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ARCADIA, CA – A surprise to no one, Ax Man, ridden for the first time by Edwin Maldonado, sped to the front out of the gate and never looked back as he drilled five rivals, including his well-fancied stablemate Mastering, by 4 1/2 lengths in Sunday’s $75,000 Santana Mile at Santa Anita.
Trained by Bob Baffert and owned and bred by longtime clients Hal and Patti Earnhardt, Ax Man got the distance in 1:36.56.
Breaking like a shot from his number 5 post position, Ax Man obviously relished his front-running trip and with a 3-length advantage over Major Cabbie 3/16 of a mile from home, the Santana Mile was never in question thereafter.
“I was very confident turning for home,” said Maldonado, who is regarded as one of the best “speed” riders on this circuit. “I gave him a couple reminders, but he knows what he’s doing… Bob told me to put him on the lead and it’s not like I don’t like to be on the lead, right? The rest of it was very simple, put him on the lead and he did the rest.”
Fourth in the Palos Verdes Stakes (G3) going 6 furlongs here on January 23, Ax Man, who was unbeaten in 2 starts at a flat mile, was off as the third choice in the wagering at 3/1 and paid $8.80, $5.80 and $4.00.
“I’m happy for Hal Earnhardt and Patti, they have been with me since day one, since 1983 and it’s been real quiet for them (lately),” said Baffert, who also notched his third win on the day and his 10th stakes victory, giving him 26 and 10 respectively, good for a dead heat in both categories with Phil D’Amato. “This was a perfect spot for him and I told Edwin, ‘When this horse makes the lead, he gets really brave on the lead,’ and that’s what he did today.
“We’ll give him a little time,” Baffert said. “He ran pretty hard today, but we’ll freshen him and pick our spots with him. He’s been a lot of fun at the barn. He deserved one of these wins because he was hooking some monsters (in his earlier races).”
A 6-year-old gelding by Baffert’s 2011 Santana Mile winner Misremembered, Ax Man is out of the Flying Chevron mare Shameful. A winner of a restricted stakes at Pimlico at age 3, Ax Man now has 2 stakes wins and an overall mark of 16-7-0-3. With the winner’s share of $47,880, he increased his earnings to $357,797.
A multiple stakes winner but the longest shot in the field at 9/1, owner/trainer Val Brinkerhoff’s Restrainedvengence was last early and made a good late run to finish second, 1 1/2 lengths in front of Fashionably Fast. Ridden by Tyler Baze, Restrainedvengence paid $8.60 and $5.00.
Quick from the gate but no match early for the winner, California-bred Fashionably Fast was third throughout while never threatening the winner. The second choice at 3/1 with Tiago Pereira up, he paid $3.20 to show while finishing 1 1/4 lengths in front of Mastering.
Ridden by Juan Hernandez, Mastering, the 9/5 favorite, saved ground throughout and was fourth, about 2 1/2 off the winner at the 1/4 pole but did not fire in a disappointing effort.
Fractions on the race were 23.11, 46.83, 1:11.65 and 1:23.95.
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