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Tiago edged Awesome Gem in the 2007 Goodwood.
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Large Big 'Cap Field Could Benefit Tiago

Regular rider Mike Smith expects an honest pace with 14 likely for 1 1/4-mile event.

(from Santa Anita notes)

The stretch-running Tiago is expected to face 13 rivals in the $1-million Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I)  March 7, but as far as jockey Mike Smith is concerned, the packed field will be better for the 5-year-old son of Pleasant Tap.

Potential traffic problems are always a risk in a bulky field, but Smith sees the the 1 1/4-mile Big 'Cap differently for his two-time grade I winner. Tiago, owned by Jerry and Ann Moss and trained by John Shirreffs, worked six furlongs over Hollywood Park’s main track March 1 in 1:13 1/5.

“A full field is actually better for me, even though I come from off of it,” the 43-year-old Hall of Fame rider said. “The main reason is because the pace will be honest. Look at the last race; the pace was unbelievably slow.

Smith noted that Tiago came with his usual stretch run in his last start, the 1 1/8-mile San Antonio Handicap (gr. II) on Feb. 8, but could only manage third after chasing fractions of :49 2/5 for the half mile and 1:13 4/5 for six furlongs. The final time for the victorious Magnum was 1:49. 

“With a full field, at least you know the race is going to be honest, which is good for me; plus the fact that the San Antonio was Tiago’s first race off a layoff, and he’s come back and worked dynamite since. I like him. He’s always a horse to reckon with. He’s always right there."

Smith said Tiago, a half-brother to 2005 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Giacomo, isn't intimidated by large fields.

"He doesn’t really mind," the jockey said. "He’ll go through, inside, outside; he doesn’t care. He doesn’t mind getting bounced around.”

Smith is looking forward to facing some of the best jockeys in the nation, who will be in town for a big stakes card that also includes the $300,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap (gr. IT) on the turf and the $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I).

“That makes it even better,” Smith said of facing the likes of top invaders Robbie Albarado, Ramon Dominguez, Julien Leparoux, Edgar Prado, and John Velazquez, in addition to Santa Anita leaders Garrett Gomez and Rafael Bejarano.

“I want to win no matter what, but I like the fact that you have a lot of veterans who know what they’re doing. You have fewer mistakes, so when a guy’s supposed to zig, he zigs, instead of zags."

Probable for the 72nd Big ‘Cap: Blue Exit, Robbie Albarado, 115; Cause, Jon Court, 110; Champs Elysees, Jose Valdivia Jr., 118; Colonel John, Garrett Gomez, 119; Court Vision, Ramon Dominguez, 119; Cowboy Cal, John Velazquez, 120; Dansant, Tyler Baze, 116; Einstein, Julien Leparoux, 121; Heroi Do Bafra, Martin Garcia, 111; Magnum, Joel Rosario, 116; Matto Mondo, Rafael Bejarano, 116; Monba, Edgar Prado, 114; Nownownow, Alex Solis, 116; Tiago, Mike Smith, 118; and Zambezi Sun, Victor Espinoza, 116.