ARCADIA, CA – A lightning-quick last-to-first blitz put Improbable into the winner’s circle in Saturday’s $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park.
The Awesome Again is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Improbable receiving his second automatic berth in the Longines Classic at Keeneland this November (he previously earned his berth for winning the Whitney Stakes [G1]).
Despite acting a bit fractious in the gate, Improbable broke cleanly from post 2 as the 9/5 second choice under Drayden Van Dyke, who chose to save ground heading into the clubhouse turn while the field’s other four runners fought for the early lead.
Take the One O One was rushed along the rail to secure the initial lead but had Sleepy Eyes Todd, Maximum Security, and Midcourt flanking him four-wide through much of the early going.
Improbable sat as much as 6 lengths behind everyone else through opening fractions of :23.03, :46.36, and 1:09.79.
Van Dyke lit Improbable’s afterburners heading into the far turn and quickly circled the field while cornering, then straightened for home with a growing advantage.
Wrapped up in the final jumps, Improbable crossed 4 1/2 lengths the best while completing the 1 1/8-mile fast dirt route in 1:49.01.
“The gate guy did a fabulous job with him, holding him still, (and) he got out clean,” Van Dyke said. “I was going to see what everyone else was gonna do, and they did what they did and I did what I did, and it worked out good. I take it a day at a time and I’m grateful for this win. He showed a different tactic today, which he showed before when he was 2. He used to come off the pace more than usual.”
The 1/2 favorite Maximum Security bested Midcourt by a 1/2-length to take second and give trainer Bob Baffert the barn exacta.
“There was a lot of pressure along the way and he couldn’t get comfortable, but that’s how these races go,” said Luis Saez, Maximum Security’s regular rider who flew in from New York to ride at Santa Anita Park for the weekend. “You win sometimes and don’t others. The good thing is he pulled up pretty good, so let’s see how next time goes. He was fighting at the end of the race, but we lost.”
Take the One O One and Sleepy Eyes Todd completed the order of finish.
Improbable’s win was his third straight following the Whitney in August and the local Hollywood Gold Cup Stakes (G1) in June. The 4-year-old City Zip colt improved his record to 14-7-3-0 with $1,709,520 earned for co-owners WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International, and SF Racing.
“I knew I was coming in here with two really good horses,” Baffert said. “Maximum Security was in that scrum and they were really running up close. I saw Drayden, he knew what was happening, so he just sat back. He rode a great race; he knew what was going on, he took his time, rode him with patience. He’s had good luck with this horse. … I hate to see my horses have to beat the other horse, but ‘Max’ ran gallantly. He fended off the speed. The next one is the big one, but today, it was all about Improbable.”
Improbable returned $5.60 to win, $2.40 to place, and $2.10 to show. Maximum Security brought back $2.10 to place and $2.10 to show, while Midcourt paid $2.40 to show.