01/15/2012 5:15PM

Santa Anita: San Fernando may be start of huge year for Tapizar

Benoit & Associates
San Fernando winner Tapizar will be pointed to the Strub on Feb. 4.

ARCADIA, Calif.- Tapizar’s brilliant victory in the Grade 2 San Fernando Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday will make him the favorite in the $200,000 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds on Feb. 4.

 Tapizar was the even-money favorite in the Grade 2 San Fernando Stakes and ran like it. He led throughout the 1 1/16-mile race, holding an advantage of 1 1/2 lengths on the backstretch and pulling away to win by 3 1/2 lengths over Balladry. That speed has proven to be a prime asset in a nine-race career that includes four wins, including two stakes at Santa Anita.

“He’s got enough tactical speed that if you go with him you’re in trouble, and if you don’t go with him, you’re in trouble,” owner Ron Winchell said.

Tapizar has excelled at Santa Anita, having won the Sham Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on the same track in January 2011. He finished fifth in the Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes a month later, and was sidelined after that race when bone chips were found in a knee. The injured required an eight-month break. The San Fernando was Tapizar’s first start since a fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5.

Tapizar’s success after the brief layoff left trainer Steve Asmussen encouraged.

“We have a very fast fresh horse,” Asmussen said on Saturday. “He’s run two good races on this course. Hopefully, he’ll have a lot to say at the rest of the meeting.”

“He’s a big horse with a lot of weight, which should come in handy. There are no soft spots for him. It was an ideal first race of the year.”

The Strub Stakes is run over 1 1/8 miles, and will be a test. Tapizar has run that distance once, in the Lewis Stakes.

Considering the disappointment felt around the stable last year when Tapizar was sidelined in the buildup to the Kentucky Derby, Asmussen was hopeful on Sunday that the San Fernando win was the start of a big 2012 for the colt.

“We felt like this after the Sham,” Asmussen said. “You realize how quick it can turn.”