The Affirmed is the major local prep for the $350,000 Swaps Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. II) at 1 1/8 miles on July 12.
Ridden by Martin Pedroza, Two Step Salsa completed the 1 1/16-mile event for 3-year-olds in a sharp time of 1:41.57 and decisively defeated Dixie Chatter once again. The Petionville colt handily won the seven-furlong Lazaro S. Barrera Memorial (gr. III) in his last start May 18, but that was the longest distance the Everest Stables' homebred had traveled prior to the Affirmed.
Two Step Salsa is perfect in four starts on synthetic tracks. His only loss came in a second-place finish on the Hollywood turf in a stakes April 25.
Winning trainer Julio Canani said Two Step Salsa has proven to be a solid sprinter and had plenty of foundation for his first route experience. But he declined to say what's next for the fast-developing dark bay.
"He was a very backwards horse because I started late with him," Canani added. "That’s the best thing that happened to this horse though. He does everything very easy, I don’t train him hard and he’s just keeping me happy and smiling. He’s a nice horse, he’s not crazy and you can work a half-mile at fifty and one or he can go a half mile in forty-six. We’re going to play this one by ear and see how he comes out of this race.”
Breaking from the rail, Two Step Salsa worked hard to get the lead from Tres Borrachos heading into the clubhouse turn. Once he did so, Tres Borrachos , ridden by Tyler Baze, settled into second, flanked by Exuma, with Dixie Chatter rating farther back in fourth. That's pretty much the way things stayed as Two Step Salsa carried them along at a solid clip of :23.12, :46.61, and 1:11.13. Tres Borrachos tackled the leader, who drifted out a bit in upper stretch, as the advancing Dixie Chatter moved into striking position on the far outside for Richard Migliore.
But it was all over in just a few strides as Two Step Salsa straightened and quickly skipped away from Tres Borrachos. Dixie Chatter, after a menacing move on the far turn, never threatened in the run for the wire and finished third, 2 1/2 lengths farther behind. Bingham, Wind's Legacy and Exuma trailed.
Two Step Salsa carried 119 pounds to victory and paid $4, $2.80, and $2.20. Tres Borrachos, in his first appearance since running a troubled ninth in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), returned $3 and $2.40 while completing a $2 exacta worth $13.20. Dixie Chatter, the 120-pound high weight was $2.60 to show in his second start on the comeback trail for trainer Richard Mandella.
The grade I winner Dixie Chatter ran third in the Barrera as well, finishing more than five lengths behind Two Step Salsa that day.
Ez Dreamer and Trevor's Clever scratched.
Kentucky homebred Two Step Salsa is out of Seattle Slew mare Two to Waltz. The dark bay's fourth win in five starts was worth $64,260 and increased his earnings to $203,990.