Stakes Advance 2/5/09 - Tiago Set For San Antonio, Faces Champs Elysees, Well Armed

ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 5, 2009) – Multi-millionaire Tiago, freshened since closing swiftly for third in Oak Tree’s $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Oct. 25, returns to action Sunday in Santa Anita’s 71st running of the Grade II, $200,000 San Antonio Handicap at 1 1/8 miles.
Jerry and Ann Moss’s 5-year-old homebred son of Pleasant Tap will be confronted by a pair of millionaires, defending champion Well Armed and the versatile Champs Elysees, among eleven entrants in the event that can serve as a final stepping stone to the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap, set for March 7.
Noted for his come-from-behind style, Tiago rallied from eleventh in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to finish 2 ½ lengths behind victorious Ravens Pass and a neck ahead of fourth-place Curlin, Horse of the Year in 2008. “It was a gallant effort,” jockey Mike Smith said afterward, adding, “And he beat Curlin.”
He also defeated eighth-place finisher Champs Elysees by three lengths over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface, but despite that, Tiago and Well Armed each will be getting one pound from 120-pound high weight Champs Elysees with Garrett Gomez aboard on Sunday.
Victorious in the Grade I Hollywood Turf Cup in his last start on Dec. 6, the royally-bred Champs Elysees will be making only his third start over a synthetic surface on Sunday. The Juddmonte Farms’ homebred son of Danehill, out of Hasili, finished a solid third in his previous synthetic effort, the 2008 Santa Anita Handicap while edging fourth-place Tiago by one-half length.
Well Armed started on a roll when he upset favored Heatseeker by a head while going wire-to-wire at 14-1 in last year’s San Antonio. He subsequently ran third to Curlin in the $6 million Dubai World Cup, captured Del Mar’s Grade II San Diego Handicap, lost by a neck to Go Between in the Grade I Pacific Classic and took Oak Tree’s Grade I Goodwood Stakes while beating runner-up Tiago by one length.
However, Well Armed went off form when a well-beaten ninth as the 6-5 favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. He came back from a brief freshening to finish a troubled fourth as the 3-2 favorite in Santa Anita’s Grade II San Pasqual Handicap on Jan. 10. Aaron Gryder will try to get the 6-year-old gelded son Tiznow back on track for WinStar Farm and trainer Eoin Harty as he prepares for another shot at the Dubai World Cup on March 28.
The complete field for the San Antonio Handicap, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Dakota Phone, Rafael Bejarano, 116; Becrux, Chantal Sutherland, 116; Stream Cat, Joseph Talamo, 115; Magnum, Joel Rosario, 113; Marchfield, Patrick Husbands, 116; Racketeer, Tyler Baze, 112; Ferneley, Victor Espinoza, 115; Tiago, Mike Smith, 119; Champs Elysees, Garrett Gomez, 120; Well Armed, Aaron Gryder, 119, and Informed, Michael Baze, 113.
Tiago, a half-brother to 2005 Kentucky Derby champion Giacomo who also was owned and bred by the Mosses, is the wealthiest of the runners with earnings of $2,334,270 from a record of 5-3-4 in 17 starts. Trained by John Shirreffs, he has gained more than half of his career earnings, $1,314,950, while racing over synthetic surfaces. His record on them is 2-3-2 in nine races.
British-bred Champs Elysees raced eleven times in Europe before joining Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel’s barn in the winter of 2007. The 6-year-old bay has won a pair of Grade I stakes and a Grade II on turf in ten starts for Frankel. His lifetime earnings of $1,354,761 have been amassed from an intercontinental mark of 5-6-5 in 21 starts.
Well Armed enters this year’s San Antonio with earnings of $1,539,803, the vast majority of it from ten races for Harty after failing to win a significant stakes event during seven races in England and three in the United Arab Emirates. He has won 5 of 10 starts over synthetics while second in two others.
The San Antonio will be contested as the eighth-race on a nine-race program that gets underway at 12:30 p.m. HRTV will televise the entire card.