There's something about the seven-furlong distance that brings out the best in West Point Thoroughbreds' Kanthaka.
After a ground-saving trip on the rail behind a wall of horses in the turn, the Jimmy Creed colt and his French rider found space between horses at the top of the lane, powered through the frontrunners, and held off a late second effort from Beautiful Shot to win by a three-quarters of a length.
"I waited to make my move when I wanted, and it opened up perfectly," Prat said. "After that, he did a brilliant job. Once he got the lead, he kind of looked around. He made that nice move, and for about half a length, he looked around, but that was it."
Wide throughout, with a pressing trip three wide in the turn, Calumet Farm's Beautiful Shot dug in on the outside but could not get to Kanthaka, who finished the distance in 1:23.25.
"He finished full of run," said Beautiful Shot's jockey, Kent Desormeaux. "Just an incredible effort. He came back on the last 100 (yards)."
McKale set the pace after a slow break and put up fractions of :23.05 and :45.53 through a half-mile, but he tired in the stretch to finish fourth, a nose behind Bob Baffert-trained stablemate Zulfikhar. After McKale came King Cause and Bocephus to complete the order of finish.
Kanthaka, who was bred by Spendthrift Farm out of the Noonmark mare Sliced Bread, is now undefeated in three starts at seven furlongs, including his first graded score Feb. 10 in the San Vicente Stakes (G2). He also broke his maiden at the distance Dec. 26 at Santa Anita. Following those efforts, Kanthaka finished third in the San Felipe Stakes (G2) and sixth in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2), both around two turns.
"I thought Flavien put the horse right up in there, where he had a chance to get trapped and not get out, but he was counting on getting a seam—and he did get the seam and went through it right away," said winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. "I think he has the potential to run longer distances, but there are seven-furlong races that fit him really good."
With three wins from six starts, Kanthaka has $263,663 in earnings. He was a $140,000 purchase by West Point from King's Equine's consignment to the 2017 Barretts March selected 2-year-olds in training sale.
Video: Lazaro Barrera S. (G3)
Moonshine Memories, last year's Del Mar Debutante Stakes (G1) and Chandelier Stakes (G1) winner, got a winning, stalking trip but was outkicked late by the homebred Elusive Quality filly trained by Baffert. Emboldened won by 2 1/4 lengths after racing in ninth early and finished the distance in 1:23.59 under jockey Martin Garcia. She was bred in Kentucky out of Bernardini mare Al Andaleeb and has two wins and a third from three starts, for earnings of $88,020.