Trainer Julio Canani has his eye on the $350,000 Swaps Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. II) at nine furlongs on July 12 for Two Step Salsa, the Everest Stables' homebred who has won three of four sprint races in his brief career.
"Let's see what happens," said Canani, optimistic that the Petionville colt will handle the extra distance.
Eight colts and geldings are entered in the 1 1/16-mile Affirmed, including grade I winner Dixie Chatter, who ran a creditable third in the seven-furlong Laz Barrera following a 7 1/2-month layoff.
In the Barrera, Two Step Salsa flew from the inside post and led all the way under jockey Martin Pedroza. He drew away from his rivals mid-stretch for a three-length victory in his graded stakes debut. The winning time was a sharp 1:20.66.
The dark bay is unbeaten in three starts on synthetic surfaces. Two Step Salsa's lone loss came when second in the six-furlong Harry Henson Stakes on the Hollywood lawn prior to winning the Barrera.
Two Step Salsa, with Pedroza aboard, again drew the rail for the Affirmed and will carry 119 pounds. He should dictate the pace again with only Tres Borrachos likely to duel on the front end.
Dixie Chatter figures to improve in his second comeback start with the added distance for veteran trainer Richard Mandella, who gave the call to Richard Migliore. Dixie Chatter, a colt by Dixie Union bred and owned by Herman Sarkowsky, captured the 1 1/16-mile Norfolk (gr. I) with Migliore aboard at Oak Tree's Santa Anita meeting last fall. But after getting ill prior to the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) and sustaining a subsequent injury, Dixie Chatter was sidelined until his return in the Barrera.
In that race, Dixie Chatter rated behind the pacesetter and made a three-wide bid in the stretch. He could not match strides with Two Step Salsa late and settled for third, 5 1/4 lengths behind. Dixie Chatter was assigned high weight of 120 for the Affirmed.
Trevor's Clever, a neck winner from off the pace at odds of 17-1 in the Alydar Stakes May 24 for trainer Ted H. West, shortens up a bit for the Affirmed. The Oak West Farm-owned son of Stephen Got Even made his stakes bow in the Alydar, his seventh lifetime start.
"He is improving with each start; he moves forward in every try," said West, who is also aiming the colt a return in the Swaps.
The speedy Tres Borrachos returns to Southern California following a troubled effort in the Preakness (gr. I) May 17. In preparation for the Affirmed, the Beau Greely trainee worked four furlongs at Hollywood June 11 in :49 1/5.
The Ecton Park gelding was expected to help set the pace in the Preakness but lost all chance when he stumbled at the start and trailed the field. Tres Borrachos, third in both the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) and El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) prior to the Preakness, has a maiden win in eight starts.
Arizona invader Ez Dreamer, conditioned by Dan McFarlane, switches to synthetic track following a third-place in the Will Rogers Stakes (gr. IIIT) on the Hollywood lawn going one mile May 17.
Wind's Legacy, fourth in the Barrera, and Exuma and Bingham, third and fourth, respectively, in the Alydar, complete the field.
Bingham, a Monarchos gelding, adds blinkers for the first time. “He didn’t try very hard in his last race so we’re putting blinkers on him,” said trainer Jeff Mullins.
$100,000 Affirmed Handicap (gr. III, Race 8, 4:50 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/16 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Two Step Salsa (KY), 119, Martin A. Pedroza
2. Trevor's Clever (FL), 115, Joseph Talamo
3. Exuma (KY), 113, Joel Rosario
4. Ez Dreamer (AZ), 115, Corey S. Nakatani
5. Tres Borrachos (KY), 116, Tyler Baze
6. Bingham (KY), 114, Rafael Bejarano
7. Dixie Chatter (KY), 120, Richard Migliore
8. Wind's Legacy (KY), 113, Jon K. Court