Hot Springs, AR (SportsNetwork.com) - Tapiture, ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., set most of the pace and cruised to victory in Monday's $300,000 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
The 1 1/16-mile Southwest is a local prep race for the Arkansas Derby on April 12. Next at Oaklawn for 3-year-olds will be the Rebel Stakes on March 15.
Trained by Steve Asmussen for Winchell Thoroughbreds, Tapiture broke sharply from the inside post in the 12-horse field. The chestnut colt went off at 5-1, second in the betting behind even-money favorite Strong Mandate.
Tapiture continued to pull the field through the backstretch and into the final turn with Tanzanite Cat and Ride On Curlin pressuring from the outside. Strong Mandate was fourth entering the stretch.
Tapiture, making his 2014 debut, steadily drew away from the field down the stretch and posted a 4 1/4-length victory over Strong Mandate. Finishing third was Ride On Curlin followed by Coastline, Tanzanite Cat, Bourbonize, Walt, Fire Starter, Son of Dixie, Paganol, Kendall's Boy and Louies Flower.
The time for the Southwest was 1:44.95 on a fast track.
Part of the Kentucky Derby points system, Tapiture gains 10 points toward a start in the Run for the Roses on Saturday, May 3.
Unraced since winning the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 30, Tapiture notched his second career win in five starts and picked up $180,000. The chestnut colt has banked $320,838.
Tapiture began his career at Saratoga last August with a second-place result. He came back with a third in Churchill Downs' Iroquois Stakes on Sept. 7 and faded to third in a maiden event at Churchill on Oct. 27. He broke his maiden in the Kentucky Jockey Club by the same 4 1/4 lengths as his Southwest win.
Tapiture returned $13.00, $4.80 and $3.20. Strong Mandate paid $3.40 and $2.60, and Ride On Curlin paid $3.80 to show.