BING CROSBY STAKES | PURSE: $300,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 1 | 6 FURLONGS
Sprint champion Amazombie returned to his best form in the $300,000 Bing Crosby Stakes, sitting just off a hot pace and coming to get the leaders in deep stretch to win going away on the Polytrack at Del Mar July 29.
Aiming at a return to the Breeders' Cup Sprint this fall, Amazombie earned his third grade I victory for trainer Bill Spawr, who co-owns the 6-year-old California-bred son of Northern Afleet along with Thomas Sanford.
"It just turned out perfect," Spawr told TVG afterward. "We thought he was back and he did it today."
Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith earned his first victory of the Del Mar meet aboard Amazombie, who sped six furlongs in a sizzling 1:08.65 to win by 1 1/4 lengths.
Multiple grade I winner The Factor and stablemate Capital Account, both trained by Bob Baffert, finished second and third, respectively, in the field of five.
Amazombie raced in the garden spot in third, saving ground about three lengths off the pacesetters as Comma to the Top popped the gate and led The Factor down the backstretch through an opening quarter mile in :22.39. The Factor, ridden by Martin Garcia, increased the pressure on Comma to the Top while a half-length away as they reached the quarter pole in a swift :44.50.
In the stretch, those two continued to battle with The Factor getting his head in front. Smith, though, angled Amazombie off the rail and put the big gelding to a drive. Amazombie joined the leaders under strong handling on the outside, getting the lead past the sixteenth pole and proving much the best.
The Factor, the even-money choice, was weakening late but held second by a head over the oncoming Capital Account, ridden by David Flores.
Garcia said The Factor was bothered by Comma to the Top.
"[Comma to the Top] was going in and out and brushed with my horse," Garcia said. "My horse ran good, just not good enough."
Winning for the second time in four starts in 2012, Amazombie had been freshened by Spawr following a runner-up finish to Shackleford in the seven-furlong Churchill Downs Stakes in Louisville on the Kentucky Derby undercard May 5. Amazombie won the Potrero Grande Stakes a month before that.
"He's bigger, stronger, thicker this year," said Smith after his first win in the Bing Crosby. "He goes right on about it. Bill has done a terrific job with him. He looks so good. And Bill thinks he's even better this year. I know that's a scary thought, but I think he's right.
"He'll run wherever you put him. If he runs seven-eighths, that's no problem. It takes a really good horse to beat him. That horse that did [Shackleford] is maybe the best miler in the country. It takes that kind of horse to beat him at that distance. He [Amazombie] is just something special."
Gregg Anderson bred Amazombie, who is out of Wilshe Amaze, by In Excess.
Amazombie ran third in last year's Bing Crosby when the Baffert-trained Euroears ran away from the field and set a track record for Polytrack in 1:08.17.
"We were serious about the race then, but [Amazombie] wasn't as fit as he was today, or as fresh as he was today," Spawr said. "He ran well today, because he's sharp, but Mike said he feels different on synthetic and he prefers dirt. It surprised me how easily he won. But being around him every day, he just is better than ever."
Spawr said afterward that Amazombie would target the former Ancient Title Stakes, now named the Santa Anita Sprint Championship, in October as a prep for this year's Breeders' Cup Sprint. Amazombie won both of those races last year in his championship campaign.
Amazombie won for the fifth time in seven tries at the six-furlong distance. His overall career mark stands at 12-5-6 in 27 races with earnings of $1,905,378.
Sharing top weight of 123 pounds with The Factor, Amazombie paid $5.80, $2.60, and $2.10 as the 9-5 second choice. The Factor, who dropped his third decision in four tries at six furlongs, returned $2.40 and $2.10. Capital Account, making his stakes debut for Baffert, paid $2.20.
Comma to the Top weakened to fourth and was followed home by Don Tito.