In a desperate battle to the wire with A.P. Warrior, jockey Victor Espinoza urged everything he could from favored Point Determined, who responded on the outside to win by a nose in the $100,000 Affirmed Handicap (gr. III) for 3-year-olds at Hollywood Park Saturday.
A.P. Warrior defeated Point Determined in an upset by a half-length in the San Felipe (gr. II) at Santa Anita in March. Point Determined finished second and A.P. Warrior third in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) won by Brother Derek three weeks later, so little has separated the battling colts this season.
This time, A.P. Warrior -- ridden for the first time by David Flores and carrying 120 pounds -- led all the way in the battle of Kentucky Derby (gr. I) also-rans until Point Determined, toting 121, edged past near the furlong marker. But the 1 1/16-mile Affirmed was just warming up at that point.
"You know, he's just kind of a lazy horse," Espinoza said of Point Determined, the bay son of Point Given
who beat four rivals for his first graded stakes win in a solid time of 1:42 2/5. "You have to keep tapping him all the way, all the way. He will not do it on his own. He likes to take his time. I had to really make him be in the race.
"I went by (A.P. Warrior) probably by a head, and then he just kind of stayed there," said Espinoza, who rode the colt for the first time. "I thought he was going to keep going, but he just stayed right there. He made me work really hard at that point. It ended up being a lot closer than I expected."
Point Determined, owned by Robert and Beverly Lewis Trust and trained by Bob Baffert, ran ninth in the May 6 Derby, his last start, while A.P. Warrior finished 18th. Cause to Believe, a non-threatening fourth Saturday, was coming off a 13th-place showing in the Run for the Roses.
"That was a nail biter," said Baffert, who wants more ground for his colt. "This horse, he's hard to ride. He's very lazy, you got to force it out of him. He's like riding a bicycle with a rusty chain. He's tough to ride. He made the lead there, and he was sort of like not tired
really, but that's his demeanor.
"If he had his dad's attitude, we could have been relaxed there watching him come home. But he's like Silver Charm, you know, you gotta' force it out of him. He's tough, though. That's a big step up. But A.P. Warrior, when he runs his race, he's a really good horse."
Flores said he wound up on the lead with A.P. Warrior because no one else wanted it, and the pace was just so-so – :23 4/5, ::46 4/5 and 1:11. Both had plenty left for the sparkling finish.
"I knew by the three-eighths pole they were going to come, so I kind of started to work him there at the three-eighths," he said. "I got after him slowly, tried to keep him on the lead. At least to keep his neck or head in front, because (Point Determined), he was pretty game, too. My horse was kinda' coming back, but ... it was just two even horses."
Point Determined paid $5, $3 and $2.20. A.P. Warrior returned $3.60 and $2.40. Arson Squad, with Alex Solis aboard, finished third, 1 1/2 lengths behind and paid $2.60. They were followed by Cause to Believe and Record.
Point Determined won for the third time in eight lifetime starts, seven coming this year, while boosting his earnings to $320,330. Bred in Maryland by Bowman & Higgins Stable and Robert N. Clay, he is out of Merengue, by Broad Brush, and was sold for $750,000 at Barretts in March 2005.