No matter which of the 3-year-olds entered in Sunday's $100,000 Affirmed Handicap (gr. III) won the 1 1/16-mile Hollywood Park feature, the race was going to be the first graded stakes win for one of them. Until Sundown took the honors on the track, holding off the late charge of Top Hit to earn the neck-length win. Besides being the first graded stakes win for Until Sundown, the victory was also the first in a graded stakes for trainer Laura De Seroux.
On a fast track, Take My Note reeled off an easy opening quarter-mile (:24.13) and led Until Sundown by 1 1/2 lengths. Gary Stevens moved Until Sundown up to challenge on the backstretch and took the lead on the second turn as Bayou the Moon loomed on the outside. Until Sundown edged clear in the stretch and then resisted the late surge of Top Hit to seal the victory. The winner stopped the timer in 1:43.10.
"He got attacked from all sides, and he responded the right way," said Stevens. "He tightened things up on Garrett Gomez (aboard Top Hit) a little bit the last 100 yards, but he felt his presence up inside of him and he responded.
"I can't say enough about his run the last 100 yards. He showed a lot of gameness and determination, but he still wasn't all out. He was looking for more. I think the better the competition he faces, the better he's going to respond."
Bayou the Moon came home third, 2 1/2 lengths behind Top Hit. Mr. Joe C and Take My Note completed the order of finish.
San Gabriel Investments and Sidney L. Port Trust's Until Sundown (Smart Strike--Cool Baby, by Northern Baby) made his racing debut in February, finishing 3 1/2 lengths behind Crafty C.T. in a 6 1/2 furlong maiden race at Santa Anita. He then won two consecutive races before being defeated by Bayou the Moon in the listed Alydar Stakes, finishing second by a neck. The Affirmed win marks his third in five career races. He earned $60,000 for the win. Hermitage Farm LLC, David A. Jones, and R. Gene Smith Partnership bred the colt in Kentucky.
The 11-10 favorite, Until Sundown returned $4.20, $3.40, and $2.10. Top Hit paid $3.40 and $2.10. Bayou the Moon was worth $2.10 to show. The $1 exacta paid $11. (Chart, Equibase