$3.5M Hejazi Back Fresh In $67K Maiden 

January 15, 2023

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Baffert & Smith Get Ready For Derby Trail

Mike Willman/Santa Anita Press Box

ARCADIA, Calif.— A $3.5 million 2-year-old in training sale purchase this past May, Bob Baffert’s Hejazi, idle since Oct. 8, served notice he’s ready for the Kentucky Derby Trail as he broke his maiden in impressive fashion on Sunday at Santa Anita, taking serious pace pressure from his rail post while stopping the clock in 1:14.58 for 6 ½ furlongs on a main track listed as good with Mike Smith up.

Sent from the gate, Hajazi, a New York-bred colt by Bernardini out of the Medaglia d’Oro mare G Note, was shadowed by the John Shirreffs-trained Sully to the top of the lane through splits of 21.97, 44.28 and 1:08.41 and shook clear three sixteenths from home while holding stablemate Worcester at bay late.

“We gave him some time, gave him a chance to re-boot,” said Baffert of Hajazi, who had been ilde since finishing a well beaten third going a mile and one sixteenth here in the Grade I American Pharoah Stakes Oct. 8. “We wanted to get some weight back on him. We put him through a pretty ambitious (three-race sequence). 

“No, he’s got a chance…He’s got his weight back on and Mike got him to relax a little bit. Today was the day. Once I saw him out there cruising…We’re gonna have fun with him.”

A happy Mike Smith post-race. (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

Second, while favored in a pair of maiden sprints at Del Mar on Sept. 10 and Aug. 20, Hejazi was off as the heavy 1-2 favorite in a field of seven sophomores and paid $3.00, $2.20 and $2.10.

Owned by Zedan Racing Stables, Inc., Hejazi picked up $40,200 for the win and while Baffert did not indicate what’s planned for his next start, it’s expected he’ll stretch out for the second time in what will be his fourth start.

First-time starter Worcester, the second of two Baffert trainees in the field, was an attentive third early and finished like a horse who will relish a route of ground under Juan Hernandez. Off at 8-1, he paid $4.80 and $2.80 while finishing 3 ½ lengths in front of Sully, who tired through the drive under Victor Espinoza.

The second choice at 7-2, Sully paid $2.40 to show.

“For the best in horse racing, I read Past the Wire, and you should read it too.” Tommy Massis, Racehorse owner, Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Champion  

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