San Fernando, is restricted to 4-year-olds. It is the eighth race on the program with a 4:07 p.m. PST post, the last of three grade II events on the card.
Trained by Steve Asmussen, the speedy Tapizar won the San Fernando by 3 3/4 lengths as the 11-10 favorite and the additional sixteenth of a mile should have little effect. Of more importance is that there appears to be only one other horse, Ultimate Eagle, that is capable of putting any sort of pressure on the free-running Tapit colt.
Ultimate Eagle won the Oak Tree Derby (gr. IIT) and Hollywood Derby (gr. I) on the grass consecutively in front-running fashion to conclude in last season. But he has never raced on dirt before.
Tapizar has been the Strub distance just once previously, finishing fifth in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita one year ago. A knee chip subsequently sidelined Tapizar, who was one of the leading contenders on the early Triple Crown trail. The victory in the San Fernando was his third start since returning last October. The strapping colt ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.94 that day, earning a 97 Beyer speed figure.
Owned by his breeder, Winchell Thoroughbreds, Tapizar has won four of nine races while banking $263,032. Corey Nakatani, aboard in the San Fernando, rides once again.
Ultimate Eagle posted a couple of huge surprises to conclude last year's 3-year-old turf series, scoring at 34-1 in the Oak Tree Derby and at 14-1 in the Hollywood Derby. Michael Pender trains the son of Mizzen Mast for B.J. Wright. The bay colt, third in his most recent try in the one-mile Sir Beaufort (gr. IIT) Dec. 26, has won four of eight starts with three thirds and earnings of $347,800.
Tapizar and Ultimate Eagle, who will be ridden by Martin Pedroza, are each assigned top weight of 123 pounds.
Trainer Bob Baffert starts a pair in the Strub, both breaking from the inside. Seldom-seen Jaycito breaks from the rail in his first start since last August at Del Mar. Martin Garcia rides. Prayer for Relief , third in the San Fernando, goes from post 2 with Rafael Bejarano aboard.
Zayat Stables' millionaire Prayer for Relief captured the Iowa Derby (gr. III), West Virginia Derby (gr. II), and Super Derby (gr. II) as part of a four-race win streak last year. The Jump Start colt finished 3 1/2 lengths behind Tapizar last time.
Jaycito won the Norfolk Stakes (gr. I) at Hollywood as a 2-year-old but has raced just three times since. He has been on the shelf with reported foot and throat ailments since last summer.
Darley Stable's Balladry, a son of Unbridled's Song out of the 1996 champion filly Storm Song, returns off his runner-up finish in the San Fernando. The gray/roan colt rallied from last in his first stakes appearance for trainer Eoin Harty.
$200,000 Strub Stakes (Race 8, 4:07 p.m.), 4YOs, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Jaycito (KY), M Garcia, 118, B Baffert
2. Prayer for Relief (KY), R Bejarano, 123, B Baffert
3. Beer Meister (KY), G W Corbett, 118, M Ortiz Sr.
4. Ultimate Eagle (KY), M A Pedroza, 123, M Pender
5. Clubhouse Ride (KY), V Espinoza, 118, C A Lewis
6. Indian Winter (KY), J Rosario, 118, J Hollendorfer
7. Tapizar (KY), C S Nakatani, 123, S M Asmussen
8. Balladry (KY), J Talamo, 118, E G Harty
Blinkers On: Indian Winter