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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

Tapiture Getting Buzz; Lukas Appraises Competiton


According to folks at Oaklawn Park, Tapiture who is generating buzz ahead of Saturday's Rebel Stakes.

Tapiture, impressive winner of the Southwest Stakes, is the 9-5 morning line favorite even though he is top-weighted at 122 pounds and will be giving as many as seven pounds to his rivals.
“Right now with the three-year-olds, you just need to keep getting better and stay in the game,” said Tapiture's trainer Steve Asmussen. “Some of them aren’t who they used to be, and some of them are better than they were. That’s what makes the three-year-old picture so interesting. He’s a very nice horse and he’s very talented. I’m a little concerned with the weight that he gives quality horses tomorrow, but he’s doing well.”

Tapiture will break from post 3 under Ricardo Santana, Jr., the defending leading rider, who tops the standings here again this season.

“The post is perfect,” Asmussen said. “Ricardo fits the horse well. He’s ridden him in all but his first out and they’ve had success together.”

At this stop on the Triple Crown trail, it is essential to keep racking up enough points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. The Rebel offers 50-20-10-5 to the top four finishers and Tapiture currently has 22 points to put him in ninth place for one of 20 Derby berths.

“We all have to think about the points,” Asmussen said. “When you’ve got a horse of this caliber, you just want to keep them around. There are a lot of good spots for them.”

Lukas Appraises Competition

D. Wayne Lukas has won more Triple Crown races, 14, than anyone else, so the Hall of Fame trainer has a pretty good eye when it comes to sizing up the competition.

“Every one of them,” he said Friday. “It’s a real deep field. I think this is one of the better prep races, and there are some real nice horses in here. Some of them are probably not on everybody’s list -- like Street Strategy; that’s a nice horse. I think it’s a very, very competitive race.”

Street Strategy, 8-1 in the early line, makes just his third start after breaking his maiden at second asking last out at the track on Jan. 30 and is flying under the radar.

Strong Mandate, trained by Lukas, is the 2-1 second choice and has attracted a lot of attention since winning the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga in August. Strong Mandate disappointed when second as the even-money favorite last time out in the Southwest Stakes, which had a full field. Now the colt seeks his first win since the Hopeful in his second start of the year. He breaks from post 4 under Joel Rosario.

“We’re just looking for a good trip,” said Lukas. “We’ve had three pretty rough trips, so we want a clean trip, just a chance to see what we’ve got. We’re interested in a good experience after he’s been knocked around a couple of times. Not having 12 in the field this time will help a lot. This is the first time in his career that he drew well. Even as a two-year-old he had all the outside posts.”

Strong Mandate has to keep climbing the Derby points ladder if he’s going to be among the 20 starters in the gate. The son of Tiznow is on the outside looking in from 29th place with six points, but he can earn 50, 20, 10 or five more points by finishing first through fourth in the Rebel.

“All of them are important now,” said Lukas. “I didn’t like the system at first, but I think it’s probably okay. I thought it compromised the body of work of a horse completely. Under the old system, I wouldn’t have to worry about anything because we’d already have enough money.”

Edited Oaklawn Park release

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