|Official photo finish of the 2010 Travers|
When the juveniles started popping up in 2010, I started to avidly watch all of the baby races on TVG and HRTV, hoping to find my next Afleet Express. This time, it came much earlier in the year, and the performance didn't "wow" me the in same way as Afleet Express, but you'll soon see why. The horse's connections (A carbon-copy of my boy Pyro circa 2008) first gave me reason to like him, as well as the fact he'd finished in the money (3rd) in his only start; there was only room for improvement here in his second start. It was September 19, 2010, a Maiden Special Weight run at 1 mile 70 yards at Monmouth Park. As soon as the gates popped open, everything went horribly wrong for Tapizar. The colt stumbled a step out of the break, and jockey Shaun Bridgmohan flew straight over the juvenile's head. That didn't stop Tapizar, who was by then trailing at the back of the field as the rest left him in the dust. Off he went in hot pursuit while the jockey rolled to safety, and in a few strides, Tapizar had flown up the inside rail on his own volition and took the lead by the time the field had reached the first turn. Riderless, Tapizar assumed the lead by several lengths. The rest of the field eventually caught up to him halfway along the backstretch, and here's where it got interesting. Tapizar dropped back behind eight rivals going into the final turn, and as soon as he began to run around the middle of the turn, it was as if he decided to become Seabiscuit and take another run at those challengers one more time. Most horses will bolt and run for the stables when they're loose, or simply peter out and jog at the back of the pack without any guidance. Tapizar took the initiative and decided he still wanted to win this. The two-year-old son of Tapit circled foes and dove between horses to cut up the inside rail. Then he began to charge along the rail at the leaders, and settled for an unofficial third place after this absurd riderless trip. While the Racing Form would never count this effort on record, it was hard to deny this was indeed, a special horse. Under very similar circumstances in which I had discovered Afleet Express, I entered Tapizar into my barn with hopes I had finally found the colt I was looking for.
Ironically, I was able to witness Tapizar's next two starts in person--and in both of those instances, I happened to be watching him race from the Churchill Downs press box balcony. I didn't plan it this way, and I find it funny, since I'm normally glued to one of the two rails on the track during races. The first time I saw him run in front of me was on the Thursday before the Breeders' Cup. My spot from the press box gave me a bird's eye view of the trouble Tapizar would have in this start--he had drawn the far outside post, #12, and was fanned 6-side going into the first turn. This is what ultimately cost him the race, for he could only manage leaving the final turn running 3-wide, and he ended up finishing fourth that day. (At least this time, it counted.) Admittedly, I was a little crushed by this placing, but as Tapizar hadn't yet been blessed with a good trip in which to flaunt his talent, I was hoping the next time the waters would part for him.
Admittedly, I was a little burned out both emotionally and physically after the Breeders' Cup whirlwind, and I probably hadn't been watching as many juvenile races as I had the year before. But I still remembered that mind-boggling performance by Tapizar at Monmouth, and so when I saw that he would be running while I was at Churchill on November 27th, I became excited. By that time, I was more than a little desperate to discover that one juvenile I could hang my hopes on for the new year. With 80% of my barn now off to the breeding shed, I didn't have a lot left to root for in 2011, and depression set in when not just my precious Afleet Express, but my other fan-since-the-maiden-race horse, Lookin at Lucky, was retired after a fourth place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic. So I guess what I'm trying to say was that I was really needing Tapizar to win for me that late day in November.
And boy, did he come through. Tapizar was slated to run in the night cap, the 12th race on the card. I knew I would have to do some begging with my husband to let me stay for that one, as we had to drive home to Illinois after the stakes were over and I'd uploaded my photos to the Horsephotos server. Because of the late post times, the last stakes race of the day, the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, was run under the lights and would make for a late trip home. Photographing under the lights does not make me a happy camper. Even though the night racing looks pretty on TV, in person, it's a nightmare for photographers. Unless you're intending to get a pan photo, where the horse's legs are blurry, the only shot that will come out is at the finish line, where a spotlight brightens up the area directly across from the finish. I like my photos to be sharp as can be, and let's face it, I wasn't looking to be artistic or experimental when it came down to a horse I was really interested in. If Tapizar had a chance to win, I wanted to get the best shot I could of him.
|Tapizar breaks his maiden in a romp at Churchill|