There was never much doubt in Saturday's $102,500 Sham Stakes (gr. III) as the Bob Baffert-trained Bob and John finally got his first stake victory with little suspense at Santa Anita Park.
The Stonerside Stable homebred Bob and John, whose previous six-length stakes win at Hollywood Park in November was taken away by the stewards, was never challenged in the stretch as he went on to a 4 1/2-length win in the Sham. He completed the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:49.
Baffert said the 1 1/16-mile Santa Catalina (gr. II) on March 4 at Santa Anita is the next stop for Bob and John.
"This will be the last powder puff race he gets," Baffert said of his leading Triple Crown candidate. "From here on out, it's going to be all heavyweights. He's so much better going a mile and an eighth. He'll stay here because I don't want to ship him."
Breaking from the far outside under Victor Espinoza in a field reduced to five by the scratch of Sky Diving, Bob and John was three wide as he prompted the early pace. He went to the lead just past the quarter pole and soon drew clear of the pacesetting Hawkinsville when given a couple of cracks with the whip by Espinoza. Bob and John ($2.80, $2.20, $2.10) finished with steady handling.
Hawkinsville ($3, $2.10), ridden by Alex Solis, held on for second, 1 1/2 lengths in front of Sacred Light ($2.10) and Garrett Gomez. Genre and Woody Be Quick trailed the field.
The runner-up set so-so fractions of :24 2/5, :48 4/5 and 1:12.
"I was happy somebody went to the front," Espinoza said. "I just tracked right next to (Hawkinsville) but, at the three-eighths pole, I had to pick up the pace a little bit more. I wanted to get a good run for him through the stretch and, when he turned for home, I just opened it up. He's really good right now. He finished well."
Bob and John, a dark bay son of Seeking the Gold
-Minister's Melody (Deputy Minister), was coming off a three-length win in a first-level allowance race at Santa Anita Jan. 20. He was third in the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) Dec. 17, finishing five lengths behind Brother Derek in the race following his controversial disqualification in the Real Quiet, also at Hollywood. Overall, his record is 3-1-2 in seven starts with earnings of $200,070 for owners Robert and Janice McNair of Houston.
There was a minus show pool of $44,384.36.