Caracortado emerged as a Kentucky Derby contender Saturday night with a victory over highly touted colts Tiz Chrome and American Lion in the $150,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita.
Trainer Bob Baffert's favored Tiz Chrome took the early lead in the field of five but weakened coming into the homestretch and gave way to a surging Caracortado, who cruised to a 1 3/4-length under jockey Paul Atkinson.
Unbeaten in his five career starts, Caracortado covered 1 1-16 miles in 1:41.75 and paid $11, $4.60 and $2.60. Dave in Dixie was second and paid $4.40 and $3. American Lion was third and paid $3. Tiz Chrome faded to fourth.
"This horse is very mature, he acts like an older horse," said Atkinson. "You can do anything with him. You can put him on the lead or he'll relax off the pace like he did today."
Despite his undefeated record, the California-bred gelding had gotten little Derby attention before Saturday.
Trainer and part-owner Mike Machowsky said having the 40-year-old journeyman Atkinson in the saddle may have been the reason.
"I think using a low-profile rider probably has kept him flying under the radar," Machowsky said, "but if he's under the radar now, he shouldn't be."
Caracortado, whose name means "Scarface" in Spanish, earned $90,000 for Saturday's win, taking his career total to $199,200.
Machowsky said he'll look to run the gelding next in the San Felipe Stakes on March 13 at Santa Anita, where he hopes to face Baffert's early Derby favorite Lookin at Lucky.
The race, along with two other stakes at Santa Anita, had been rained out the previous Saturday.
Among the 3-year-old females, overwhelming favorite Blind Luck had to rally to beat Evening Jewel by a nose in the Grade 1, $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes.
Coming off a seven-length victory in the Hollywood Starlet and a close third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, Blind Luck was last in the field of five in the early going, moved up to fourth on the second turn and sped past the field three-wide under the urging of jockey Rafael Bejarano for the win, covering one mile in 1:35.98.
Blind Luck earned $150,000 for the win, her fifth in seven lifetime starts, for a career total of $859,050.
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has said he hopes to run the filly in the Kentucky Oaks the day before the Kentucky Derby.
Blind Luck paid $2.40, $2.10 and $2.10. Evening Jewel paid $5.60 and $3. Switch paid $2.40 to show.
In the $250,000 Santa Maria Handicap for older females, favorite St Trinians beat Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic champion Life is Sweet by 1 3/4 lengths.
Both St Trinians and Life is Sweet came off the pace and came out of the turn four-wide, but the favorite held off Life is Sweet for the win, covering 1 1-16 miles in 1:41.73.
St Trinians paid $4.60, $2.60 and $2.60. Life is Sweet paid $2.40 and $2.40. My Baby Baby paid $4.20 to show.
The 5-year-old British-bred mare has won all four of her starts since coming to the United States.
In the day's final stakes, long shot Jeranimo won his first stakes with an upset of heavy favorite Misremembered in the $200,000 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds.
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