Matching strides with 18-1 shot Blofeld through opening fractions of :23.61 and :46.21 in a field of eight older horses, the son of Freud easily dispatched that rival with a powerful move through three-quarters in 1:10.05 under Edgard Zayas. He galloped home while widening away through seven eighths in 1:22.02, and hit the finish line geared down with a 4 1/2-length advantage over Awesome Slew, his closest rival.
Final time for the mile test was 1:34.55 on a fast track. It was Sharp Azteca's fourth win in as many starts at the distance and third in four tries at Gulfstream.
"Coming out of the gate he got squeezed a little, so I was a little worried, but then I saw (Blofeld) going with him and that was exactly what I wanted," trainer Jorge Navarro said. "He kind of gets comfortable when he makes the lead on his own."
Sharp Azteca closed out his 3-year-old campaign in December with a runner-up finish by half a length to Mind Your Biscuits in the Malibu Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park. He also won the Pat Day Mile (G3) earlier last year after breaking his maiden and winning in allowance company, and won the City of Laurel Stakes in November at Laurel Park as a prep for the Malibu.
"This horse has been training like a real horse. Since the day I bought him I knew I had something special here," Navarro said. "My blacksmith did an amazing job with a quarter crack, and we've got him right now."
Sharp Azteca was a $220,000 purchase by his current connections from the De Meric Sales consignment to the 2015 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s spring sale of 2-year-olds in training. He was bred in Kentucky by Cloyce C. Clark Jr. out of the Saint Liam mare So Sharp, and went through the OBS 2014 sale of August yearlings, where he was picked up for $35,000 by Blas Perez from the Select Sales consignment.
Sharp Azteca returned $6, $3.80, and $2.20, Awesome Slew brought $5.60 and $3.40 at 6-1, and Tommy Macho, the 8-5 choice, paid $2.40. Completing the order of finish were Awesome Banner, Zulu, Squadron A, Blofeld, and Hy Riverside. Realm was scratched.
“It worked out perfect for him. I was a little worried because I didn’t really want to go to the lead because he needs a horse to be a target,” Zayas said. “My horse, he’s a grinder. He’s a once-paced horse and he just doesn’t stop. Coming to the turn I hit him twice and he picked it up, and after that it was all over.”
Navarro plans to point Sharp Azteca to the $1 million Godolphin Mile (G2) March 25 in Dubai before targeting the Metropolitan Handicap (G1) June 10 at Belmont Park.