July 21, 2024

Muth much the best in San Vicente

Muth wins the San Vicente Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park
Muth wins the San Vicente Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park (Photo by Benoit Photography)

Zedan Racing Stables’ Muth was by far the class of the field in Saturday’s $200,500 San Vicente (G2), and the 2-5 favorite duly kicked off his sophomore campaign on a winning note at Santa Anita. Working out a textbook stalk-and-pounce trip with Juan Hernandez, the Bob Baffert pupil overpowered stablemate Pilot Commander by 2 3/4 lengths.

Baffert was registering a record 13th win in the San Vicente, his dominance unaffected by its new position on the stakes calendar. The seven-furlong feature was formerly held about a month later, but track officials decided to bring it forward to the first Saturday in January in a tweaking of the schedule.

Muth didn’t mind it either. The son of Good Magic was shortening up after two strong performances at 1 1/16 miles, a daylight victory in the Oct. 7 American Pharoah (G1) and a runner-up effort in the Nov. 3 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). But he’d broken his maiden by blasting five furlongs back in June, and the cutback was no obstacle against overmatched rivals.

Although Pilot Commander shot out of the gate, Slider was the speed of the speed through fractions of :22.88 and :45.27. Pilot Commander pressed intently, with Muth poised in a watching third. Turning for home, the Baffert duo put away Slider and briefly engaged in an intramural battle.

The outcome was clear more than a furlong out, as Muth asserted handily in 1:23.01. Pilot Commander staved off a stubborn Slider by a head for second. There was a 5 3/4-length gap back to Boltage, followed by Moonlit Sonata and Formidable Man.

Muth, who was announced as an Eclipse Award finalist earlier Saturday, now sports a mark of 5-3-2-0, $716,600. Aside from his second to presumptive divisional champion Fierceness in the Breeders’ Cup, the bay was runner-up to stablemate Prince of Monaco in the Aug. 13 Best Pal (G3) at Del Mar. That came in his earlier days on the pace, and a more relaxed style has served him better.

“This horse has a lot of class,” Hernandez said after the San Vicente. “He’s learning a lot. I think he finally learned to run by himself because he broke really quick, and he saw the other two horses in front of me, and he just relaxed really well behind him.

“I was really comfortable the whole race – outside in the clear, that’s where I wanted to be. I was just waiting for the quarter pole to make him run. When we came to the quarter pole, I swung out and asked him to pick it up, he switched leads, and we got to the wire first.

“He galloped out pretty good,” Hernandez added. “I didn’t pull him right away because he was trying to keep going, so I just let him gallop out a little bit. Jogging back, he was in great form. He’s a nice horse, and hopefully we can keep winning big races like today.”

The $2 million OBS March topper, Muth was produced by the Uncle Mo mare Hoppa. They hail from the further family of noted sire Silver Hawk, Group 1 scorer War Command, New Zealand champion Rollout the Carpet, and South African star Charles Dickens, hero of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” King’s Plate (G1) at Kenilworth on Saturday.

Muth was bred by Don Alberto Corp., which was responsible for another Eclipse finalist of 2023, Belmont (G1) and Travers (G1) winner Arcangelo.