Collected’s first start on the dirt turned out to be a winning one Saturday as the 3-year-old colt kicked off his run on the 2016 Triple Crown trail with a 1 ¼-length victory in the Sham S. (G3) at Santa Anita Park.
Running second was his stablemate Let’s Meet in Rio, who closed with a huge rush to give trainer Bob Baffert the exacta in the one-mile race.
An early battle developed immediately out of the gate, with Collected getting widest of all around the first turn. The field sorted out on the backstretch, with Martin Garcia taking Collected back just a bit before relaunching his bid with about three furlongs to run.
Collected made the lead before entering the stretch and was a comfortable winning, with only his stablemate posing any real threat. The final time on the fast track was 1:38 flat.
“I was hoping for a little easier trip, hoping to be lone speed, but that didn’t work out,” said Baffert. “Martin did a great job. He stayed patient with him and still had something left at the end after all that, so that was pretty impressive.
“Let’s Meet in Rio looks like he’ll go longer. He was really coming late. It’s the time of year when you want to see something like that, so it’s exciting. He really had to work a little extra hard on the outside like that, but he responded the way you want him to respond. He kept on digging away at it.”
Baffert said there were “plenty of big pots” around the country to take a look at before deciding on the next race for either horse.
Collected, who was second in the Cecil B. DeMille S. (G3) on the turf, is now 2-1-0 in three starts and has earned $111,200 for owner Speedway Stable LLC.