11/04/2012 1:00PM

Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile: Asmussen retained faith in Tapizar

Barbara D. Livingston
The connections of Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Tapizar have not yet discussed whether he retire or return to race again next season.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Steve Asmussen was hoarse Sunday morning, apparently because he had rooted too enthusiastically for a horse. Asmussen seemed tired but very happy when all alone trackside at Santa Anita, just a few feet and a few hours removed from where and when he greeted the victorious Tapizar following the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Asmussen said he had not yet discussed future plans for Tapizar with breeder-owner Ron Winchell, but there has already been conjecture that the 4-year-old colt may be retired to stud. If that’s so, Tapizar went out in a blaze of glory, dominating what was on paper a well-matched field when drawing off with a quick burst at the top of the stretch and gliding home unchallenged as a 2 1/4-length winner under Corey Nakatani.

Tapizar already had run two terrific races over the Santa Anita main track in winning the Sham Stakes early in his 3-year-old season and the San Fernando early this year. But a 20-length defeat in the Belmont Park slop in his final BC prep, the Kelso Mile, relegated him to longshot status for the Dirt Mile: at 15-1, he was the third-longest shot in the field of nine.

“It was a very unique situation,” said Asmussen. “We’d planned on the Breeders’ Cup all along, knowing it was here, so after the Kelso I wanted to see how he trained before committing him. He trained the best he’s ever trained leading up to this, so I was willing to just forget about the Belmont race. When he came out onto the track that day, Corey said that even in the post parade the horse could barely stand up. He’s a big horse and obviously had real trouble with that track. “

The BC victory was the fourth for Asmussen, following Curlin (2007 Classic), Regally Ready (2011 Turf Sprint), and My Miss Aurelia (2011 Juvenile Fillies). It was his first for Winchell Thoroughbreds, “which made it a great day for all of us,” he said.

As an aside, Asmussen was asked his opinion on 2012 Horse of the Year.  Alluding to the controversy that ensued after the Breeders’ Cup in 2009, when the Horse of the Year title eventually went to the Asmussen-trained Rachel Alexandra over Zenyatta, he said: “Having been involved in all that in 2009, here’s what I think: If there’s nothing to benefit from expressing your opinion, then just keep quiet.”

Meanwhile, Rail Trip, the 7-year-old gelding who rallied to be second in the Dirt Mile, came out of the race in good order and was scheduled to make the short trip back to Hollywood Park on Sunday morning, said trainer Ron Ellis.

“We don’t have any definite plans, but we’re not going to do something crazy like ship him cross-country to run in the Clark” Handicap on Nov. 23 at Churchill Downs, he said. “We’ll just keep taking our time with him. We loved the way he dug in. He got shuffled back pretty good down the backside, and he might’ve even been last for a moment. But once they straightened away, he got an opening and just took off.”

The two disappointments in the Dirt Mile were Emcee, the pacesetter who faded to sixth as the 5-2 favorite, and Shackleford, the 5-2 second choice who basically lost the race at the start when stumbling and being immediately trapped behind traffic.

“He grabbed a quarter a little, but fortunately it was nothing serious,” said Dale Romans, the Churchill-based trainer of Shackleford. “We’ll get him home and check him out,” adding he will talk to co-owner Mike Lauffer about the possibility of running the colt in the Clark. “I’m definitely nominating him.”