Axelrod broke his maiden for a $50,000 tag at Del Mar last August, but he had steadily improved and climbed the class ladder from there. That ascent culminated in a 12-1 upset in this lucrative event under the Indiana Grand lights Saturday night. Fourth off his graduation score in the Oak Tree Juvenile at Pleasanton in September, Axelrod his the bench after a starter/optional claimer at Santa Anita the following month. He resurfaced down the hill there Apr. 6, finishing a very close third before checking in fourth–again not far from a victory–under identical conditions May 17. The Florida-bred returned to dirt and a route in the GIII Affirmed S. June 10, and outran his 23-1 odds to be second behind Saturday’s GIII Los Alamitos Derby runner-up Draft Pick.
Squeezed out at the start and back to third last while saving all the ground early, Axelrod sat in a joint last down the backside as Trigger Warning showed the way. The pacesetter threatened to run away from them as he opened up through six furlongs in 1:11.52, but Axelrod made a big move to slingshot past foes heading for home. He sliced through a seam inside of favored King Zachary (Curlin) at the head of the stretch, and kicked on resolutely to make it just in time.
“I thought he broke sharp. It looked like there was plenty of pace up in front of him,” said winning trainer Mike McCarthy, who had stayed back home in California to attend his 7-year-old daughter’s swim meet. “I saw the opening quarter in :23 2/5. Florent [Geroux] seemed to be fairly content with his position. Turning up the backside, he was able to save some ground. Coming to the three-eighths pole, it didn’t look like anyone was really running away from him. He was able to maintain his position. Obviously, when Florent wheeled him outside around the turn and switched leads and kind of started picking off horses at the quarter pole, I thought he was liable to go ahead and get a check. And then coming to the eighth pole, it looked to me like he was able to find that extra gear and get his nose down at the wire–and I couldn’t be happier. I’m very happy for the horse, very happy for my whole team and very thankful that Florent rode him with some confidence, and that made all the difference for us.”
King Zachary, a seemingly breakout winner of the GIII Matt Winn S. last out, seemed to be run off his feet early and couldn’t muster enough late.
“He broke good,” said rider Robby Albarado. “I shoved on him to get him some position there. It seemed like it was conducive to speed all day. I didn’t think they went overly quick, but I caught myself kind of chasing a little bit up the backside just trying to keep him in the race. He felt great physically. By all means, I didn’t lose any confidence. I do believe he’s a top horse. I’m going to stick with that and hope they continue on the plan to go after the big fish with him, because he’s a big horse. I think when you see him go a mile and an eighth, a mile and a quarter, you’ll see him start to spread himself out a little bit.”
Axelrod was the third U.S. graded winner Saturday by Medaglia d’Oro or a son of Medaglia d’Oro, following a win by Elate (Medaglia d’Oro) in the GII Delaware H. earlier in the day and a convincing tally by Talk Veuve to Me (Violence) in the GIII Indiana Oaks one race earlier. Figarella’s Queen (Medaglia d’Oro) was second in the Oaks. Axelrod has a Kantharos half-brother who was a $65,000 OBS Winter Mixed short yearling earlier this year and a foal half-sister by Overanalyze.
Saturday, Indiana Grand
INDIANA DERBY-GIII, $500,000, Indiana Grand, 7-14, 3yo, 1 1/16m, 1:43.00, ft.
1–AXELROD, 117, c, 3, by Warrior’s Reward
1st Dam: Volatile Vickie, by Elusive Quality
2nd Dam: Explosive Meg, by El Gran Senor
3rd Dam: Royal Devotion, by His Majesty
1ST BLACK TYPE WIN, 1ST GRADED STAKES WIN. ($25,000 Ylg
’16 OBSWIN). O-Slam Dunk Racing; B-Hidden Point Farm Inc.
(FL); T-Michael W. McCarthy; J-Florent Geroux. $290,000.
Lifetime Record: 8-3-1-1, $360,925. *1/2 to Trelawny (Three
Wonders), SP, $524,038. Werk Nick Rating: A.
Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree. 2–Trigger Warning, 119, c, 3, Candy Ride (Arg)–Magic Appeal,
by Successful Appeal. ($6,000 Ylg ’16 KEESEP). O-Brinley
Enterprises LLC; B-WinStar Farm, LLC (KY); T-Mike L. Rone.
$100,000.3–Title Ready, 121, c, 3, More Than Ready–Title Seeker, by
Monarchos. O/B-Charles Fipke (KY); T-Steven
M. Asmussen. $55,000.
Margins: HD, 1HF, 1 1/4. Odds: 12.40, 6.10, 4.40.
Also Ran: King Zachary, Dark Vader, Funny Duck, The Money Dance, Givemeaminit, Blame the Rider. Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree.