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ARCADIA, CA – Michael Lund Petersen’s Mucho Gusto earned his third victory in as many career starts – all graded stakes – over the southern California oval when he shot to the lead in the far turn and never looked back en route to winning Sunday’s $100,000 Affirmed Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park.
Breaking from the far outside post 6 under Joe Talamo as the 9/5 second choice, Mucho Gusto raced four-wide early while Visitant posted opening fractions of :24.14 and :48.92. Heading into the far turn, Mucho Gusto raced three-wide alongside the early pacesetter while his fellow Bob Baffert stablemate Kingly took the inside route.
Smoothly taking command at the 1/4 pole, Mucho Gusto kicked away sharply at the top of the stretch and proved too tough to be caught. Wrapped up late, Mucho Gusto crossed the wire with a 2 1/4-length advantage in a final time of 1:45.15 for the 1 1/16-mile event over the fast main track.
“We had a really good trip,” Talamo said. “He broke really sharp; I noticed the two outside horses went and I was just trying to track them around there. He was just full of run turning for home. He just tries really hard and you can do whatever you want with him. He finally drew the outside today, so we were able to kind of sit outside. With the right trip, I don’t think this colt has any distance limitations. If he settles like he did today, he’s gonna be very tough. He can go to the lead or sit second or third; as long as he settles, he’ll finish.”
Roadster, the third Baffert entry who was also the even-money favorite, languished near the rear before passing three foes in the stretch but was unable to close in on the winner. Visitant held third by 1 length over Manhattan Up, while Kingly – who was extremely rank for much of the race – eventually weakened to fifth. Always Forgiven dueled between Kingly and Mucho Gusto early but gave way rapidly in the far turn before completing the order of finish.
Mucho Gusto’s win was his second straight after taking the Lazaro Barrera Stakes (G3) here in May and was his third in his past four starts, with his lone loss coming in the Sunland Park Derby (G3) in March. The 3-year-old son of Mucho Macho Man improved his career record to 7-5-1-1 with $430,800 earned and may travel east to Monmouth Park for the 1 1/8-mile Haskell Invitational (G1) for his next start.
“I told Joe, if we are going to win any bigger purses, this horse needs to learn to relax instead of going out there fast all the time,” Baffert said. “I think this horse is maturing; he is a late foal and he’s getting better. That race at Sunland set him back a little. They went so fast. There’s some derbies around, but I think he’ll probably go to the Haskell. As long as he relaxes, he’ll run that far. When we run him in these races, we just try to get something positive from him, but I think Mucho has really improved.”
Mucho Gusto returned $5.80 to win, $2.60 to place, and $2.20 to show. Roadster brought back $2.40 to place and $2.10 to show, while Visitant paid $2.60 to show.
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