After open-lengths victories in the Santana Mile and Californian (G2) to start the year, the 4-year-old City Zip colt put in the best performance of his career in the 1 1/16-mile dirt test Saturday with a 14-length romp.
"We were going to run him in the (grade 1) Gold Cup (at Santa Anita), but he just wasn't working as well as I would have wanted for that," said winning trainer Bob Baffert, whose Cat Burglar completed the exacta. "The middle distance is more his thing and I can see he reacts better. As long as I keep him like this, he's going to be really tough to beat."
Collected broke well under jockey Martin Garcia, then settled just behind early leader Donworth, who set fractions of :23.48, :46.80, and 1:10.52. Collected took over soon after that, ran a mile in 1:35.03, and hit the wire in 1:41.52. From the furlong pole to the wire, he extended his lead on the field by eight lengths.
"I think the older he gets, the calmer he is," Garcia said. "He doesn't have to be on the lead. I can take him back. He's very professional. I think he can go (1 1/4 miles), but I don't think (Baffert) wants me to, because he might beat Arrogate."
Bred in Kentucky by Runnymede Farm and Peter Callahan out of the Johannesburg mare Helena Bay, Collected now has seven wins from 10 starts and $660,500 in earnings. He closed out his 3-year-old season with a 10th-place run in the Preakness Stakes (G1) and was off for more than 10 months before his Santana Mile win.
"I tried to do a little bit more with him this year, and with some horses you can just tell the difference in them," Baffert said. "We ran him in the Preakness last year. I thought he'd run well there. ... but I think he's just matured since then."
Baffert's older-male contingent has been on full display in recent months, with wins in the grade 1 Mohegan Sun Metropolitan Handicap (Mor Spirit), Gold Cup (Cupid), and grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap (Danzing Candy), but he also happens to have arguably the best horse in the world, Arrogate.
"That time off we gave him really helped. Just like with Mor Spirit," Baffert said. "You give them time off and you get all that (Kentucky) Derby (season) nonsense out of the way. You back off them and start all over and you have I nice horse. That's why I have these nice older horses."