Sharp Azteca toyed with five rivals in Saturday’s $300,000 Kelso H. (G2) at Belmont Park, setting himself up well for a serious run in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Del Mar in early November.
The 1-2 favorite in the one-turn, one-mile test contested on a fast track, Sharp Azteca held a narrow lead over Bird Song after a quarter in :23.50, and still held a head advantage after a half in a highly reasonable :46.48 as four of the six bunched up and were within three parts of a length of each other.
However, after entering the stretch, Sharp Azteca quickly kicked clear under Paco Lopez and won in hand by four lengths over Divining Rod, with Tom’s Ready winning a three-way photo for third 5 1/4 lengths back. Tommy Macho, Ross, and Bird Song completed the order of finish.
Owned by Ivan Rodriguez and trained by Jorge Navarro, Sharp Azteca paid $3 after completing the distance in 1:34.12.
“He got the leap out front and I let him go [to the lead]. He was very comfortable,” Lopez said. “I waited as long as I wanted and when I asked him, he ran very good. He’s a very good horse. Anybody could ride that horse.”
Winner of the Pat Day Mile (G3) and $100,000 City of Laurel last season, Sharp Azteca concluded his three-year-old campaign with a close second in the Malibu (G1). He kicked off this year with a 4 1/2-length victory in the Gulfstream Park H. (G2), and then faded to third after leading most of the way in the Godolphin Mile (G2) at Meydan.
A clear second in the Metropolitan H. (G1) to Mor Spirit in his U.S. comeback, Sharp Azteca preceded this score with a 7 1/2-length romp in the Monmouth Cup (G3). He’s now won $1,136,740 from a line of 14-7-4-1.
Bred in Kentucky by a Cloyce Clark Jr. and a $220,000 OBS April juvenile purchase, Sharp Azteca is by Freud and out of So Sharp, a Saint Liam half-sister to Grade 2 winner Mint Lane. This is the family of Grade 3 winner and classic-placed Firing Line.