Classier, the 13-10 second choice, led every step of the way, holding off favored stablemate Defunded by a nose in the $150,000 Los Alamitos Derby Sunday.
The victory by the 3-year-old son of Empire Maker and the Bernardini mare Class Will Tell continued Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s dominance of the Grade III. He’s now won the race five years in a row and six of the last seven.
Owned by SF Racing LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables LLC, Golconda Stables, Siena Farms LLC and Robert Masterson, Classier broke sharply from the inside post under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, set moderate fractions, then dug in when challenged by Defunded, the 3-5 favorite, to win for the second time in four starts.
Purchased for $775,000 at the Keeneland September 2019 sale, Classier completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.15 and increased his earnings to $155,000. He returned $4.60 and $2.20 while Defunded, who finished 14 lengths clear of 11-1 shot Ingest, paid $2.10 to place. There was no show wagering.
Classier’s participation in the Los Alamitos Derby was not a certainty until after the colt worked a sharp half-mile in a best of the morning 47 1/5 seconds three days earlier at Santa Anita.
‘’I talked to the ownership group and told them I was going to work him and if he worked well I’d run him,’’ said Baffert. “He worked very well so we decided to go. I really thought and the rider (Abel Cedillo) thought Defunded had him the whole way.
“It was pretty exciting and I was really hoping for a dead heat because I’ve always wanted one of those in a stakes so you don’t have to make that other call. We thought we’d be on the lead with (Classier) last time, but he stumbled leaving the gate and he really needed that race (the Grade III Affirmed June 13).
“He’s going to improve off this. I can take my time with him now and figure out a spot because he is bred to a superstar.’’
A first out maiden winner going 6 ½ furlongs last Oct. 24, Classier had been idle prior to the Affirmed – a race in which he checked in 11 lengths behind Defunded – since finishing eighth of 14 in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic last Nov. 6 at Keeneland.
“I waited until the eighth pole to ask him and when he saw (Defunded) he really dug in,’’ said Smith, who also won the inaugural Los Alamitos Derby with Shared Belief in 2014. “This is a big colt with a lot to him and he is going to get even better.’’
It’s My House and Back Ring Luck completed the order of finish.
Baffert’s earlier winners in the Los Alamitos Derby include Gimme Da Lute (2015), West Coast (2017), Once On Whiskey (2018), Game Winner (2019) and Uncle Chuck (2020).
Racing resumes Monday at Los Alamitos. Post time for the final day of the Summer Thoroughbred Festival is 1 p.m.
Gamine, a multiple Grade I winner and the female sprint champion of 2020, is the 1-5 favorite for Baffert and owner Michael L. Petersen vs. seven opponents in the Grade II, $200,000-guaranteed Great Lady M Stakes. The race at 6 ½ furlongs is for fillies and mares 3-year-olds & up.
The Great Lady M is the eighth of nine races. Scheduled post time is 4:28 p.m.