Wake Up Nick, a 9 1/4-length debut maiden winner, ran his record to 2-for-2 with a gritty three-quarter-length victory in the $125,000 Santa Anita Juvenile Stakes June 22 (VIDEO).
Conditioned by meet-leading trainer Doug O'Neill, Wake Up Nick is owned by J. Paul Reddam and was ridden to victory by Mario Gutierrez.
Winners of the 2012 Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness (all gr. I) with I'll Have Another , O'Neill, Reddam and Gutierrez served notice they're back with another talented juvenile.
"That was nice," said O'Neill. "There's nowhere to run when you win early at the meet like that and to try and keep him to maintain his sharpness as long as we had, it shows how good this horse is."
Timed in 1:04.28 for the 5 1/2-furlong Santa Anita Juvenile (previously the Hollywood Juvenile Championship), 4-1 chance Wake Up Nick bettered a field of four other sharp debut winners and a first-time starter. Story to Tell finished willingly for second by 1 1/4 lengths over debuting Homer Matt.
Holiday Camp, the even-money choice from the Bob Baffert barn, was bumped and squeezed at the start and struggled home last.
Wake Up Nick, a son of Cindago bred in California by Lee and Susan Searing, was a $35,000 Barretts March 2-year-olds in training purchase by Dennis O'Neill on behalf of Reddam when consigned by Havens Bloodstock Agency. The chestnut colt is out of the Lion Hearted mare Storm Hearted.
Kristi's Copilot, leaving from the rail, hustled to the front. Wake Up Nick, after bumping with the favorite, settled into second between horses and Homer Matt was on their outside. The pace was hotly contested through fractions of :21.98 and :45 and Kristi's Copilot continued to lead into the stretch.
But the pacesetter began to weaken approaching midstretch as Wake Up Nick took the lead past the furlong mark and inched clear under left-handed urging from Gutierrez. The winner, after completing five furlongs in :57.58, held on well in the final sixteenth as Story to Tell surged late from fourth on the far outside to get the runner-up slot under Joe Talamo. Homer Matt turned in a strong debut to be third with Edwin Maldonado aboard. The late-running Henry's Holiday was fourth.
"I was impressed," O'Neill said. "I thought (Wake Up Nick) was in deep water around the turn there...Mario said he was a little lazy. He needs to be coerced, so once we got him up in there (between horses at the top of the lane), there was no looking back."
Kristi's Copilot and Holiday Camp followed in a field reduced to six by the scratch of Global Magician.
"It worked out perfect today," said Gutierrez. "I thought that Baffert's horse (Holiday Camp) was going to go for the lead and my plan was to have us sit close but not to rush him. I did the best I could and these are babies; I wanted to save all I could for the end."
Wake Up Nick, extending his earnings to $108,600 in two starts, paid $10.80, $5.20, and $4.40 as the fourth choice. He topped a $61 exacta with Story to Tell, who returned $5.80 and $4.60. Homer Matt paid $6.60 to show.
Wake Up Nick debuted May 1 in a 4 1/2-furlong heat against California-breds at Santa Anita, dominating as the 1-2 favorite while timed in :51.22.