The Thoroughbred Corp.'s Kafwain got his start on the Kentucky Derby trail off on the right foot in Saturday's $150,000 San Vicente Stakes (gr. II), turning in an easy victory in a field of five 3-year-olds.
Heavily backed at 4-5, the son of Cherokee Run swept up on the outside of the leaders Sum Trick and Southern Image on the turn for home and exploded away from them in the stretch to win by 4 1/2 lengths. Sum Trick was second, 1 1/2 length in front of Southern Image. Final time for the seven furlongs was 1:21.12.
Second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) Oct. 26, Kafwain was making his first start for trainer Bob Baffert since running second to Toccet in the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) Dec. 21. He was disqualified and placed fourth that day.
Kafwain broke alertly for jockey Victor Espinoza, who took him back to the rear of the field down the backstretch, although only no more than four to five lengths from front-running Sum Trick.
Sum Trick clicked off early fractions of :22.13 and :44.12 for jockey Tyler Baze while being pressured by Runnin' On Nitro and Southern Image. As Runnin' On Nitro tired, Espinoza brought Kafwain wide on the turn and kicked on as he grabbed a one-length lead at the top of the stretch.
"I got taken wide (down the backstretch)," Espinoza said. "But I know I can make the move on them any time I want.
"He has more class than those others. He didn't need to win this race, but he needed to run well and come back safe. I wasn't worried about the pace. Now he'll come back and run long again the next time and we'll see what he can do."
Baffert, who won the San Vicente for the third time, said it was time to get Kafwain back into action.
"He's been training great in the mornings," Baffert said. "This was a good spot for him. He reminds me of Silver Charm, training him. He's a big, heavy horse and a beautiful-moving horse. Usually you have to nudge on him to get him going, (but) today he just did it on his own and he's been working that way, so that's really encouraging. I think he's matured a lot."
Silver Charm won the San Vicente in 1997
"They don't talk about (Kafwain) much, but maybe they'll start talking about him now," Baffert said. "I don't know where I'm going with him (next race). It's too far off. We'll just play it by ear. We'll wait until March. You can't think too far ahead in this business, just keep 'em happy."
Kentucky-bred Kafwain, a $720,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton February 2-year-old sale, won for the fourth time in nine career starts. His $90,000 winning share Saturday pushed his career bankroll to $625,848.
Kafwain paid $3.60, $2.60 and $2.10. Sum Trick returned $7 and $2.10. Southern Image, ridden by Corey Nakatani, paid $2.10 to show. The $2 exacta was $26.20.