Comebacking Can the Man went to the front and never looked back in Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita, winning by 1 ¼ lengths under Martin Garcia while covering 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.27.
Before a huge Belmont Day crowd of 31,208, Can the Man, trained by Bob Baffert and idle since winning the six furlong Speak Easy Stakes on Oct. 14, set fractions of 24.28, 48.83, 1:12.56 and 1:37.56.
“He’s been working really good and we were hoping he’d be ready,” said Garcia, who had ridden Can the Man in all four of his previous starts. “He’s a fast horse and he’s more mature now with the time off. He’s a really good horse.”
The 9-5 favorite in a field of eight 3-year-olds, Can the Man paid $5.80, $3.60 and $3.00. Owned by Kaleem Shah, Inc., the Kentucky-bred colt by Into Mishchief notched his third win and with the winner’s share of $60,000, hiked his bankroll to $216,000.
“This was sort of a tough spot to go in coming off the layoff and having to go two turns,” said Baffert. “He’s a classy horse. We should have a lot of fun with him from here on out.”
Baffert noted there was “a good chance” Can the Man would resurface in the Grade II, $500,000 Los Alamitos Derby on July 5. In addition to Can the Man, Baffert and Shah teamed to win the Grade II, $500,000 Brooklyn Invitational at Belmont Park on Saturday with Bayern, who Baffert noted, is also nominated to the Los Alamitos Derby.
The second choice at 5-2, Friendswith K Mill rallied boldly from far off the pace to be second with Tyler Baze, finishing a head in front of Forever Juanito. Trained by Doug O’Neill, Friendswith K Mill paid $3.80 and $2.80.
Ridden by Agapito Delgadillo and trained by Victor Garcia, Forever Juanito gave a good account of himself as he tried two turns and natural dirt for the first time. Fresh early, he was up close and caught four wide around the Club House turn before settling nicely while mid-pack heading down the backside.
Off at 7-1, Forever Juanito finished 3 ¼ lengths in front of Big Tire, who never threatened at 7-2. Forever Juanito paid $3.60 to show.
There is a Pick Six carryover into Sunday at Santa Anita of $109,125 and it’s expected the total pool on Sunday could approach $750,000. The Pick Six will cover races four through nine. First post time for a nine-race program is at 1 p.m. Admission gates open at 11 a.m.