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Chad B. Harmon
Trainer Bob Baffert sends out three hopefuls in June 16 grade 3 at Santa Anita.
By Lenny Shulman
Not surprisingly, Bob Baffert is holding a strong hand for the June 16 Affirmed Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park. The Hall of Fame trainer will send out half the field in the $100,000 event for 3-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles.
The Affirmed marks the return of grade 1 winner Roadster, who was outrun in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) over a sloppy strip at Churchill Downs. Speedway Stable’s charge boasts a top-level victory in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) in April and figures to get an excellent stalking trip in this six-horse field.
The Quality Road half brother to grade 1 winner Ascend has won three of his five starts and finished third in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) as a 2-year-old.
Michael Lund Petersen’s Mucho Gustodrew the outside gate in the Affirmed and will likely clear the field early, duplicating the method in which he won the Laz Barrera Stakes (G3) at seven furlongs last month. The Baffert trainee has never been off the board in six career starts and his four victories include three in grade 3 company.
In addition to the Barrera, he’s won the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita and took the Bob Hope Stakes (G3) at Del Mar last summer. Both Mucho Gusto and Roadster will tote 124 pounds, giving two-to-four pounds to their opponents here.
Baffert’s third entrant, Kingly, is the winner of the California Derby at Golden Gate Fields. He tired in the Alcatraz Stakes last out and finished third after setting the early tempo. He too has never been off the board in his five-race career. The Tapit colt has the pedigree as a half brother to grade 1 winner New Year’s Day, sire of Maximum Security, and a full brother to grade 2 winner and sire Mohaymen .
Williamson Racing homebred Visitant drew the rail in the Affirmed and rallied last out to defeat Kingly in the Alcatraz after settling for second in the California Derby, his only defeat in four efforts for trainer John Martin. He has shown a significant closing kick in his races, but the Affirmed will mark his first try on dirt, as he’s raced exclusively on the Tapeta at Golden Gate.
Manhattan Up checked in second behind Mucho Gusto in the Barrera and was also third behind Roadster in an allowance optional claimer in March. Maiden winner Always Forgiven rounds out the field. The son of Blame drew off by 5 3/4 lengths to break his maiden in his third start last time out for trainer and co-owner Keith Desormeaux in a one-mile test at Santa Anita.