TAPIZAR BACK IN TOP FORM WITH 3 1/2-LENGTH VICTORY IN GRADE II SAN FERNANDO STAKES

ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 14, 2012) – Tapizar, a highly-promising 3-year-old last year before a bone chip knocked him off the Triple Crown trail, began 2012 by running away from his 4-year-old opposition Saturday in Santa Anita’s 60th running of the Grade II, $150,000 San Fernando Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.

Winchell Thoroughbred’s homebred son of Tapit took control early under Corey Nakatani and opened up on the backside. As the field closed in rounding the far turn, 11-10 choice Tapizar bounded away before crossing the wire 3 ½ lengths ahead of runner-up Balladry.

Balladry, a 15-1 shot ridden by Joe Talamo, nosed out trainer Bob Baffert’s Prayer for Relief, the 2-1 second choice with Rafael Bejarano aboard, in the field of seven. The final time was 1:41.94.

The powerful victory by the striking bay colt put Tapizar in the leadership role heading into Santa Anita’s historic Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds on Feb. 4 and eventually perhaps the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on March 3.

The San Fernando was Tapizar’s first start since fading to fifth behind Caleb’s Posse in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5.

“I just wanted to get him to relax and run his race,” Nakatani said in the winner’s circle, “and that’s what he did. He ran an amazing race today, and, with his athletic ability, he’s such an amazing horse.”

“I’m glad he’s back at a venue that shows who he is,” said trainer Steve Asmussen. Tapizar suffered the bone chip in his knee after finishing fifth as the 3-10 favorite in Santa Anita’s Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes last Feb. 12. He previously had won the Grade III Sham Stakes by 4 ¼ lengths.

“Hopefully, we won’t get off track with him this year,” Asmussen said. “We’re very pleased with today’s race and hopefully he’ll come out of it good. This horse has always showed a lot of talent and hopefully we can stay on track with him.

“You’ve got a very good (Strub) series out here at Santa Anita,” continued the Eastern-based trainer who last November became the youngest conditioner in history to reach the 6,000-win milestone at the age of 46. “He’s run two good races over the course now, so we’ve just got to do our job and point him in the right direction. Hopefully, we’ll have a lot to say about the rest of the meet.”

Tapizar’s dominant victory in the San Fernando was his fourth career win in nine starts. The winning purse of $90,000 brought his career earnings to $263,032. He paid $4.20, $3.60 and $2.60. Balladry paid $9.60 and $3.80. The show price on Prayer for Relief was $2.40.

The 61st running of the Grade II, $150,000 Santa Ynez Stakes for 3-year-old fillies heads Sunday’s nine-race program that includes the $75,000 Paseana Handicap for fillies and mares. First post is at 12:30 p.m.

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