April 10, 2021

Cool, calm, and Collected in Californian

Collected will seek his fifth stakes victory in 2017 © BENOIT PHOTO

Speedway Stable’s Collected stamped his class as the 3-5 favorite in Saturday’s $200,000 Californian S. (G2), underscoring the depth of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s older brigade. Until world champion Arrogate is ready to rumble later this summer, the barn has no shortage of capable deputies in this division.

Indeed, Baffert was originally double-handed in the Californian, with Cupid set for his four-year-old debut. But the son of Tapit was an 11th-hour scratch, thanks to one of those imponderable incidents. Britney Eurton tweeted that Cupid “sustained a superficial cut to his hock from acting up in the wash rack.”

Collected, however, was the picture of decorum in the Californian. Although Prime Attraction, the longest shot on the board at 13-1, could have been a pace nuisance as he headed Collected through fractions of :23.23 and :46.77, the favorite appeared blithely unconcerned on the rail. Jockey Martin Garcia simply let Collected stride on nearing the six-furlong split, and he was already clear in 1:10.56.

The stalking Prospect Park picked up the baton from the backpedaling Prime Attraction, but Collected was going too easily into the stretch. Widening his margin to 3 3/4 lengths, the City Zip colt sped 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.73 on the fast track.

Follow Me Crev, unhurried early, did his best work late to take runner-up honors by 1 1/2 lengths from Prospect Park. Deep-closing turfer Texas Ryano nearly caught him for third, crossing the wire just a half-length astern, and Prime Attraction was a tailed-off last.

Collected is now three-for-three on the Santa Anita dirt, having won last year’s Sham (G3) as well as the April 1 Santana Mile in his return from a 10-month layoff. The chestnut had not been seen since his disappointing 10th in the Preakness (G1). Prior to that setback, Collected had been very much on the upswing with dominant wins in the Sunland Festival of Racing (the Sunland Derby [G3] substitute race) and the Lexington (G3). Now he’s resumed his forward march, promising to add to his ledger of 9-6-1-0, $600,500.

Bred by Runnymede Farm and Peter Callahan, Collected was a $150,000 Keeneland September yearling who brought $170,000 as an OBS March two-year-old. He was produced by the winning Johannesburg mare Helena Bay, who descends from the same family as Japanese champion Agnes Digital and influential sire Blushing Groom.

Quotes from Santa Anita

Winning rider Martin Garcia: “In the Santana he wasn’t even ready for that race. He was maybe three-quarters and I even told Bob that I was going to go easy in that race. The race happened just like we thought it would. The speed went, I just sat back, made one move and he just took off.

“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.”

Winning trainer Bob Baffert: “Martin is a big part of our success. The one thing I’ve learned about Martin is that he knows these horses really well; I try to stay out of his way. Sometimes I try to tell him what he needs to do and it’s always the wrong instructions.

“Once you have a jock that has that confidence and knows that I’m leaving it up to him…it’s a good team, everybody around me. He’s been a big part of Arrogate and this is how we thank him. We throw him a bone with a big filet on it and he wins a big stake for me.”

On the new and improved Collected: “When we turned him out last year, Mel McGuire in Kentucky, really did a great job getting him ready, 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.

“He ran a respectable time so it was pretty fast.

“We wanted to see what he would do here and how he comes out of it, but the (May 27) Gold Cup (G1) is possible.”

Peter Fluor of Speedway Stable: “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.”

Paymaster Racing’s Inordinate and jockey Corey Nakatani win the San Juan Capistrano Stakes
© BENOIT PHOTO

Santa Anita also staged the $100,345 San Juan Capistrano (G3), and if the historic contest isn’t quite what it used to be, the about 1 3/4-mile marathon still delivered a power-packed finish. Inordinate, once used as a pacemaker for fellow Juddmonte-bred Flintshire, sliced between foes to earn his first stakes victory.

Purchased for $65,000 at Keeneland last November, Inordinate was making his third start for new connections, owner Paymaster Racing and trainer Richard Baltas. The five-year-old son of Harlan’s Holiday was second in his reappearance in a second-level allowance February 25, but regressed in blinkers when seventh in the March 25 San Luis Rey (G2). He ditched the headgear here.

Inordinate bided his time in fourth early beneath Corey Nakatani, who found a seam in the homestretch and produced the 5-2 chance at the right instant. Syntax, the 4-5 favorite, was rallying boldly on his outside, and bumped with Inordinate as they kicked away from Power Foot. But Inordinate shrugged it off and crossed the wire a half-length to the good, completing the unique course in 2:50.51.

Syntax’s rider, Rafael Bejarano, lodged a claim of foul against Inordinate, but it was disallowed. The stewards found Syntax culpable for the incident.

Inordinate has now bankrolled $207,271 from his 14-3-2-3 line. Initially trained by Pascal Bary in France, the bay placed in a trio of stakes in 2015. He just missed in the Prix Matchem and finished third in the Prix Daphnis (G3) (to eventual Gulfstream Park Turf [G1] hero Almanaar) and third to Mr Owen in the Prix de Tourgeville. Resurfacing with Chad Brown last season, Inordinate is best remembered for his rabbit escapade in the Sword Dancer Invitational (G1), where he came off the fence to open the door for his odds-on stablemate Flintshire.

Quotes from Santa Anita

Winning rider Corey Nakatani: “That was a dream come true, ever since I started riding. This is the first time I’ve ever won the San Juan Capistrano. I’ve always wanted to win it though, from the first days of watching it to the days when I rode for Bobby Frankel. I learned so much from Bobby. It’s a dream come true to win it.

“I always feel confident going into a race, whether we’re good enough to win it or not. I always had a lot of faith in this horse. The way Richard has prepared him coming into this race, and (assistant) David (Meah) and the whole team over there, they make my job easy.

“We experimented by putting blinkers on him last time and he was more forwardly placed. It got him to the point where he was training forwardly as well, so the purpose was there, and was right, it just didn’t work out in his last race.”

Winning trainer Richard Baltas: “I don’t know why I put the blinkers on last time. We took ’em off today and got a great ride. I thought the top two horses both ran big races. The cheap speed went and these two decided it. It was a helluva race.”

Jockey Rafael Bejarano on runner-up Syntax: “He tried hard. When there was contact, I thought my horse shifted a little bit . . . We were second-best today.”