Sometimes all a colt needs is a little time. When the hammer fell on a Monday evening back in 2010 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Ron Winchell had agreed to shell out $450,000 to acquire a strapping gray colt by Tapit. As a full brother to the nice filly and Comely Stakes winning, Touching Beauty, the colt had every right to be a good one.
Flash forward to last summer at Saratoga, where in my only day at the Spa in 2012, I not only saw future Breeders’ Cup Classic champion, Fort Larned, get the better of Bill Mott’s powerful duo of Ron the Greek and Flat Out in the Whitney, but I also had the pleasure of seeing that strapping gray colt finally break his maiden. After nine months away from the races, Tritap broke through in his fourth lifetime race. I was impressed with the tenaciousness he demonstrated as held on to a narrow lead practically the entire race. Once a promising youngster, he narrowly lost all three starts as a juvenile to a bunch of good horses, Tritap was now back as a late-developing three-year-old. A pair of losses would follow, first in an allowance race at Saratoga and then in the Indiana Derby, but both of his efforts were better than they appear on paper, or at least in my estimation, they were.
His second win finally came when trainer Steve Asmussen dropped him back into an allowance race at the extended distance of 1 3/16 miles under the twin spires of Churchill Downs. Much like the day I had seen him in person, Tritap again showed a tenacious streak, as he would not be denied victory despite being bothered by the runner-up. I like horses that show courage, and I liked Tritap’s next race even better.
“He ran his butt off,” said rider, Corey Nakatani following the San Fernando, in which he broke from post position nine. “We had a real good position but he also had to do quite a bit from the (post) position we had. He ran a dynamite race and it was unfortunate that we got beat.”
The bang-up second place performance at odds of 9-1 in the Grade 2 San Fernando has me convinced that the time of Tritap is finally upon us. No longer a youngster full of promise, the now mature four-year-old hopes to make the history-rich, Grade 2 Strub his first ever stakes victory in his ninth lifetime start. Nakatani, who rode him for the first time in the San Fernando, will again be in the irons.
If I’m right, and a full-fledged coming out party is in store for Tritap on Saturday at Santa Anita, he will have to beat a competitive group of four-year-old colts to do so. Fed Biz was his game vanquisher last time, and deserves favoritism on Saturday, although this time, Tritap will get a helpful five-pound shift in the weights from the co-highweight. The other highweight is Handsome Mike, who can be a little in and out at times, but can also be tough as nails on occasion, as evidenced by his Pennsylvania Derby score. The lightly raced Guilt Trip should also take some serious money, as he closed fast to get into the photo with Fed Biz and Tritap in the San Fernando, in only his second start since moving to the Bob Baffert barn. And last but not least, I also see the improving and well bred, Stephanoatsee, as a real threat to be closing fast in his first race in California.
It may not have the glamorous names of past Strub winners, but this is a solid field, and one in which, in a field full of bays, I favor the gray, Tritap, to carry the day.