09/29/2007 12:00AM

Tiago edges Awesome Gem

EmailARCADIA, Calif. - Returning from an 11-week layoff, Tiago vaulted onto a list of leading contenders for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27 with a nose victory over Awesome Gem in Saturday’s $520,000 Goodwood Stakes at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting.

The victory came in Tiago’s first start against older horses and was his second Grade 1 win. A half-brother to 2005 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo, Tiago won the Santa Anita Derby last April. He was the only 3-year-old in the Goodwood.

Ridden by Mike Smith, Tiago rallied from fourth to edge Awesome Gem after 1 1/8 miles in 1:46.93. Tiago and Awesome Gem were never far apart, stalking a quick pace of 22.79 and 46.35 seconds set by Wanna Runner. Tiago and Awesome Gem moved forward as a pair with wide rallies on the final turn, closing from fourth and fifth to take the first two positions in early stretch. Tiago led by a head at the eighth pole, while racing on the inside, and just held off Awesome Gem in the final furlong.

The Goodwood was Tiago’s first start since a win in the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park in July.

“In the last couple of works we asked him and he responded well,” trainer John Shirreffs said.

Awesome Gem finished a length in front of 15-1 Big Booster, who closed from last in the field of eight. Jockey David Flores, who rode Awesome Gem, said, “He just got beat a bob. I felt I had a nose in front of” Tiago.

Tiago has won 4 of 8 starts and $1,115,270 for owner-breeders Jerry and Ann Moss.