HOT SPRINGS, AR – Winchell Thoroughbred’s homebred Tapiture secured 10 points and a place along the Derby trail with his runaway victory in Monday’s $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) before a crowd of 25,622. Trainer Steve Asmussen said he will now continue down the path toward the April 12 Arkansas Derby and May 3 Kentucky Derby with a likely start in the $600,000 Rebel Stakes March 15.
Taking advantage of his inside post position, Tapiture took up a stalking position as several horses battled for the lead early. Smarty Jones winner Tanzanite Cat held a half-length advantage for the opening quarter in :23 2/5, but gave way to Ride On Curlin before the half mile in :47 4/5. While the even-money favorite Strong Mandate was making his move five wide around the turn for home, Tapiture hugged the rail and drew off to win by 4 ¼ lengths over Strong Mandate. Ride On Curlin held on for third after his wide trip. The winning time was 1:44 4/5 over a fast track.
“It was a big step forward for him,” said Asmussen. “I was impressed with what he did. I saw some things we need to improve and he’ll need to continue to improve with the races coming up. I think the series sets up really well for him.”
Coastline, Tanzanite Cat, Bourbonize, Walt, Fire Starter, Son of Dixie, Paganol, Kendall’s Boy and Louies Flower completed the order of finish.
Tapiture, by Tapit, was making his seasonal debut in the Southwest after ending his juvenile year with his first career victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs Nov. 30. He has now won two of five starts and earned $320,838.
As the 5-1 second choice in the field of 12, he returned $13, $4.80 and $3.20.
Live racing resumes at Oaklawn Thursday with a 1:30 p.m. first post.