01/10/2008 1:00AM

Tiago makes season debut

Email

ARCADIA, Calif. - After a 3-year-old campaign that included three major stakes wins, including two at the Grade 1 level, Tiago launches his 4-year-old season in Saturday's $200,000 San Fernando Stakes at Santa Anita.

Trainer John Shirreffs said that the colt has grown up, and that he expects further improvement in 2008.

"Everyone remarks about how much he's developed," Shirreffs said.

Owned by breeders Jerry and Ann Moss, Tiago, a half-brother to 2005 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo, is making his first start since finishing fifth in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27.

The Grade 2 San Fernando is the feature race on an 11-race program that includes two $150,000 races - the Grade 2 San Rafael Stakes for 3-year-olds and the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap for older horses. First post is 11:45 a.m.

The San Fernando, run at 1 1/8 miles, has a field of 12, seven of whom are stakes winners.

Shirreffs said that Tiago is "100 percent" ready for the San Fernando, but cautioned, "You never know until you run them. He's been training strong."

At the least, Tiago relishes Santa Anita. He won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby here last April on a dirt track and the Grade 1 Goodwood Stakes, his debut against older horses, on the existing Cushion Track synthetic surface last September.

Tiago's 18-length loss to Curlin in the BC Classic does not concern Shirreffs.

"Going into the Breeders' Cup, we knew he was going into a speed-biased track," Shirreffs said. "His chances were hurt at that point. He did get the experience of running in a Breeders' Cup race, even though the elements were against him."

Tiago, who will be ridden by regular rider Mike Smith, has drawn post 7. Tiago will need a quick pace, which should develop thanks to the presence of Johnny Eves, the winner of the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at seven furlongs on Dec. 26, and Monterey Jazz, the winner of the Grade 3 Sir Beaufort Stakes on turf on Dec. 26.

Monzante, a sharp winner of an allowance race at Hollywood Park on Nov. 25, makes his U.S. stakes debut, and could be a factor.

"He's had a lot of racing under his belt," trainer Mike Mitchell said. "I loved his first race here. It was a good race and he came out of it great. I couldn't ask for him to be doing better. It's a question of how good a horse he is."