04/03/2013 3:39PM

Santa Anita Derby pivotal race for Tiz a Minister

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Tiz a Minister followed this victory in the California Breeders' Championship with a third-place finish in the San Felipe.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Tiz a Minister earned a start in Saturday’s $750,000 Santa Anita Derby when he closed from last of eight in the final half-mile of the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes on March 9 to finish a competitive third.

That performance has left owner Stephen Young of nearby Monrovia, Calif., in an unusual position – starting his first horse in a Grade 1, and in California’s top race for 3-year-olds.

“This is big time,” he said.

[SANTA ANITA DERBY: Get PPs, watch Saturday's full card live]

Young, 67, was not thinking Santa Anita Derby when he and trainer Paul Aguirre claimed Tiz a Minister for $40,000 at Del Mar last summer. They were aiming to obtain a colt who could be a factor in the growing list of stakes for California-breds.

Tiz a Minister beat maidens last November at Betfair Hollywood Park in his sixth start. He won the $300,000 California Breeders’ Champion Stakes for California-breds on a wet-fast track over a mile here on Jan. 26, and was beaten a length by Hear the Ghost in the San Felipe Stakes, his graded stakes debut.

In the San Felipe, over 1 1/16 miles, Tiz a Minister was 18 lengths off a quick pace on the backstretch and caught the eye with a wide rally in the final furlong.

The Santa Anita Derby result will determine how Young and Aguirre campaign Tiz a Minister in coming weeks. Tiz a Minister has earned 10 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby on May 4, but will need a one-two finish in the Santa Anita Derby to gain the 100 or 40 additional points, which will be needed to secure a Derby berth.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

If he runs third or farther back in the field, he is more likely to start in the $300,000 Snow Chief Stakes over 1 1/8 miles at Hollywood Park on April 27.

“I’m sure he’ll be tough against Cal-breds,” Young said. “If we don’t go first or second and get enough points, we’ll look at some Cal-bred races.”

Young will have a party of 25 to 35 people at Santa Anita on Saturday. He has a recycling and scrap business in Baldwin Park, Calif., which he began in 1963. “My dad loaned me $800,” he said.

Tiz a Minister will be ridden by Joe Talamo in the Santa Anita Derby. The colt drew post 4 in the field of nine. Tiz a Minister will drop to the back of the field early. If a speed duel develops early in the 1 1/8-mile race, Tiz a Minister might have a chance of pulling an upset.

“I think he can be competitive with some speed in front of him,” Young said. “I hope he can get a mile and an eighth.
“It’s a nice position to be in. We’re excited. We knew he was a good horse when we got him.”