Preachinatthebar, a Triple Crown hopeful for trainer Bob Baffert and owner/breeder Mike Pegram two years ago before being sidelined by knee problems, won his first graded stakes race since the 2004 San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) on Saturday when victorious in Santa Anita's $110,600 Tokyo City Cup (gr. III).
Baffert and Pegram were in New Mexico where they earlier won Sunland Park's $600,000 WinStar Derby with Wanna Runner. Baffert thus completed a winning double that trainer Doug O'Neill had executed the year before when Thor's Echo won the New Mexico race and Supah Blitz took the Tokyo City Cup about one-half hour later.
With Jon Court aboard, the 5-year-old roan son of Silver Charm finished strongest to capture the 1 1/8-mile race by one length over Texcess while timed in 1:48.15 on a track upgraded to "fast" from earlier in the day after overnight rain. Texcess edged Melanyhasthepapers by one-half length for the place. El Roblar, the 5-2 favorite, finished fourth in the field of nine after rallying five wide into the stretch.
After tracking the early leaders in fourth, Court sent Preachinatthebar to the lead entering the stretch. Texcess, with Garrett Gomez aboard, failed to seriously menace with his rally as Preachinatthebar finished up well. Melanyhasthepapers followed Texcess with Jose Valdivia up.
Truly a Judge had the early lead, carving fractions of :22 3/5, :46 2/5 and 1:10 before fading to sixth.
Sent off at odds of 7-1, Preachinatthebar paid $16.20, $6.80, and $4.60. Texcess returned $7.40 and $5.20. Melanyhasthepapers paid $4.20 to show.
"He was really comfortable with the way the race set up," Court said after providing leader Baffert with his eleventh stakes win of the meet. "I think the wet-fast track was a huge benefit to him. He really seemed to get a hold of the track."
The victory was worth $66,360 for Pegram. It was the seventh win in 22 career starts for Preachinatthebar and elevated his total earnings to $473,240.
Sort It Out finished fifth, followed by Truly a Judge, Congrats, Snorter, and Romeo Plus.
The grade II winner Congrats, the 3-1 second choice, was in contention for Tyler Baze, making a three-wide bid on the far turn before fading badly for trainer Richard Mandella.