LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Tapit 3-year-olds are running from coast to coast along the Derby trail and now Tapiture has raced into the lead for points with a dominating win in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
Tapiture, who won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes in his last race of 2013, started his 3-year-old campaign with a four length victory over favorite Strong Mandate. And the strong performance again poses the question of pedigree strength.
Can a Tapit offspring win the Derby with a pedigree that seems to be challenged by the mile and a quarter distance?
Normandy Invasion was the latest Tapit colt to hit the Derby wall in 2013, but at least six prominent 3-year-old Tapits are taking a run at the roses this year.
And on President's Day, Tapiture proved he is the top Tapit so far.
Trainer Steve Asmussen called it "a big step forward, for the horse. With the win at Churchill Downs last fall, Tapiture now has 22 points on the Derby trail.
Asmussen indicated that his Tapit will likely stay on the Arkansas track to the Derby with the Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby still to come.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas was not discouraged by Strong Mandate's second place finish. Jockey Joel Rosario said the son of Tiznow had a troubled trip and he hoped to be closer to the pace. But the Lukas horse was still six lengths in front of third place Ride on Curlin.
Billy Gowan, the trainer of Ride on Curlin, said his horse would be back for the Rebel after nosing out Coastline who finished fourth in front of early leader Tanzanite Cat.
The winner covered the mile and a sixteenth in 1:44:95 over a track that was listed as fast. This was the last of the Derby prep races to award ten points to the winner. On Feb. 22, the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream and the Risen Star at the Fairgrounds will offer 50 points to the winner.
By this time next week, there will be a new leader on the Derby Trail, but Tapiture leads right now, and more Tapits are coming in the weeks ahead.
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