06/11/2007 11:00PM

Tiago may switch to synthetic for Swaps


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Tiago, third in the Belmont Stakes last Saturday, may make his next start in the $350,000 Swaps Breeders' Cup Stakes at Hollywood Park on July 14, trainer John Shirreffs said Tuesday.

The winner of the Santa Anita Derby in April for owner-breeders Jerry and Ann Moss, Tiago was beaten 5 1/2 lengths by Rags to Riches in the Belmont Stakes. The loss left Tiago with a career record of 2 wins in 6 starts and earnings of $594,320.

"He's maturing and getting better," Shirreffs said. "I thought the fact that he's competing at that level is a strong indication of his class. I think there is a lot of room for improvement."

The Grade 2 Swaps, run at 1 1/8 miles on the Cushion Track synthetic surface, is the top race for 3-year-old males on the main track at the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting. If Tiago starts in the Swaps, the race would be his first start on the synthetic track where he is regularly trained.

"I'm not sure how he'd run on it," Shirreffs said.

Shirreffs said he is reluctant to send Tiago to Saratoga for the Travers Stakes in August, wanting to avoid the New York tracks, which have a policy of detaining a horse in a detention barn for several hours before post time.

"The detention barn is not in the horse's best interest," he said.

Shirreffs argues that Tiago is playing catch-up with his 3-year-old rivals because he did not make his first start until Dec. 26 of last year.

"With Tiago, his first three races were insignificant," Shirreffs said. "He wasn't able to develop any type of style."

Tiago ran third in his debut on Dec. 26. In his second start, he was promoted from second to first after being bothered by a rival who bolted through the stretch. In his third career start, Tiago finished seventh in the Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes on March 3, racing on the inside for much of the race.

After winning the Santa Anita Derby, Tiago finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby, closing from 18th on the backstretch. In the Belmont, Tiago was sixth on the backstretch and made progress in the stretch despite being bumped and waiting behind horses.

"He got to experience a lot of different stuff," Shirreffs said of the Belmont.

Tiago is a half-brother to Giacomo, the 2005 Kentucky Derby winner. Unlike Giacomo, who had his best season at 3, Tiago may be better as an older horse, Shirreffs said.

Small field projected for Affirmed

A colt of Tiago's quality is badly needed in Sunday's $100,000 Affirmed Handicap at 1o1/16 miles, a leading prep for the Swaps.

The Affirmed is likely to have a very small field, led by the impressive allowance winner Albertus Maximus and the stakes winners Awesome Gambler, Cobalt Blue, and Time to Get Even.

Several nominees are being directed to other races. Hewitts, a winner of two consecutive overnight races, and Try to Fly, who won the San Pedro Stakes at Santa Anita in April, are being considered for the $250,000 Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows on June 29.

Noble Court, the winner of the San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita in February, "is a couple of works short" of being ready, trainer John Sadler said.

Unusual Suspect, the winner of an allowance race for California-breds on June 1, is bound for the Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar in July, trainer Barry Abrams said.

Triple Bend may be next for El Roblar

After watching El Roblar win the Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap at 7 1/2 furlongs last Saturday, trainer Richard Mandella is considering keeping the 5-year-old in one-turn races.

Mandella said El Roblar may return for the $300,000 Triple Bend Handicap at seven furlongs on July 7. Earlier this year, in route races, El Roblar finished third in the San Antonio Handicap and seventh in the Santa Anita Handicap.

"When you watch him gallop, you think a mile and a quarter, but he's got a good turn of foot," Mandella said. "One thing about him, you can look in a lot of different directions."

El Roblar won his first graded stakes in the Ack Ack and has won 5 of 12 starts and $299,946 in a career interrupted by injury. Mandella is hoping that El Roblar will have a lengthy career.

"He's a good horse, but he's had a few twists and turns," said Mandella. "I've always kept thinking he'll be very big and maybe he will. He's young yet, we've got four to five years to work on him."

Kip Deville ships to Belmont

The California portion of Kip Deville's 2007 campaign appears to be over. The stakes-winning turf miler was shipped back to trainer Richard Dutrow's main base at Belmont Park on Monday.

Kip Deville won two stakes in California during the winter for Dutrow, the Sir Beaufort Stakes and Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile. He later won the Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland in April, but was beaten in two starts at Hollywood, finishing sixth as the favorite in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile on turf on May 28 and eighth in the Grade 2 Californian on the synthetic track on June 2.

"The horse is fine," assistant trainer Chip Dutrow said. "He's as good as he was going into the Shoemaker."

Chip Dutrow said Kip Deville will be pointed for the $2 million BC Mile at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27, with a possible prep in late summer.

Top jocks headed out of town

The jockey ranks at Hollywood Park will be depleted on Saturday. Brice Blanc, David Flores, Corey Nakatani, and Mike Smith are riding stakes in other parts of the country.

Blanc is booked on Karen's Caper in the Eatontown Stakes at Monmouth, Flores rides Ginger Punch in the Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont Park, Nakatani rides Wanderin Boy in the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs, and Smith has the mount on Adagio in the Colonial Turf Cup at Colonial Downs.