The ease of his 3 ½-length victory
in the Grade II, $150,000 San Fernando Stakes on Jan. 14 is bound to make
Tapizar a prohibitive favorite among eight entrants in the 65th
Strub, a race that has been won by such historic notables as Spectacular Bid,
Affirmed, Round Table, Alysheba and Silver Charm.
A leading Triple Crown candidate
last year before being sidelined by a knee chip in February, the strapping son
of Tapit returned in October. Tapizar’s third race back in the San Fernando
at 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.94 demonstrated that he was ready to meet the
elite among older horses.
Said jockey Corey Nakatani following
the wire-to-wire win, “He ran a tremendous race today. With his athletic
ability, he’s such an amazing horse. He’s a really big and muscular horse. He’s
huge. And when you get him in that high cruising speed, he just seems to do it
“He was unfortunate to get hurt,”
Asmussen said. “We were very pleased with his race in the San Fernando.
Hopefully we won’t get off track with him this year.” Owned and bred by
Winchell Thoroughbreds, Tapizar comes into the Strub with earnings of $263,032
from 4 wins in 9 starts.
He will have to contend with
Ultimate Eagle, a son of Mizzen Mast who will be making his first start on dirt
after posting upset victories on grass last year in the Grade II Oak Tree Derby
at odds of 34-1 and in the Grade I Hollywood Derby at 14-1. Trained by Michael
Pender for B. J. Wright, Ultimate Eagle is ridden by Martin Pedroza. The bay
colt has won 4 of 8 starts while earning $347,800.
Baffert entered a pair of
4-year-olds for Zayat Stables, millionaire Prayer for Relief and comebacking
Jaycito. Prayer for Relief, who last year captured the Grade III Iowa Derby,
Grade II West Virginia Derby and Grade II Super Derby, finished third, 3 ½
lengths behind Tapizar in the San Fernando. Regular pilot Bejarano rides Prayer
for Relief, whose 5-1-2 record in 11 starts has netted $1,033,225.
Jaycito has been on the shelf with
reported foot and throat ailments since August of last year. An erratic son of
Victory Gallop, Jaycito had shown signs of brilliance during his 2-year-old
season. He won the Grade I Norfolk Stakes at Hollywood Park after rallying for
second during a troubled run in the Grade I Del Mar Futurity.
Sent off at 5-1 odds in the
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs in 2010, Jaycito experienced a
nightmare trip when steadying early before swerving out past the middle of the
track entering the backstretch. After falling 15 lengths behind the ninth horse
in a field of 10, he wound up seventh behind victorious Uncle Mo.
With Martin Garcia set to ride,
Jaycito will be faced with a difficult assignment upon returning in an event
like the Strub. With a single victory and three second-place finishes in his
six-race career, the $110,000 sales purchase has earned $261,300.
The complete field for the Strub
Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Jaycito, Garcia, 118;
Prayer for Relief, Bejarano, 123; Beer Meister, Glenn Corbett, 118; Ultimate
Eagle, Martin Pedroza, 123; Clubhouse Ride, Espinoza, 118; Indian Winter,
Rosario, 118; Tapizar, Nakatani, 123, and Balladry, Talamo, 118.