01/31/2013 3:59PM

Santa Anita: Smith confident Fed Biz can handle Strub's longer distance


ARCADIA, Calif. – Fed Biz has made quite an impression on Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith since Christmas.

On Dec. 26, Fed Biz threw a tantrum in the starting gate before the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes and finished sixth. He left Smith with a sizeable bruise on his calf.

Things went more smoothly in the Grade 2 San Fernando Stakes on Jan. 12, a race Fed Biz won by a head over Tritap. The win has left Fed Biz as the favorite for the $200,000 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds at Santa Anita on Saturday, and Smith confident that the colt can win the third stakes of his career.

“He’s a fighter,” Smith said.

Owned by Kaleem Shah and trained by Bob Baffert, Fed Biz is the likely pacesetter in the 1 1/8-mile Strub. The race is a key prep for the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap for older horses on March 2.

The Strub Stakes will be the longest race of Fed Biz’s career.

Purchased for $950,000 at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale, Fed Biz has won 4 of 8 starts and $274,456. In the San Fernando Stakes over 1 1/16 miles, he led throughout and held off a sustained threat from Tritap.

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The Baffert-trained Guilt Trip was a fast-closing third in the San Fernando. Both Tritap and Guilt Trip, along with Handsome Mike, who was fifth of nine in the San Fernando, are part of the Strub field.

Smith was left impressed with the way that Fed Biz finished in the San Fernando.

“He sure could have given it up,” Smith said. “The one thing that could have surprised him was that horse coming on the outside. Hopefully, the last race was a confidence builder.”

In the Strub, Fed Biz could face early pressure from Handsome Mike.

Best known as the upset winner of the Pennsylvania Derby at 19-1 last September, Handsome Mike was beaten 4 3/4 lengths in the San Fernando after racing behind Fed Biz early.

Handsome Mike could be closer to the front on Saturday, trainer Doug O’Neill hinted.

“He’ll be rambling,” O’Neill said. “He put it all together in the Pennsylvania Derby. He doesn’t do it in the afternoon very often, but hopefully he will on Saturday.”

Guilt Trip, Tritap, and the Delaware Park stakes winner Stephanoatsee are threats from off the pace.

Guilt Trip has yet to win a stakes. He was fifth in the Grade 3 Discovery Handicap at Aqueduct in November, a race in which Stephanoatsee was third. Trainer Graham Motion cited the Strub distance and age restriction as reasons why he sent Stephanoatsee from Florida to California.

“He needs a mile and an eighth,” Motion said earlier this week. “He probably wants to go farther. We want to see how he stacks up against the better horses.”

Tritap had every chance to beat Fed Biz in the San Fernando. For the Strub Stakes, Fed Biz carries 123 pounds, while Tritap remains at 118 pounds. At 1 1/8 miles, that weight shift could make the difference for Tritap, said Scott Blasi, trainer Steve Asmussen’s assistant.

“We’re running back in three weeks and he’s been steady,” Blasi said of Tritap. “Fed Biz picks up a little weight. We’ll see how it sets up. I think he’ll stay.”