Robert and Beverly Lewis' homebred Courageous Act made his stakes debut a winning one Saturday at Santa Anita Park, winning the $75,000 San Pedro Stakes for 3-year-olds.
Cutting back in distance from 1 1/16 mile for trainer Bob Baffert, the Exploit
colt won by three-quarters of a length, defeating five rivals in a time of 1:16 for the 6 1/2-furlong event.
The Lewis's campaigned Exploit, the winner of the San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) in 1999.
Ridden by Javier Santiago, Courageous Act was fourth coming out of the turn, but rallied strongly after angling out slightly and caught the leader, Wimplestiltskin and jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. close to the wire. Stalking Tiger, the 9-5 second choice with Victor Espinoza in the irons, was third, another half-length behind.
Straw Poll, Stalking Tiger and Wimplestiltskin vied for command through swift fractions of :21 2/5, :44 1/5 and 1:09 1/5 into the stretch.
"I just had to rush him a little bit at the quarter pole," Santiago said through a translator. "There was a lot of traffic ahead of me so I swung outside. I didn't have to work very hard to get him up."
Jimmy's Instinct, the 8-5 favorite, was fifth, 8 1/4 lengths behind the winner after failing to close along the rail for Mike Smith.
Courageous Act's only previous win in seven starts came in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race via disqualification at Santa Anita in November. He finished second in an allowance/optional claiming race Jan. 31 and was third in an allowance Feb. 20 in his two prior outings this year. He is nominated for Triple Crown.
"We always had high hopes for this horse, but all kinds of little things would come up," Baffert said. "He had a breathing problem, then I was ready to run him and he popped a little quarter crack, just little things. But finally I found this spot and thought it would be a good spot for him. He's won going long, and you saw today he was just getting going there. So he's not really a sprinter."
The winner paid $11, $5.20 and $3.40. Wimplestiltskin returned $7.60 and $4.40. Stalking Tiger showed for $3. The $2 exacta was worth $68.60.