Although the distance may have been a concern to some beforehand, Bob Baffert's speedy Mucho Gusto settled nicely off the pace and took charge around the far turn en route to an impressive 2 ¼ length win over stablemate Roadster in today's Grade III, $100,000 Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita. Ridden by Joe Talamo, Mucho Gusto, a 3-year-old colt by Mucho Macho Man, got a mile and one sixteenth with aplomb in 1:45.15.
Attentive to the pace from the outset, Mucho Gusto, fresh off a 3 ¼ length score in the Grade III Lazaro Barrera Stakes going seven furlongs on May 18, sat a joint third with Roadster heading to the far turn, but when Talamo stepped on the gas at the 3 ½ furlong pole, he quickly reeled in early pacesetters Visitant and Kingly while leaving Roadster in his wake and was in-hand at the wire.
“With the right trip, I don't think this colt has any distance limitations,” said Talamo, who's ridden Mucho Gusto in all seven of his starts, including a disappointing third two starts back in the Grade III Sunland Derby at 1 1/8 miles on March 24. “He finally drew outside today, so we were able to kind of sit outside. He can go to the lead or sit second or third. As long as he settles, he'll finish.”
The second choice in a field of six sophomores at 9-5, Mucho Gusto, who is out of the Giant's Causeway mare Itsagiantcauseway, paid $5.80, $2.60 and $2.20.
“That race at Sunland set him back a little,” said Baffert. “They went so fast. There's some derbies around, but I think he'll probably go to the Haskell (Invitational, Grade I, 1 1/8 miles July 20 at Monmouth Park). As long as he relaxes, he'll run that far…I think 'Mucho' has really improved.”
Owned by Michael Lund Petersen, Mucho Gusto now has four graded stakes wins to his credit and an overall mark of 7-5-1-1. With the winner's share of $60,000, he now has earnings of $430,800.
Ridden by Mike Smith, Roadster, who subsequent to his Santa Anita Derby win, was beaten 16 ½ lengths in the Kentucky Derby May 4, was off at even money and paid $2.40 and $2.10 while finishing one length in front of Visitant.
“Roadster was coming at the end but he's not quite where he was,” said Baffert. “This was a positive move forward. He needs a little bit more weight on him after the Derby. He's not where he was, but he'll get there. He needed a turnaround race and hopefully this is it.”
Breaking from the rail with William Antongeorgi III, Northern California-based Visitant went to the rail, but was badgered turning up the backside by Baffert's Kingly, who appeared to be extremely rank under Mario Gutierrez.
A minor stakes winner at Golden Gate Fields May 19, Visitant was off at 5-1 and paid $2.60 to show.
Fractions on the race were 24.14, 48.92, 1:13.28 and 1:38.37.
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