American Freedom's resilience was on full display in Saturday's $100,000 Sir Barton S. at Pimlico, getting pressed the entire way and headed late, only to fight back valiantly and take the 1 1/16-mile contest by just under a length.
Trainer Bob Baffert was somewhat at a loss as to why American Freedom didn't fire in the Pat Day Mile (G3) at Churchill Downs on Derby Day, but that race was a distant memory after the gallant display on Saturday.
Stalking in second behind a headstrong Fearless Dragon early, American Freedom inherited the lead when the pacesetter slowed on the backstretch. The new leader got little rest, with Donegal Moon taking up the chase almost immediately. Into the stretch, American Freedom was collared by Voluntario coming up the rail, who got the lead with a furlong to go, and looked like a winner until deep stretch, when Florent Geroux re-energized American Freedom, coming back to take the 1 1/16-mile contest for the colt's first stakes win.
Owned by Gary and Mary West, American Freedom broke his maiden first time out April 9 at Santa Anita, earning a gaudy 98 Beyer Speed Figure. His record is now 2-0-0 in three starts, with earnings of $96,100.
The winner is out of Gottcha Last and is a half-brother to three-time graded stakes winner Gottcha Gold.
The Sir Barton win was Baffert's second in the race for 3-year-old colts, coming on the heels of his victory in last year's renewal with Fame and Power.