ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 29, 2022)–In his initial stakes engagement, Essential Wager showed tremendous heart in choreographing a gate to wire victory in Saturday’s Grade III, $200,000 Palos Verdes Stakes. Ridden for the first time by Abel Cedillo, the 4-year-old Honor Code colt got six furlongs in 1:09.95.
Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, Essential Wager notched his third consecutive win and according to trainer Bob Baffert, will make his next start in the Grade II, $200,000 San Carlos Stakes going seven furlongs here on March 5.
With his well fancied stablemate Cezanne a non-factor, Essential Wager enjoyed a length advantage over Team Merchants turning for home and held off determined longshot Shooters Shoot late for the victory.
“This horse is getting better and better,” said Baffert. “With Cezanne, I think it was a little too short for him…All of Essential Wager’s races have been pretty impressive and actually, he’s bred to not be a sprinter. Abel did a great job, got him outta there and held off those horses pretty well. You know, he took a lot of heat early and kept going.”
A two length first condition allowance winner going the same distance at Los Alamitos Dec. 11, Essential Wager was the second choice in a field of five older horses at 9-5 and paid $5.60, $3.60 and $2.20.
“We started together and it’s always special to come back to Santa Anita,” said longtime Baffert client Pegram, who flew in from northern Nevada. “This is my first time back in two years and we know why we call it The Great Race Place. It’s very special and we always love to come back to Santa Anita.”
In his fourth career start, Essential Wager, who is out of the Officer mare Opus, picked up $120,000 for the win, increasing his earnings to $207,200 while improving his overall mark to 4-3-1-0.
Claimed for $50,000 on Jan. 2, Shooters Shoot had two lengths to make up at the furlong pole and came up a neck short in a big effort. Trained by Richard Baltas and ridden by Victor Espinoza, he was the longest shot in the field at 20-1 and paid $9.80 and $3.60.
Cezanne, who finished another 2 ¾ lengths back, had been idle since winning the Grade III Kona Gold Stakes here in April of last year, kept to her task to run third, 3 ½ lengths in front of Team Merchants. Off at 3-5, she paid $2.10 to show.
Fractions on the race were 22.21, 45.17 and 57.41.
First post time for a nine-race card on Sunday that will include three stakes, is at 12:30 p.m. Admission gates will open at 10:30 a.m.
Santa Anita Press Release
Photo: Essential Wager (Benoit Photo)