Gary Garber's fast-developing Domestic Dispute thundered home to win Saturday's $150,000 Santa Catalina Stakes (gr. II) for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita, giving trainer Bob Baffert another early contender for the Kentucky Derby.
The chestnut homebred colt by Unbridled's Song, ridden by David Flores and carrying 116 pounds, caught front-running Our Bobby V. and Laffit Pincay Jr. near the eighth pole and drew away to win by three lengths in a final time of 1:42.20 for the 1 1/16-mile test. The winning time was the fastest in the Santa Catalina since Wekiva Spring's 1:41.94 in 1994.
Scrimshaw, the 9-5 favorite in the field of eight, rated behind Our Bobby V. for most of the trip before fading to finish third, another 3 1/2 lengths back.
Starting from the outside post, Flores took Domestic Dispute off the pace going into the first turn and was able to relax the colt in sixth position through the backstretch. As the field hit the turn for home, Domestic Dispute ranged up on the outside of the frontrunners for his powerful run through the stretch.
"He was very comfortable on the outside and was able to save some ground into the first turn," Flores said. "I chirped to him a little bit (on the turn for home) and right away, he started running."
Our Bobby V. set lively early fractions of :23.08 for the quarter-mile, :46.57 for the half and 1:10.35 for six furlongs while establishing early command over Scrimshaw. The latter challenged briefly with urging from jockey Alex Solis, but could not sustain his rally and quickly dropped in behind the first two finishers.
Domestic Dispute was coming off a second-place finish (via disqualification) in the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) after finishing behind a couple of other strong 3-year-old candidates, Toccet and Kafwain Dec. 21, losing by three lengths.
It was the second win in seven starts for Domestic Dispute, who had lost four straight since breaking his maiden at Del Mar Sept. 7. The $90,000 winner's share improved his career earnings to about $225,000.
"It's very nice to know we have more than two bullets in our holster," Baffert said, referring to his one-two finishers in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), Vindication and Kafwain. "This is when you start dreaming about everything."
Baffert has yet to unleash his top two guns in 2003, although both horses are in training at Santa Anita and had workouts over the track Saturday morning.
"You're going to start seeing horses develop right now and (Domestic Dispute) is one of those," Baffert said. "We took our time with him and he's getting better and better."
Flores noted, "He might be Baffert's third string (3-year-old) horse, but that's like having someone else's first string."
Domestic Dispute is out of the Magesterial mare Majestical Moment, a half-sister to the very successful Dianes Halo, who raced for Diane Garber. Gary Garber said Majestical Moment died in a fire in Kentucky when Domestic Dispute was a yearling.
Sent off at 5-2, the winner paid $7.80, $4, and $2.60. Our Bobby V. returned $5.80 and $3.40. Scrimshaw's show price was $2.80. Crackup finished fourth. The $2 exacta was $50.60.