Salute the Sarge faces five sophomore rivals in the seven-furlong Barrera, including the grade I winner Dixie Chatter, who defeated Salute the Sarge by 1 1/4 lengths in Oak Tree's Norfolk (gr. I) at Santa Anita Sept. 30. This would be the first start for the Richard Mandella trainee since that impressive victory.
Earlier this spring, Southern Equine Stable, owner of Salute the Sarge, wanted to give its Forest Wildcat colt, a grade II winner as a 2-year-old, one opportunity to show he could compete in one of the Triple Crown classics, either the Derby or Preakness. They ran in the Lexington Stakes (gr. II) on Keeneland's Polytrack April 19, but the result, a well-beaten seventh-place showing, was not encouraging. That finish, coupled with a ninth-place result in last fall's Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), makes Salute the Sarge's ability to handle two turns a question mark at this point of his career.
Sarge has had one prior start at seven furlongs, finishing second to Georgie Boy in last summer's Del Mar Futurity (gr. I), which followed back-to-back victories in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship (gr. III) and the Best Pal Stakes (gr. II), both sprints as well. In the 1 1/16-mile Norfolk, which followed the Del Mar Futurity, Salute the Sarge stalked a moderate pace and finished willingly, but could not match the late charge of Dixie Chatter.
The latter, a son of Dixie Union, was supposed to also run in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile following the Norfolk, but after being flown to Monmouth Park, he ran a temperature in the days before the race and was withdrawn. He came up with a sore hind ankle after that and Mandella has given the colt ample time to return. Owned by Herman Sarkowsky, Dixie Chatter has won two of four starts. Richard Migliore retains the mount.
Salute the Sarge will be ridden by regular pilot Michael Baze. The bay has won four of eight starts with two grade I placings. He far out-paces the field with earnings of $333,340.
Those two figure to draw most of the support in the Barrera, although the others merit interest as well.
Rapidity, bred in Great Britain and making his first start stateside for trainer Jack Carava, won his last four starts in England, all on synthetic racing surfaces. La Canada Stables owns the Mind Games colt.
Afleet Ruler gets back on the Cushion after two starts on the Santa Anita grass for trainer John Sadler. The Northern Afleet colt performed well on the lawn with a second and third-place finish in stakes efforts. His only win came in January on Santa Anita's synthetic surface, but he has hit the board in all six of his starts.
Wind's Legacy has back-to-back wins for trainer Jenny Green. Two Step Salsa, trained by Julio Canani, began his career with two victories on synthetic and finished second in his most recent start, the Harry Henson on the Hollywood Park turf.
$100,000 Lazaro Barrera Memorial Stakes (gr. III, Race 8, 4:50 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 7 Furlongs (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Two Step Salsa (KY), 117, Martin A. Pedroza
2. Rapidity (GB), 119, Corey S. Nakatani
3. Salute the Sarge (KY), 121, Michael C. Baze
4. Dixie Chatter (KY), 121, Richard Migliore
5. Afleet Ruler (FL), 115, Rafael Bejarano
6. Wind's Legacy (KY), 117, Jon K. Court