ARCADIA, CA — In a performance that moves him into consideration as an “A-List” player on the nation’s handicap horse division stage, Bob Baffert’s Collected demolished four rivals in taking Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Californian Stakes by 3 3/4 lengths under Martin Garcia while getting 1 1/8 miles in a rapid 1:47.73.
“When we turned him out last year (following a disappointing run in the Grade I Preakness Stakes May 21), Mel McGuire in Kentucky really did a great job getting him ready,” said Baffert. “(He) got him to relax more, and taking the blinkers off helped a lot, too.
“He’s really matured into a big, strong horse, and now we’re able to conserve that speed a little bit. Before, he was just wanting to go, go, go. And now, he’s learning to conserve. The more he’s learning to conserve it, the more we’re able to stretch him out a little. He handled it really well today, even with pressure.
“We wanted to see what he could do here and how he comes out of it, but the Gold Cup (at Santa Anita on May 27) is possible.”
Heavily backed at 3-5 following a 3 3/4-length win in his 2017 debut, the Santana Mile here on April 1, the Speedway Stable, LLC-owned Collected notched his sixth win from nine starts. With the winner’s share of $120,000, the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred colt by City Zip increased his earnings to $600,500.
“This was a big race for him,” said part owner Peter Fluor. “We backed off on him after the Preakness and he ran real well here in his first race back. Bob had him for about a month going into that and he earned a 101 Beyer (Speed figure). It was great to have him come back and run like this today. As far as plans, I think you look to the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar in November and work your way back. We’ll get with Bob and decide what we’re going to do. Bob told us, ‘Anytime you can have fresh horses in March, that can be lethal,’ so it looks like we’re in good shape.”
A wire-to-wire winner of the Santana Mile, Collected sat a close second to longshot Prime Attraction early, went to the lead a 1/2-mile from home, and was in complete command at the top of the stretch. Fractions on the race were 23.23, 46.77, 1:10.56 and 1:35.09.
“In the Santana, he wasn’t even ready for that race,” said Garcia. “He was maybe 3/4, and I even told Bob that I was going to go easy in that race. This time, I was pressured a little and knew there was speed to my outside. He always likes to run on the lead. Today, I just let him break and run where he wanted to. When it was time to go, I just asked and he took off.”
Ridden by Kent Desormeaux, Follow Me Crev was well in-hand while positioned fourth early and rallied past Prospect Park to finish second by 1 1/2 lengths. Prospect Park, who was attentive to the pace while third early under Flavien Prat, moved to challenge the winner around the far turn but was no match.
Baffert’s multiple graded stakes winning Cupid, who was 3-1 on the morning line, injured himself on the walk-over from the stable area to the receiving barn and was subsequently scratched.
Collected returned $3.20, $2.40 and $2.10. Follow Me Crev brought back $3.00 and $2.10, while Prospect Park paid $2.60 to show.
Santa Anita Park