Desert Code, beaten in photo finishes in his last two starts, left nothing to chance this time, scooting to a front-running 1 3/4-length victory under jockey Richard Migliore in Sunday’s $106,600 Affirmed Handicap (gr. III) (VIDEO) for 3-year-olds at Hollywood Park.
Desert Code was the longest price in the field of five at 6-1 despite a win in the Baldwin Stakes (gr. IIIT) in March and narrow losses in the La Puente by a nose and the Lazero S. Barrera Memorial (gr. III) by a neck in his two most recent races.
Migliore sent Desert Code to the front, closely pursued by the Cobalt Blue. When the latter made a serious bid nearing the quarter pole, Desert Code pulled away with ease. The E Dubai colt was never seriously threatened in the stretch while covering 1 1/16 miles on the all weather strip in 1:44.21 under 118 pounds.
"Dave (Hofmans) and I had spoken about the race and we knew our horse was the main speed and we might be able to get away with some soft fractions,” Migliore said. “He's such a smart horse that he would let me know where everybody was by how tensed he got and how relaxed he got. I didn't even have to look around much. He basically was my rear view mirror. I was happy I got to go that comfortable. If we went 47 and change I thought he'd be tough and we went 48 and change. At the three-eighths pole I really let him run on and I knew he was going to be tough to beat."
Fractions were a comfortable :24 3/5, :48 3/5 and 1:12 1/5. Desert Code led by 3 1/2 lengths at the eighth pole and had plenty left to hold off Albertus Maximus under urging.
Albertus Maximus, ridden by Jorge Chavez, finished second in his stakes debut, 2 1/4 lengths in front of Cobalt Blue and Victor Espinoza. Time to Get Even and favorite Awesome Gambler finished in a dead heat for fourth in the field of five 3-year-olds. Unusual Suspect scratched.
"I had a great trip,” Chavez said of the runner-up. “I knew (Desert Code) was going to the lead, but I thought Victor (Espinoza on Cobalt Blue) would try to go with him, but he didn't. He's a big, one-paced horse, and the pace just didn't help us today."
Desert Code, owned by Susan Osborne (Tarabilla Farms Inc.) of Glendale and trained by David Hofmans, won for the fourth time in nine starts while paying $14, $5.40 and $3.40. Albertus Maximus returned $4.60 and $3.20, while the show payoff on Cobalt Blue was $3.
The victory, worth $63,960, increased Desert Code’s earnings to $231,434.
“The Mig and I have talked about this race for a week,” Hofmans said. “He’s a 3-year-old who’s coming into his own that just ran a great mile race. It wasn’t that he got outclassed, he just got out-run. We figured we would give him a try here and if they gave him a soft pace he would have a great chance to win. Maybe this guy has a different dimension to him, which would be really nice.”
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