01/09/2013 5:14PM

Fair Grounds: Tiban looks to continue momentum in 2013

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Bob Coglianese
Tiban wins the Claiming Crown Express at Gulfstream Park, one of his nine wins in 2012.

Tiban got pretty lucky to win a Claiming Crown race last month at Gulfstream Park – but that was fitting, since 2012 was a charmed year.

Tiban, now 6, had 9 wins, 5 seconds, and 1 third from 15 starts last year. Only three horses in North America had more wins with 10 apiece.

“Most of those were the cheaper variety, but it’s hard to finish in the money every single time in 15 races at any level,” said Tim Glyshaw, who trains Tiban for Joey Merritt. “I think he’s become one of those horses that just has a lot of confidence. It’s like he doesn’t know what he’s running against.”

Tiban will make his first start of 2013 in a second-level allowance Friday at Fair Grounds. The $47,000, six-furlong race goes as the fourth of nine Friday races and is the first of three allowances.

Tiban, a Kentucky-bred gelding by Flatter, was claimed by Merritt for $7,500 in May at Churchill Downs. Merritt is a blackjack dealer at the Casino Aztar riverboat in Evansville, Ind.

“Joey only had the money because we made a little bit over the winter with a filly named Minnie Chance,” said Glyshaw, a 44-year-old native of Evansville. “She won an ‘a-other-than’ [allowance at Fair Grounds] and then got claimed away from us.”

Spotted primarily in starter-allowance races, Tiban just kept getting better, culminating his year with back-to-back wins in the $96,000 Claiming Crown Express and a first-level Fair Grounds allowance (with a career-high 91 Beyer Speed Figure) last month. In the Dec. 1 Claiming Crown, the jockey on the apparent winner misjudged the finish wire, allowing Tiban to surge past for the victory.

Tiban, with Leandro Goncalves to ride, was assigned post 2 in a field of six older horses. His chief threat, Warning Song, is drawn alongside in post 3 with Richard Eramia to ride. Warning Song, an earner of more than $200,000, was claimed from Tom Amoss by Patrick Mouton for $40,000 in his last start Dec. 16 and wheels back as the only starter in for a $40,000 claiming option.

“It may be tough to beat the old Amoss horse,” Glyshaw noted. “After this, we’re probably going to just keep looking for starter races for our horse. Those races tend to be easier on a horse if you’re plotting out a long campaign.”

In the later allowances, Bravo Habibi and Make a Fortune are the logical favorites in race 7, a $47,000 turf sprint, while Yonaguska Storm heads a solid cast in race 8, a $45,000 main-track sprint for Louisiana-breds.

First post Friday is 1 p.m. Central. Next Friday, Jan. 18, will be the second Starlight program of the meet with a 5 p.m. post.

◗ The first non-restricted Fair Grounds stakes since the Dec. 22 Super Santa Saturday program will be run this Saturday when 12 filly and mare turf sprinters clash in the $75,000 Pan Zareta Stakes (race 7 of 13). Top contenders include Flashy Lassie, Starlite Starbrite, and Seeking Ms Shelley.

Between the 11th and 12th races Saturday, exhibition races for zebras and ostriches will be held under the lights. First post is 2 p.m. Central, with general admission set at $10 and $15 for the beer garden.