Tapiture had failed to find the winner’s circle in the first three races of his young career, but he displayed a liking for a brighter spotlight when he rallied from just off the pace under jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. for an easy 4 ¼-length victory in the 87th running of the $175,200 Kentucky Jockey Club (Grade II) for 2-year-olds, the co-featured event on Saturday’s closing day of the 25-day Fall Meet at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Steve Asmussen, Tapiture rallied from fifth to roll to his easy victory in the 1 1/16-mile race over a field of opponents that was reduced to eight following the pre-race scratch of morning line favorite Almost Famous. Trainer Pat Byrne decided against a run by Almost Famous after the colt suffered a minor hoof bruise that resulted in a small infection.
A son of Tapit owned by Ron Winchell and bred by Winchell Thoroughbreds, Tapiture was the Kentucky Jockey Club’s second betting choice at 3-1 and paid $8.60, $4.60 and $3.20. Laddie Boy, a 19-1 shot who set the early pace under jockey Jesus Castanon, could not hold off the winner but held second by a neck and returned $19.20 and $8.20. Awesome Sky, also looking for his first win, rallied for third under Shaun Bridgmohan and paid $5.20 to show.
Although Tapiture had failed to win in three races prior to the Kentucky Jockey Club, he had displayed promise in each race. He finished second in his debut at Saratoga to Strong Mandate, who would later win the Grade 1 Hopeful in his next start, and then finished a close third behind Cleburne in the Grade III Iroquois at Churchill Downs. He ran a disappointing third in an earlier race in the Churchill Downs Fall Meet, but everything came together for the colt in the Kentucky Jockey Club, where he weaved his way through tight quarters on the first turn, moved into striking position and then easily moved to the lead and drew away in the stretch.
“It was pretty crowded going into the first turn,” Asnussen said. “I really liked the way he handled and got good position. Ricardo rode him really well.”
Tapiture completed the 1 1/16-mile distance over a fast track in 1:43.51. The victory improved his career record to 1-1-2 in four races and the winner’s purse of $104,279 boosted his overall earnings to $140,838.
He is the first horse since Santiva in 2010 to score his first career victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club.
Tapiture also earned 10 points on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby,” the points-based system that will determine the eligibility of horses to compete in the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands on Saturday, May 3. The Kentucky Jockey Club is a “Prep Season” race on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” and its Top 4 finishers received points on a 10-4-2-1 scale.
With Almost Famous out of the race, Dobra Historia left the starting gate as the Kentucky Jockey Club favorite. But trainer Bill Mott’s colt was never a factor under jockey Julien Leparoux and finished seventh, 13 ½ lengths behind the winner.
“He broke good and put me where I wanted to be, but at the three-eighths pole I was done already,” Leparoux said. “He just struggled – not because of the track – he just struggled. He just wasn’t there today.”
Laddie Boy broke alertly under Castanon and led the field through fractions of :24.20 for the quarter, :47.67 for the half-mile and six furlongs in 1:11.86. After sorting his way through tightly-bunched horses on the first turn, Santana moved Tapiture in a three-wide stalking position and had clear aim of the leader down the backstretch. The winner moved on Laddie Boy on the far turn, moved to the lead at the top of the stretch and put that rival away. Laddie Boy held off the late running Awesome Sky by neck for the runner-up spot and 25-1 shot Buck Magic finished five lengths behind that pair in fourth.
Notablity was fifth, followed by Arctic Slope, Dobra Historia, Culprit and Mygalsal.
With the conclusion of the Fall Meet and the 2013 season, there will be no racing at Churchill Downs until April 26 and the track’s “Opening Night” celebration that will open Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks Week and its 38-day 2014 Spring Meet.
KENTUCKY JOCKEY CLUB QUOTES
STEVE ASMUSSEN, trainer of TAPITURE (winner): “We had planned on running him in a maiden race at the beginning of the meet as a prep for this. It didn’t go as planned, but he came out of it good, trained really well and just stayed the course. It’s awfully fun to have another nice homebred for the Winchells.
"It was pretty crowded going into the first turn. I really liked the way he handled and got good position. Ricardo (Santana Jr.) rode him really well.”
Q: Does he go to Fair Grounds or California (to begin his 3-year-old campaign)? “He goes to the Fair Grounds from here.”
RICARDO SANTANA JR., jockey on TAPITURE (winner): “My horse is a little green – he doesn’t know how to run yet. He’s been waiting to go long. I loved my horse today. I thought I had a big chance. My horse had run three times already and he’s learning. I had a lot of confidence in my horse. When I asked him he finished really good.”
CHUCK PEERY, trainer of LADDIE BOY (second): “I just think this colt is continuing to improve. At the quarter pole he bobbled a bit and I don’t think he really cared for this track that much. But I couldn’t be prouder of him. I thought he hung in there after (Tapiture) got by him when a lot of horses would call it a day. He showed me some real intestinal fortitude today.”
SHAUN BRIDGMOHAN, jockey of AWESOME SKY (third): “He’s still in the learning process. He’s a great big horse that has a bright future ahead of him and he’s still learning a lot. I think it was a positive step forward today meeting winners. He’s still a maiden but I think he’s got a whole lot of improving to do and he’s going to be OK.”
JULIEN LEPAROUX, jockey of DOBRA HISTORIA (seventh as 5-2 favorite): “The last time he didn’t break good and didn’t get away from the gate very good. We were far, far back and he made a really good move. Today he broke good and put me where I wanted to be but at the three-eighths pole I was done already. He just struggled – not because of the track – he just struggled. He just wasn’t there today.”