Spendthrift Farm's Lord Nelson pressed the pace and then jumped up to victory in the $300,000 Triple Bend Stakes (gr. I) June 25 at Santa Anita Park, scoring by a half-length over frontrunner Subtle Indian.
The win was the second in a row for the 4-year-old son of Pulpit, who returned from a more than five-month layoff for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert to capture a June 3 allowance event in his first start of 2016, then landed his first grade I victory in the Triple Bend. It was also his second win in as many starts for B. Wayne Hughes' Spendthrift, which purchased him from John Fort's Peachtree Stable after a third in last December's Malibu Stakes (gr. I) behind champion sprinter Runhappy .
After hustling up from post 4 to secure a forward position, jockey Rafael Bejarano kept Lord Nelson in contention while Subtle Indian and Mike Smith set opening fractions of :22.58 and :45.52.
"I tried to nurse him along without taking anything away from him that was coming easy for him," Smith said. "He was able to relax, I was really happy with the way he did. You have to give it to Lord Nelson. He ran a great race."
The pacesetter looked to kick away off the turn for home, but Bejarano set his runner down for the drive, and collared Subtle Indian inside the final furlong.
"I was really happy with my trip," Bejarano remarked. "I knew Subtle Indian was the only speed in the race, so I wanted to make sure I broke good and got my horse into the race right away. I found my position and then just waited for Kobe's Back. When I saw him coming at the three-eighths I just went for it and tried to get the jump on him because he was really running."
Kobe's Back, favored at 9-5 in an eight-horse field, missed the break and made a wide move turning for home, but flattened out in the stretch to finish third under Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens.
"I was on the extreme outside," Stevens said of his mount's sweeping run. "I was wide around the turn and the pace was extremely slow for these kinds of horses. The track has been favoring speed all day long and my move was a bit premature and a bit wide."
Final time for the seven-furlong event was 1:21.04 on a fast track.
"That was pretty game," Baffert said. "I didn't think he was going to get there. He was trying so hard there at the end. It was pretty exciting to watch, more exciting to win. He's come back so strong this year; that break really helped him."
The winner, second choice at 2-1, returned $6.20, $3.80, and $2.60, while Subtle Indian brought $4.60 and 3.40 at odds of 5-2. Kobe's Back paid $2.60 to show. Home Run Kitten, Clever Royal, Ambitious Brew, Cautious Giant, and Coastline completed the order of finish.
Lord Nelson was bred in Kentucky by Clearsky Farms out of the Seeking the Gold mare African Jade, and was a $340,000 purchase by Fort from the Clearsky consignment to the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale. His previous graded victory came in the 2015 San Vicente Stakes (gr. II); he now has a 5-1-1 total from 11 starts for earnings of $598,271.