AFFIRMED H. | PURSE: $100,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 3 | 1 1/16-MILES
S.A.Y. Racing LLC's Tiz a Minister put in a furious rally from the back of the field in Sunday's Grade 3, $100,750 Affirmed Handicap to post a one-length win on the Hollywood Park wire under jockey Corey Nakatani. Sent off the 5-1 fourth pick in the eight-horse field, the Ministers Wild Cat sophomore paid $12.40, $5.40 and $3.
Manando wanted the lead and wouldn't let breaking from the far outside post deny him, but found company to his inside as Broadway Empire proved a handful for Victor Espinoza on the rail through an opening quarter in :23 1/5. Espinoza finally got his mount to settle back in second as 9-5 favorite Manando proceeded through splits of :46 3/5, 1:11 1/5 and 1:38 3/5.
All the while Nakatani was biding his time aboard Tiz a Minister more than 16 lengths behind the pacesetter in last. The duo came out on the second turn and split horses before angling back toward the rail for a powerful late move that denied Den's Legacy a return to the winner's circle. Tiz a Minister finished 1 1/16 miles on the Cushion Track in 1:45 3/5.
"As good as he was moving, I had them in my sights and all they had to do was come back to him a little bit," Nakatani said. "I knew he was going to put in a tremendous run like he's been doing in the morning. Credit (trainer) Paul (Aguirre) for what he's done with him. I've been on him in the mornings and I was very confident."
"If they give him an opportunity, he'll take it," Aguirre agreed. "When he was turning for home, I thought we could hit the board. And then at the sixteenth, I was thinking he might get there.
"I told (Nakatani) that was a great Calvin Borel imitation," he smiled. "That ride was definitely the difference between winning and losing."
Den's Legacy also split horses on the second turn after racing near the rear and closed strongly to catch his tiring stablemate Manando strides from the wire, but could not keep pace with Tiz a Minister's speedy inside run. He had three parts of a length to spare on the pacesetter, who in turn took third by 1 1/2 lengths over Dice Flavor. Completing the order under the wire were Just Win Baby, Broadway Empire, Dirty Swagg and Counting Days.
"Everything was good," said jockey Garrett Gomez, who was aboard Den's Legacy. "I thought the way the race would set up it was going to help Tiz a Minister. And it kind of did. (:46.74 for the first half-mile) is pretty fast. You didn't even see that Saturday (in the Californian). I thought I was in a good spot, but I just couldn't quicken enough."
Tiz a Minister took six tries to break his maiden, getting the job done last November over this track, but would capture the California Breeders' Champion in just his second start this year. Third in the San Felipe next out, the dark bay was best of the rest when fourth in the Santa Anita Derby and returned to be third in the Snow Chief on Gold Rush Day as the even-money favorite last out.
Now boasting a 3-4-3 mark from 13 career starts, Tiz a Minister has accumulated $420,780 in lifetime earnings.
"I've always had the opinion that he's a middle distance horse, but we'll absolutely consider the (Grade 2, $150,000) Swaps (going nine furlongs on July 4) if everything goes right," Aguirre said.
Bred in California by Dahlberg Farms, Tiz a Minister was a Barretts January yearling RNA at $2,700 before finally selling for just $6,500 in the Barretts October Yearling Sale. He is the first stakes winner out of the unraced Cee's Tizzy mare Tiz a Mistress.