08/25/2009 12:00AM

Turf stakes just a prep for Tiago

Alex Evers
Tiago has raced just once since his third-place finish in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic.

DEL MAR, Calif. - Much of the year has gotten away from Tiago, but there's still time to make a bit of noise. Owing to an intestinal illness, Tiago has raced just once since his third-place finish in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic, and he has been out of action since February. He finally returns Wednesday, in the $85,000 Harry Brubaker Stakes at Del Mar, the first step in what trainer John Shirreffs hopes is a return to the Classic.

That won't be the richest purse of the day, though, No one hit the pick six on Sunday, so there is a one-day carryover of $193,145 into Wednesday's races. There also is a $65,012 carryover in the super high five, which is offered on the final race each day.


The Brubaker, at 1 1/16 miles on grass, will mark Tiago's first try on turf after 18 races on either dirt or a synthetic surface. There really was no better option to bring him back at this point in the meet, but Shirreffs is not looking at this race as a turf experiment. Tiago has performed well on the main track at Santa Anita in the fall - he won the Goodwood in 2007 and was second in that race last year - and that's where he's headed next.

"We're hoping this moves Tiago ahead to something at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting," Shirreffs said. "The Goodwood and then the Classic. That's what we're hoping for."

Tiago did poorly when working on Del Mar's Polytrack the two previous summers, so Shirreffs has worked him exclusively on turf since arriving here a month ago. He has merely galloped on the main track.

"Tiago has worked really well on turf," Shirreffs said. "He always puts a lot into his gallops. He gallops at a strong clip. He's always fit, as long as he's able to train."

There are nine others entered in the Brubaker, but fewer are expected to run. Becrux, second in the Wickerr Stakes on July 31, could await the Grade 2, $300,000 Del Mar Mile on Saturday, according to trainer John Sadler.

Tiz West also is under consideration for the Del Mar Mile, according to trainer Richard Mandella. He was sixth in the Wickerr in his last start, but there is seemingly less pace pressure in the Brubaker.

Darrell Vienna entered two horses, Generalito Nain and Skyrush, but said he "didn't think" both would run.

Skyrush is making his first start since arriving from Argentina. Vienna said he had his best work yet Sunday morning, when he worked a half-mile in 48.40 seconds on Del Mar's turf course.