Salute the Sarge Wins 'Miguel Comeback

It remains to be seen if grade II winner Salute the Sarge can make the Derby after five months on the sidelines, but it appears his connections want to try after the colt's gritty win in the $78,000 San Miguel Stakes at Santa Anita March 29.

Trainer Eric Guillot and owners Southern Equine Stable are considering the 1 1/16-mile Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland April 19. With graded earnings of $258,940 as a 2-year-old, Salute the Sarge would easily qualify for a spot in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) on May 3.

“I honed in on him harder because I knew I might have to stretch him out after this," Guillot said after the Forest Wildcat colt's 1 3/4-length win over four rivals in the six-furlong San Miguel. "Usually I don’t hone in on a layup, but I needed three three-quarter works in him. 

"I’m probably going to run him in the Derby so my partner can get the Derby fever out of his system," the trainer added. "He’ll go a mile and a sixteenth in three weeks and a mile and a quarter after that."

Guillot said a final decision depends on what Southern Equine Stable's Signature Move does in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) on April 5.

Salute the Sarge won the Hollywood Juvenile Championship (gr. III) and Best Pal (gr. II) last year and followed those victories with runner-up finishes in the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) and Norfolk Stakes (gr. I). But he tired badly in the 1 1/16-mile Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) on a sloppy track at Monmouth Park Oct. 27, finishing ninth, 33 1/2 lengths behind the victorious War Pass.

In his first race since, Salute the Sarge looked as tough as ever. Under Michael Baze, Salute the Sarge raced well off the rail and tracked the small field in last, about four lengths behind the pacesetting Sea of Pleasure for the opening half-mile. The bay colt angled out for the stretch run and took the lead leaving the eighth pole to prove best under Baze's urging.

“This horse has been training phenomenal and he ran phenomenal," Baze said. "Coming to the top of the lane, I wanted to take my time with him, let him switch leads and then ask him, but he caught them so fast, he caught me by surprise. When he makes the lead, he likes to just cruise, and that’s what he did today. He ran just enough to get by them and then he just cruised home. This colt really covers a lot of ground.”

The winning time was 1:09.07 on the synthetic track after Sea of Pleasure set quick quarter-mile fractions of :21.47 and :44.08.

Sent off as the third choice, Salute the Sarge paid $8.20, $4.20 and $2.40. Leonides, ridden by Richard Migliore, enjoyed a ground-saving trip all the way around and finished second, returning $4.40 and $2.40. Sea of Pleasure, the 11-10 favorite, faded to third for Tyler Baze and was $2.10 to show. Possibi and Red Sky Dubai trailed.

Salute the Sarge, a $300,000 Barretts sale in March 2007, improved his record to 4-2-0 in seven starts with earnings of $333,340 for Southern Equine owner Michael Blanco Moreno of Lafayette, LA.

(Chart, Equibase)

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