Ax Man wins the Sir Barton Stakes at Pimlico

Ax Man wins the Sir Barton Stakes at Pimlico

Adrianna Lynch

Improving Ax Man Seeks First Graded Score in Matt Winn

Misremembered colt romped in the Sir Barton last time out.

On the same night Justify will parade in front of the crowd at Churchill Downs, trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith will team with another on-the-rise 3-year-old in the $100,000 Matt Winn Stakes (G3) June 16.

A month and a half before Justify's debut, Hal and Patti Earnhardt's Ax Man won as emphatically as his stablemate (both by 9 1/2 lengths) in his first start Jan. 1 at Santa Anita Park

But the homebred Misremembered  colt wasn't quite ready for the big time. In his next start, the Feb. 10 San Vicente Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita, Ax Man drew the rail, got fried in a speed duel, and finished a far-back fourth.

"That rattled him that day, so I had to back off of him," Baffert said.

Nearly two months later, Ax Man re-emerged in a Santa Anita optional-claiming allowance and has yet to have a misstep in two starts around two turns. He won the April 8 allowance by 8 1/2 lengths and then—one race before Justify held on in the Preakness Stakes (G1)—delivered his most impressive performance, a 6 3/4-length victory in the May 19 LARC Sir Barton Stakes at Pimlico Race Course.

DAUGHERTY: Ax Man Cuts Through Competition in Sir Barton

Baffert said Ax Man had some issues shipping into Pimlico and opted to run in the Matt Winn at Churchill (where he's been stabled), not only to cut down on shipping, but to keep him in a two-turn race. The other option would have been the June 9 Easy Goer Stakes at Belmont Park, but that 1 1/16-mile event (the same distance as the Matt Winn) is a one-turn affair.

"He's not made like a sprinter," Baffert said. "He gets a little bit agitated (shipping). He could never handle the Triple Crown. That would have been tough.

"The older he gets, he's going to get better—baby steps. It'll be good to run two turns at Churchill, being that the Breeders' Cup is there. After this, we'll get more serious."

In to challenge Ax Man for the Matt Winn are Navy Armed Guard, Funny Duck, Combatant, and Tiz Mischief, who all have experience in multiple graded stakes. Recent allowance winner Home Base and King Zachary complete the field, and Funny Duck, who upset the Pat Day Mile Stakes presented by LG and E and KU (G3) at odds of 39-1, is the only graded winner.

BLOODHORSE STAFF: Funny Duck Splashes to Pat Day Mile Victory

Combatant exits an 18th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1), and Tiz Mischief last finished 14th in the American Turf Stakes presented by Ram Trucks (G2T). Both placed in Triple Crown preps this season.

Entries: Matt Winn S. (G3)

Churchill Downs, Saturday, June 16, 2018, Race 5

  • Grade III
  • 1 1/16m
  • Dirt
  • $100,000
  • 3 yo
  • 7:57 PM (local)
11Navy Armed Guard (KY)Alex L. Canchari118Joan Scott20/1
22Home Base (ON)Keeneland Sales GraduateJoseph Rocco, Jr.118Michael A. Tomlinson10/1
33Funny Duck (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateBrian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.120George R. Arnold, II5/1
44King Zachary (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateRobby Albarado118Dale L. Romans10/1
55Combatant (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateRicardo Santana, Jr.118Steven M. Asmussen4/1
66Tiz Mischief (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateCorey J. Lanerie118Dale L. Romans8/1
77Ax Man (KY)Mike E. Smith120Bob Baffert4/5