Azul Leon became the first graded winner and the second added-money winner overall for North America’s leading first crop sire, Lion Heart, with a four-length triumph in the $106,000 Hollywood Juvenile Championship Stakes (gr. III) July 5. The bay 2-year-old Kentucky-bred colt covered six furlongs over Cushion Track in 1:10.88 with jockey Rafael Bejarano aboard after trailing earlier in the race behind fractions of :22.42 and :46.52.
“What a beautiful horse; he’s kind of like a Stevie Wonderboyish kind of horse," said Azul Leon's trainer, Doug O'Neill. "He’s just very professional. He’s the type of horse you can work by himself and he gets enough out of it."
Sent off the favorite in the field of eight, Azul Leon bobbled at the start and was running last a quarter mile into the race as Making Dreams set the pace, pressed by Seismometer and Swiss Alpine. But by the half-mile point, Azul Leon had advanced to sixth, and he came charging four wide in the turn and was five wide heading into the stretch. Even though he drifted in, Azul Leon shot past Making Dreams and galloped away in the drive to the wire.
"Everybody was pushing and shoving on their horses early," Bejarano said. " I was trying to keep out of trouble and stay outside a little bit. I wanted to see everything that was happening. From the three-eighths, it was pretty clear that my horse started running and I just let him go. It was a very easy race. When you've got that much the best horse, you can do anything you want."
Making Dreams held on for second, finishing a head in front of the rallying Fassnacht in third. Rounding out the field were Seismometer, Turbo Call, Jack Flash, Let'spickupthepace, and Swiss Alpine. Azul Leon paid $4.20, $3.00, and $2.40. Making Dreams returned $19.00 and $9.00 while Fassnacht paid $3.40. The exacta (4-8) returned $94.80.
It was the second career victory against no defeats for Azul Leon, who broke his maiden by a head over Cut the Check in a 4 ½-furlong maiden race at Hollywood May 8.
Azul Leon is a homebred racing for the Joseph Lacombe Stable. The stable campaigned Favorite Trick, who was the Horse of the Year and champion 2-year-old colt in 1997, when he was undefeated in eight races and captured the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Hollywood.
"A lot of credit goes to the Lacombes (Joseph and Irene) and Gayle Woods down in Florida who broke him and got him prepared, O'Neill said. "Basically, he came off the van and we ran him very shortly after. I think it was three or four weeks after we got him. A horse like this you just make sure he eats well and goes to the track every day and figure out a game plan with the owners. The Lacombes have been very patient about having an ideal game plan towards, hopefully, the big race at Santa Anita (the Breeders Cup Juvenile. gr. I). He might be in the Best Pal (gr. II) next, and the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) is a possibility.”
Produced from the Cure the Blues mare Quick Blue, Azul Leon has career earnings of $92,400.