Rebounding from four consecutive disappointing efforts, Drill won the $150,000 San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO) by a desperate nose over a determined American Act Feb. 19 at Santa Anita. Creative Cause finished third as the odds-on favorite.
Trainer Bob Baffert, picking up steam as the spring season approaches, earned his seventh victory in the San Vicente with Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman's Drill. Baffert, who captured the seven-furlong test for 3-year-olds last year with The Factor , won three races at Santa Anita Feb. 18 and with both of his entries Sunday.
Drill, the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) winner sent of at odds of 7-2, was timed in 1:21.28 over a fast track with regular rider Martin Garcia aboard.
It is unclear just how Baffert expects Drill to progress on the Triple Crown trail. He said afterward that he questions whether the colt wants to run the Kentucky Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles.
``I wouldn't run out and buy a future book (bet) on him,'' said the Hall of Fame trainer, who is loaded with other Derby candidates. ``He'd have to prove something to me going long. He's one-turn right now. In time he might be able to do it because he's learned to relax.''
The dark bay/brown colt earned his first win since the Del Mar Futurity, also at seven furlongs, last September. He defeated Creative Cause that day as well.
Following a second-place finish in the Norfolk, Drill's downward spiral began last fall with a 10th-place finish in the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I). That was followed by a seventh in the Delta Downs Jackpot (gr. III) and a ninth in the CashCall Futurity (gr. I).
A son of Lawyer Ron out of the Storm Cat mare Cat Dancer, Drill made his 2012 debut with a flat fifth in the 6 1/2-furlong San Pedro Stakes Jan. 22 in which he was 3 1/4 lengths behind Midnight Transfer.
"He actually had been training so well, I couldn't figure it out," Baffert said of Drill's losing streak. "So I backed off of him and he started doing so well."
Bred in Kentucky by Stonewall Farm Stallions, Drill was a $300,000 Keeneland September yearling.
He won for the third time in nine lifetime tries and bumped his career prize money to $339,710.
Two scratches reduced the San Vicente field to four. Norfolk Stakes (gr. I) victor Creative Cause, making his first start since finishing a close third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) Nov. 5, was made the 1-2 favorite.
He trailed the compact field early for a half-mile as American Act, ridden by Martin Pedroza, spurted to the lead leaving the gate and took control by close to two lengths. Drill settled nicely in second behind the tugging pacesetter while Creative Cause dropped out to last under Joel Rosario, just behind Let's Get Crackin.
American Act, a two-length maiden victor at Santa Anita Jan. 16 and facing winners for the first time, ran the opening quarter-mile in :22.78 and the half in :45.83 as Drill drew closer on the outside rounding the turn. Rosario, sensing the first two were getting away, began to shake up Creative Cause near the quarter-pole.
In the stretch, Drill gradually overtook American Act by a half-length nearing mid-stretch but could not draw away. Instead, American Act battled back gamely along the inside in the final furlong and nearly caught Drill, who was under strong urging in deep stretch, at the wire.
"I just let him run his race," Garcia said of Drill. "Bob said to let him do what he wants, get him comfortable. I thought I had more horse (in the stretch run) but he was waiting (on American Act)."
American Act, trained by Jack Carava, was second by one length over Creative Cause, who showed some rust in his return for trainer Mike Harrington but finished willingly and galloped out well after crossing the finish line.
``We got what we wanted out of the race. He's a route horse, not a seven-furlong horse,'' Harrington said. ``We hope he moves forward off this. Did you see him gallop out? He'll definitely move forward.''
Drill carried 123 pounds and paid $9.60 and $5 while topping an exacta worth $38.80. American Act returned $4. There was no show wagering.
Captain Obvious and Smoking G were scratched.