The slower economy of the past few years may be the cause of some excellent racing in 2012. The downturn in the breeding industry may be why many owners are keeping their four and five year-old horses in training. There just doesn’t seem to be a big rush to send them to the breeding shed. I am looking for To Honor and Serve to be a major factor in the Older Male division in 2012. The now four year-old Bernardini colt ended last year with two dazzling performances.
As a two year-old To Honor and Serve looked like a Triple Crown contender after wins in the Nashua (G2) and Remsen (G2) in New York. Those victories earned him a three-month winter break. The Live Oaks Plantation colt came out of third place finishes in both the Fountain of Youth (G2) and the Florida Derby (G1) with a leg injury that laid him up for four months and cut short his shot at the Triple Crown races.
With Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott handling To Honor and Serve’s conditioning there is little doubt that he will be ready for every well selected 2012 race. There is no trainer in the country that is better at patiently preparing horses for the right spots. His Ladies Classic and Classic training double in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup with Royal Delta and Drosselmeyer earned him his third Eclipse Award. His previous Top Trainer titles came in 1995 and 1996. Mott is also a master at keeping his horses ready to run big, as he did with the great Cigar during his 16 race win streak.
Mott brought To Honor and Serve back to the races with a win in an optional claiming allowance at Saratoga. A month later in the Pennsylvania Derby (G2) the colt smashed the mile and an eighth stakes record with a dazzling time of 1:47.34 that earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 105. That performance probably led to the decision to run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The best he could do in the Classic was a seventh place performance. What impressed me the most was that To Honor and Serve ran the best race of his career three weeks after the Classic. Very few horses can come out of a Breeders’ Cup race and run well. To Honor and Serve won the Cigar Mile (G1) in 1:33.89 in what was certainly a fitting tribute to Mott’s finest runner, Cigar. That effort earned another triple digit Beyer of 104.
In his 11 race career To Honor and Serve has won six times including three grade two victories and a grade one for total earnings $1,146,340. He is going to be a 2012 stakes winner and he will be competing at distances from seven furlongs to a mile and eighth. I know that I will be at Belmont Park on May 28th, to see To Honor and Serve get his next grade one victory in the Metropolitan Mile.
For me, 2011 came to a celebratory climax last night in Beverly Hills. Congratulations to all the horses, and humans, excellent and lucky enough to come home with the hardware … yadda, yadda, yadda. I say out with the old and in with the new. I welcome the new racing season with all the vigor that Orson Wells would have had for an all-you-can-eat buffet and the good news is much of what we enjoyed on the racetrack last year is coming back in 2012. But the even better news is that you can bet we will see new horses stepping up to heights for whatever reason they were never able to reach before. One such horse I believe to be on the verge of a breakout season is Tapizar.
There can be no doubt To Honor and Serve has accomplished more than Tapizar so far, but we are after all looking for a horse to bust out of the ordinary, and into the extraordinary this year. To those ends, I look to Tapizar as a wonderful source of untapped potential ready to bubble over his soon to be overmatched competition. Starting with his juvenile season, the talent laden son of Tapit was a work in progress. After three failed attempts in the maiden ranks, including dumping his rider in his second race, a light bulb went off and Tapizar found himself 10 ½ lengths the best in his juvenile finale at Churchill Downs.
After a blitzing win in the Sham Stakes to begin his sophomore season, Tapizar was one of the “now” horses this time last year. 2011 was not meant to be though, as he was injured in his next race. For those who saw a world of potential in Tapizar last winter were left to be patient and hope that champion trainer Steve Asmussen and his staff could bring the handsome bay colt better than ever. Clearly Asmussen knows how to train top horses, and Tapizar has come back looking great.
While To Honor and Serve has had more chances against the big boys, Tapizar really has not. He returned from his injury by dominating a stakes quality allowance race. Running 1:21 flat, Tapizar left good horses Uptowncharlybrown and Boys at Tosconova in his wake. From there he was thrust right into the frying pan. In fact let’s compare; To Honor and Serve had three months and three races to prepare for a run at the Breeders’ Cup. Meanwhile, Tapizar had just one 7 furlong race and three weeks to prepare for the big day. Both horses menaced respectively in the Classic and the Dirt Mile, before weakening late.
The Cigar Mile was nice, but I will remind you that beating Hymn Book and Calibrachoa does not prove that he will ever beat the very best. How about Tapizar coming back from his BC experience with the recent romp in the San Fernando at Santa Anita? It was two-turns, he came from the outside post, with a short run to the first turn, and absolutely coasted. Moreover, it starts 2012 on a great note, and at a track where many key races will be run early in the year, before of course the Breeders’ Cup comes to town in the fall.
Listen, I like To Honor and Serve, and what he has already done, but if you ask me which horse has more potential to do huge things in 2012, I am going to go with Tapizar. I see him as a horse brimming with yet to be tapped potential. With the kind of speed and talent that he has, coupled with his love for Santa Anita, I like his chances for big things in 2012. He is already off to a great start.