ARCADIA, Calif.—Racing as a team the final quarter of a mile, a pair of talented Bob Baffert runners, heavily favored Concert Tour and Freedom Fighter, were separated by a half length at the finish of Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita. Ridden by Joel Rosario, Gary and Mary West’s homebred Concert Tour got seven furlongs in 1:24.06 and stamped himself as an A-lister among Kentucky Derby hopefuls and provided Baffert with his record 11th San Vicente win.
With Freedom Fighter and Drayden Van Dyke darting to the lead from the rail, Concert Tour, who broke from the outside in a field of five, was just one length off his stablemate and The Chosen Vron three furlongs out. The Chosen Vron, who had driven up the rail inside Freedom Fighter, dropped back a bit leaving the quarter pole and from that point it was all Baffert to the wire.
“Freedom Fighter just broke like a rocket ship, he’s really fast and been doing really well,” said Baffert. “Baffert was trying to teach his horse how to rate a little bit and I thought they were going to get into a speed duel. I think it was a good race for both of them.
“I learned a lot about (Concert Tour), how he wants to run and maybe he doesn’t need blinkers…Now we go to where I can stretch them out…I think from here you can take that big jump that you want to take, he’s going to have to really step it up for now, but now he’s ready for it.”
A 3 ½ length first-out maiden winner going six furlongs on Jan. 15, Concert Tour was off at 2-5 and paid $2.80, $2.40 and $2.10.
“After the other horse (Freedom Fighter) went to the lead, I thought the two horse (The Chosen Vron) was going to go faster, but he took his time and I thought I was in a good spot,” said Rosario. “He was a little green and cut away a little bit at the last part when I took the lead. I thought it was a good race.”
By Street Sense, out of the Tapit mare Purse Strings, Concert Tour picked up $120,000 for the win, increasing his earnings to $156,600.
Freedom Fighter, who had been idle since breaking his maiden at first asking going five furlongs on Aug. 1, ran huge off the bench, finishing 2 ¾ lengths in front of The Chosen Vron. Off at 5-1, Freedom Fighter paid $3.60 and $2.20.
The Chosen Vron, who didn’t appear to like being inside a quarter mile from home, kept to his task through the lane in a solid effort. Ridden by Mike Smith, he was off at 7-2 and paid $2.10 to show while finishing six lengths clear of Found My Ball.
Fractions on the race were 23.41, 45.98 and 1:10.56.
Photo: Concert Tour (Benoit)