INGLEWOOD, Calif. (June 20, 2009) — Favorite Grazen took command from the start and cruised to his third straight win and first graded stakes victory under jockey Rafael Bejarano in Saturday’s $100,000 Affimred Handicap at Hollywood Park.
The victory completed a hat-trick for Bejarano as well as trainer Mike Mitchell, third all-time behind Hall of Fame members Charlie Whittingham and Bobby Frankel with 781 Hollywood Park victories.
Nick Alexander’s Grazen — tenth in his career debut last fall at Oak Tree — is perfect in three 2009 starts. He won the NTRA Stakes here in April on California Gold Rush Day and then connected in an allowance race prior to his dominating performance in the Grade III Affirmed.
Bejarano sent Grazen to the lead with Fiddlers Afleet hot on his heels. Grazen pulled away from Fiddlers Afleet turning for home and easily held Misremembered at bay through the stretch to win by 2 ¾ legnths while covering 1 1/16 miles on Cushion Track in 1:41.40.
“This horse is really getting better,” Bejarano said. “He loves being on the lead. When he’s on the lead, it doesn’t matter how fast he’s going. We went a real fast second quarter but I always felt he was going real easy. I still had a lot of horse at the end. I whipped him a couple of times when we came to the stretch and after that I just let him gallop out. He’s got a chance to be one of the real good ones.”
The stakes victory was the first for owner/breeder Alexander, who has been in horse racing for 28 years. The winner’s share of $60,000 raised the Cal-bred’s earnings to $135,400. He paid $5.20, $2.60 and $2.40, while Misremembered returned $3.40 and $2.60. Quindici Man, another 2 ¼ lengths back in third, paid $3.20.
“They didn’t give him any break this time, they went after him,” Mitchell said. “I felt like he was running free and out there by himself. He was out of trouble anyway. He’s a good horse and he’s learning what this is all about. What was really neat was the first mile race was just kind of a workout. He breezed so well that he just came out of it good. It wasn’t a race he was going to bounce from or anything, so it was just a perfect race to get under his belt. Going into this race I had a lot of horse to work with.”
Jockey Victor Espinoza, who was aiming for his fourth Affirmed victory, had no complaints with the runner-up.
“He always tries hard,” Espinoza said. “Turning for home I thought he was going to get it, but the other horse re-broke. My horse ran great.”
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