07/14/2007 12:00AM

More mature Tiago wins Swaps

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INGLEWOOD, Calif.-Tiago won the Santa Anita Derby in April as a 29-1 outsider in search of respect in the nation’s 3-year-old division.

He won Saturday’s $368,250 Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park as an even-money favorite, emphasizing his status as the leading 3-year-old male in California.

Tiago ($4) closed along the rail through the stretch to win the Grade 2 Swaps by 2 1/2 lengths over Albertus Maximus. Souvenir Slew, a 23-1 outsider, finish third in the field of six.

Ridden by Mike Smith, Tiago ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.76, a performance that trainer John Shirreffs described as “a perfect race.” Tiago was fifth for the first seven furlongs and closed steadily through the stretch.

“Everything went right,” Shirreffs said. “He was into the race a little more. He was perfect for Mike. He didn’t drop back when the kickback hit him in the race. There was a lot of maturity you could see.”

The stretch run alone proved Shirreffs’s point. Tiago was still fifth turning for home, racing three lengths behind the leaders. Smith had the option of taking Tiago wide or trying to rally on the inside. When he moved Tiago to the rail, the colt gave him an instant response.

“It was early to wheel out so I wanted to follow Albertus Maximus,” Smith said. “On another horse, I would have tried to go out. He’ll go for a spot on the fence because he’s very competitive.”

Tiago was 1 1/2 lengths behind pacesetter Desert Code with a furlong remaining, and was the colt catching the eye in the final furlong. He quickly pulled away from an overmatched field. The style of the win left Shirreffs enthused about Tiago’s progress, following a seventh-place finish in the Kentucky Derby and a third in the Belmont Stakes on June 9.

“He runs well when he’s in tight,” Shirreffs said. “He changed a lot. He didn’t like it before.”

Owned by breeders Jerry and Ann Moss, Tiago has won 3 of 7 starts and $815,270.