02/10/2011 2:06PM

Tapizar looks too good for competition in Robert Lewis


Grade 2 Robert Lewis - Santa Anita - Race 6
Est. Post Time: 6:05 p.m. Eastern - Feb. 12, 2010

ARCADIA, Calif. – Going into the Sham Stakes last month here at Santa Anita, trainer Steve Asmussen and his local assistant, Scott Blasi, leaned pretty hard on Tapizar. Between the ship to California from Kentucky, and a step up into stakes company, they wanted to leave nothing to chance.

Tapizar responded to the accelerated schedule with an overpowering performance, romping by 4 1/4 lengths in the 1 1/16-mile race to put himself squarely in the mix of leading candidates for the May 7 Kentucky Derby. Now that Asmussen and Blasi know what they have, though, and with nearly three months until Derby Day, they can back off just a touch, and lean on Tapizar a little more deeper into the spring.

KENTUCKY DERBY NEWS: Track all the 3-year-olds on the Triple Crown trail

But does that mean Tapizar is vulnerable when he runs on Saturday in the Grade 2, $250,000 Robert Lewis Stakes? It’s hard to imagine. Though Tapizar has not been trained as demandingly for this race as the Sham, the Lewis does not have much depth. Comma to the Top was entered in the race, but will instead run on Saturday, as expected, in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields. Of the six remaining 3-year-olds, only two have finished in the money in a graded stakes race, and none of them had won a graded race.

The Lewis is part of the Preakness 5.5, which offers a hefty bonus to a horse who can win two rounds of preps, plus the Preakness. The Lewis is considered a first-round prep.

Tapizar figures to be the controlling speed. He is stretching out to 1 1/8 miles, but should get a soft trip.

“I’m very pleased with him,” Asmussen said. “He had a huge effort in the Sham. He should regress a touch. We leaned on him last time. We wanted him sharp, the way the track was playing. There’s a lot of time to pick it back up.”

Wegner, who leaves from the rail, has contending early speed, and so does Quail Hill, but David Hofmans, who trains Quail Hill, said he likely would run only if both Comma to the Top and Tapizar come out.

Wegner comes off a front-running victory against maidens on Jan. 8. It was his fourth lifetime start, but first on dirt.

“I think a mile and an eighth will be a good distance for him,” Bob Baffert, who trains Wegner, said Thursday morning. “He just needs racing. He has speed, just one cruising speed. He’s a lazy horse. He shows you more in the afternoon than in the morning.”

Anthony’s Cross will take another crack at Tapizar. He was a distant third in the Sham, beaten 9 1/4 lengths. That was his first start in 2 1/2 months, and he is adding blinkers for this race, so he should improve for trainer Eoin Harty.

Thirtyfirststreet stretches out around two turns, and runs against open company for the first time, after winning the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes on Dec. 26.

Riveting Reason was second in a first-level allowance going one mile on Dec. 29.

Ten Devils makes his first start on dirt after three grass races, most recently a second-place finish Jan. 23 in a first-level allowance.