The 4-year-old Freud colt, trained by Jorge Navarro for owner Ivan Rodriguez, broke sharply under jockey Paco Lopez and set fractions of :23.50, :46.48, and 1:10.24 through the first six furlongs, pushed along much of the way by Bird Song .
With Bird Song unable to keep up as they turned for the stretch, Sharp Azteca hit another gear in the lane and drove away from a hard-charging Divining Rod , who finished four lengths back in second. It was another 5 1/4 lengths back to Tom's Ready and Tommy Macho. Sharp Azteca stopped the clock in 1:34.12 over a fast track.
"He got the leap out front and I let him go," Lopez said. "He was very comfortable. I waited as long as I wanted and when I asked him, he ran very good. He's a very good horse. Anybody could ride that horse.
"I was very confident. He calms down in my hands very good. He used to fight a lot very early, but now he relaxes for me, and he's pretty quick anytime you ask him to run. I don't want to ask him too early, he could be very strong."
Off as the betting favorite at odds of 1-2, the winner paid $3, $2.30, and $2.10 across the board, while Divining Rod paid $3.50 and $2.50. Another 5 1/4 lengths back, Tom's Ready got a head in front for third and returned $2.70.
Sharp Azteca took the July 30 Monmouth Cup Stakes (G3) by 7 1/2 lengths over Donegal Moon in his most recent effort. He finished second to Mor Spirit in the June 10 Mohegan Sun Metropolitan Handicap (G1) at Belmont Park.
The Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) Nov. 3 at Del Mar is on the radar for Sharp Azteca's next start.
"We're going to see how he comes out first. Step by step, and then hopefully we'll get there," Navarro said.
Bred in Kentucky by Cloyce Clark Jr., Sharp Azteca is out of the unraced Saint Liam mare So Sharp. He was purchased out of the April 2015 Ocala Breeders' Sale of 2-year-olds in training for $220,000 by Gelfenstein Farm out of a De Meric Sales consignment.
He now has a record of 7-4-1 from 14 starts. The Kelso victory pushed his earnings to $1,136,740.