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CYPRESS, CA – Early leader Classier proved tough as nails late as he held on for a gate-to-wire triumph in Sunday’s $150,000 Los Alamitos Derby (G3) that ended in an exciting photo finish with his stablemate Defunded.
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Classier broke from the rail under Mike Smith as the 6/5 second choice and went straight to the lead, where he posted opening fractions of :22.98, :47.01, and 1:11.08 while It’s My House and the 3/5 favorite Defunded gave closest watch.
Defunded ranged up in the far turn to challenge for the lead, but Classier dug deep and kept his stubborn stablemate at bay the length of the stretch before eventually crossing a nostril the best.
The final time for the 1 1/8-mile fast dirt route was 1:49.15.
“I waited until the 1/8 pole to ask him, and when he saw (Defunded), he really dug in,” Smith said. “This is a big colt with a lot to him and he is going to get even better.”
Some 14 lengths back came Ingest by a 1/2-length over It’s My House for third. Back Ring Luck completed the order of finish in the race restricted to 3-year-olds.
Classier’s win was his first at the stakes level and improved his overall mark to 4-2-0-1 with $155,000 earned for co-owners SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Golconda Stables, Siena Farm, and Robert Masterson. The Empire Maker colt, purchased as a yearling for $775,000, finished eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) just 2 weeks after breaking his maiden on debut, then missed 7 months before returning to finish third in the Affirmed Stakes (G3) June 13.
“We thought he’d be on the lead last time, but he stumbled leaving the gate and he really needed the race (the Affirmed),” winning trainer Bob Baffert said. “He’s going to improve off this. I can take my time with him now and figure out a spot because he is bred to be a superstar.”
Classier returned $4.60 to win and $2.20 to place. Defunded brought back $2.10 to place. There was no show betting.
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