HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) -- Tapiture pulled away on the final turn and dominated down the stretch to win the $300,000 Southwest Stakes in fast conditions at Oaklawn Park on Monday.
The win came in the season debut for the Steven Asmussen-trained colt, which won its final race as a 2-year-old last year.
Tapiture went off at 5-1, while pre-race favorite and D. Wayne Lukas-trained Strong Mandate finished second. Ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., Tapiture paid $13, $4.80 and $3.20. Strong Mandate returned $3.40 and $2.80, while Ride On Curlin was third and paid $3.80 to show.
Oaklawn's series of Kentucky Derby prep races continues with the $600,000 Rebel Stakes on March 15 and the Arkansas Derby on April 12.
After battling snow and bitterly cold temperatures for much of the year, resulting in multiple cancellations, temperatures soared into the 70s on a sunny afternoon at Oaklawn Park.
The track conditions were just right for Tapiture, who surged into a lead group with Tanzanite Cat and Ride On Curlin on the backstretch of the 1 1/16-mile race.
Tapiture stayed closest to the rail among the lead trio before beginning to pull away on the final turn. The colt then easily kicked his way ahead of his challengers over the home stretch.
Asmussen, a two-time Eclipse Award winner for Trainer of the Year, also won the Preakness Stakes in 2007 with Curlin and 2009 with Rachel Alexandra.
Strong Mandate, ridden by Joel Rosario, began the day as a 2-1 favorite before going off at even money.
Ride On Curlin, the son of Curlin, won his only other start this year -- an allowance race at Oaklawn Park on Jan. 12. He was ridden by Calvin Borel.