American Freedom kicked off the July 4th holiday weekend with a powerful 4 3/4-length victory in Friday night's $250,000 Iowa Derby (G3) at Prairie Meadows, the first graded win for the 3-year-old owned by Gary and Mary West.
For Bob Baffert, American Freedom is his record fourth winner in the race and first since Prayer for Relief took the 2011 running.
Sent off the heavy 3-10 favorite, American Freedom chased a rank Lookin for a Kiss into the first turn. Floated wide into the backstretch, American Freedom took over from the pacesetter after a half-mile. Catfish Creek put in a brief bid for the lead on the inside, then Texas Chrome mounted a more serious challenge coming into the stretch, but American Freedom drew away with authority in the final furlong. Rafael Bejarano handrode the son of Pulpit under the wire to finish the 1 1/16-miles in 1:42.62 on the fast track (VIDEO
“I had a really good trip,” Bejarano said. “I tried to keep close, tried to find position right away. It was a little fast in the beginning, but that was good for me. I saw the other horse (Texas Chrome) coming at the three-eighths, but I knew I still had a lot of horse. I worked this horse a lot of times, so he was very fit for this race. I wasn't afraid to wait and let him take off in the stretch.”
American Freedom is now three-for-four lifetime, including a win in the $100,000 Sir Barton S. on Preakness Day at Pimlico. He has earned $246,100.