Favored Kafwain and Bull Market, a pair of Bob Baffert-trained juveniles, battled through the stretch Saturday in the $200,000 Norfolk (gr. II) at Santa Anita, with the Thoroughbred Corporation's Kafwain scoring a nose victory over his stablemate.
Final time for the 1 1/16 mile was 1:42.75.
Bull Market established th pace while battling with Royal Siphon, while Kafwain settled toward the rear of the seven-horse field. On the turn for home, Kafwain began picking off the back markers and hooked up with Bull Market in the stretch.
With Victor Espinoza riding, Kafwain appeared to have Bull Market's measure in deep stretch, but seemed to let up and allowed Mike Smith and Bull Market to rally again in the closing yards. Kafwain won on a head bob.
"He has a very strong move," said Espinoza of the winner. "But he was kind of waiting for the other horse. It was his first time going two turns, so I didn't want to hit it too hard. He was running by himself, and when he came up to (Bull Market), he was still on the same pace so I just left him alone. I knew I was going to win the race, so I just let him run at his own pace."
Kafwain won for the third time in six tries and tallied his second graded stakes victory. The son of Cherokee Run, a $720,000 Fasig-Tipton February Sale purchase, also won the Best Pal (gr. II) at Del Mar in August before running second to Icecoldbeeratreds in the Del Mar Futurity (gr. II) Sept. 11.
This was trainer Bob Baffert's third Norfolk Stakes victory (Flame Thrower in 2000, and Souvenir Copy in 1997), and the Thoroughbred Corp.'s second Norfolk win (Supremo in 1994).
"They're both going to the Breeders' Cup," Baffert said. "I loved Bull Market's race. We've been high on that horse. (Corey) Nakatani (on Royal Siphon), he was out there going as quick as possible. For (Bull Market) to face that kind of pace early and to finish like he did ... Silver Charm used to do that. To kick back in again, that's the sign of a really good horse, so this race will really set him up (for the Breeders' Cup). He needed a good hard race like that."
Added Mike Smith, who rode Bull Market, "He did everything, we just didn't get his nose in front in the end. (Kafwain) headed us, I felt like I put a nose in front of him, but Kafwain had momentum and came back to nip me - it was a head-bob. But he ran dynamite. This race ought to move him forward. "
The $120,000 winning purse pushed Kafwain's career bankroll to about $300,000.
The 9-5 favorite, Kafwain paid $5.80, $2.80 and $2.40. Bull Market returned $3.80 and $2.60. Listen Indy was a couple of lengths behind the leaders and provided a $2.60 show payoff.
Richard Mandella said he was impressed with his Listen Indy, who rallied after being passed by Kafwain.
"He ran very well. (He's) a little green, still. He kind of got lost in the shuffle at the quarter pole there for a minute and I thought that's all he had. But, geez, he dug back in and came like hell. We'll have to think about it (the Breeders' Cup)."