ARCADIA, CA – A day after Justify won the Triple Crown, C R K Stable’s late-blooming Draft Pick picked up his second straight win on Sunday at Santa Anita Park in a race named for another famous Triple Crown winner, the Grade 3, $100,000 Affirmed Stakes.
Breaking without cause from the far outside post 6 under Joe Talamo, Draft Pick stalked Afleet Ascent‘s near-jogging early splits of :24.60, :49.13, and 1:13.55. Draft Pick made his move three-wide around Afleet Ascent and Axelrod midway through the far turn and carried his momentum well, using it to take command in mid-stretch. Continuing to inch away with every step, Draft Pick crossed the wire first by 2 1/2 growing lengths in a final time of 1:44.34 for the 1 1/16-mile main track event.
“We had a perfect trip,” Talamo said. “I was real happy with my position, and when we swung out around those two horses on the lead, he really took off. Full credit to Pete, this horse is getting better and better. He finished up today like a serious horse.”
Axelrod held on well for second, outlasting the 1-5 favorite Solomini by 3/4 of a length. Trained by Bob Baffert and wearing the Zayat Stables colors that adorned Baffert’s first Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, Solomini made a four-wide bid in the far turn but was quickly outkicked by the winner while displaying his infamous refusal to switch leads in the stretch.
“He just wasn’t there for me today,” said jockey Martin Garcia. “I was asking him to run at the 3/8 (pole) and he just wasn’t himself.”
Afleet Ascent faded to fourth, outrunning King Cause and Run Away to complete the order of finish.
Draft Pick’s win followed his long-awaited maiden-breaking effort here on May 12. Prior to that victory, the 3-year-old son of Candy Ride could do no better than third in five straight efforts. Now with a record of 7-2-0-2, the Peter Eurton trainee increased his career earnings to $112,080.
“He was definitely up to the task today, wasn’t he?” Eurton said. “The track has to be a little bit slow and that :49 and change 1/2 didn’t hurt. The way he’s doing right now and the fact that the light has really come on with him is huge.”
Draft Pick returned $10.20 to win, $5.40 to place, and $2.40 to show. Axelrod brought back $16.60 to place and $3.60 to show, while Solomini paid $2.10 to show.