Azul Coast tracked a moderate pace early, ranged up nearing the turn for home and fired smartly through the lane to come away a half-length winner of the $100,500 Native Diver Stakes (G3) Saturday at Del Mar.
The 4-year-old Super Saver colt ran nine furlongs in 1:50.55 under leading rider Flavien Prat and met leading trainer Bob Baffert in the winner’s circle following the 44th running of the stakes named for California’s first million dollar earner.
It was stakes win No. 77 at Del Mar for Prat and stakes win No. 147 for Baffert. The trainer’s mark is far and away the most by a conditioner in the history of the seaside oval. Prat has 12 wins through 10 days of the current session, while Baffert has eight.
Finishing second in the headliner was Kiss Today Goodbye and running third was favored Eight Rings for Baffert, who was back just two weeks after running fourth in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.
“We were in a good spot for the whole trip," Prat explained of his winning trip aboard Azul Coast. "I could tell the pace was only moderate, so I moved him up closer near the three-eighth (pole). Then when we went we were in good position and he was ready. A good win.”
Azul Coast earned a paycheck of $60,000 for his work and now sports a bankroll that reads $221,280. It was the bay’s fourth win in 10 starts.
Azul Coast returned $8.40.
"’Azul’ runs his best races down here," Baffert said. "He likes this track and he ran really impressive. When I ran him in the Awesome Again (G2) he just laid an egg, he was up there close and I was really disappointed. But he was chasing Medina Spirit.
Azul Coast, whose only previous stakes win came in last year's El Camino Real Derby over the Golden Gate's synthetic track, is owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman.
Baffert's third starter in the race, Ax Man, was forwardly placed before fading to fifth.
"I told the jockeys (he had three horses in the race) you guys ride your own races and hopefully we’ll run 1-2-3," Baffert said. "I’m happy for the connections, the well has been a little dry lately. Main thing is that we got the ‘w’...”