With a smashing 4 1/4-length victory in the January 15 Sham Stakes (G3), TAPIZAR (Tapit) established himself as one of the leading three-year-olds on the West Coast, and the Steve Asmussen trainee will take the next step toward the Kentucky Derby (G1) when he lines up for Saturday's $250,000 Robert B. Lewis S. (G2) at Santa Anita. The striking bay colt should be an overwhelming favorite in the 1 1/8-mile event with the expected defection of CashCall Futurity (G1) hero COMMA TO THE TOP (Bwana Charlie), who will instead run in Saturday's $200,000 El Camino Real Derby (G3) at Golden Gate Fields, according to trainer Peter Miller.
Tapizar, who broke his maiden by 10 1/2 lengths at Churchill Downs two starts back, registered a whopping 103 BRIS Speed rating while leading wire to wire in the Sham, a number that towers over his six probable rivals in the Lewis. The speedster will keep Garrett Gomez in the saddle.
"I'm blessed to have him," Asmussen said of Tapizar. "He's a tremendously talented horse."
A prep for the $1 million Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 9, the Lewis is also a qualifier for the inaugural Preakness 5.5 program. Saturday's winner will receive a $5.5 million bonus if he goes on to win both the Santa Anita Derby and Preakness S. (G1).
Tapizar's opponents include THIRTYFIRSTSTREET (Good Journey), who will try open company for the first time following his victory in the opening-day California Breeders' Champion S. The Doug O'Neill-trained colt will be running late under a returning Patrick Valenzuela. Sham third-placer ANTHONY'S CROSS (Indian Charlie), who is also cross-entered to the El Camino Real Derby, is eligible to show more in his second stakes attempt for Eoin Harty, and multiple Grade 1-placed RIVETING REASON (Fusaichi Pegasus) brings plenty of stakes experience to the equation.
Eddie Logan runner-up TEN DEVILS (Rock Hard Ten) will go turf to dirt for conditioner Richard Mandella, and last-out maiden winners WEGNER (Dynaformer) and QUAIL HILL (Candy Ride [Arg]) complete the field.