Baffert's Other Horse Wins Palos Verdes

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Essential Wager (right) outbattles Shooters Shoot | Benoit

A lightly raced, once-pricey juvenile trained by Bob Baffert won the GIII Palos Verdes S., but it wasn't chalk, the $3.65-million Fasig-Tipton 2-year-old Cezanne (Curlin). Instead it was the year-younger, $300,000 OBS April 2-year-old Essential Wager (Honor Code), who was making his stakes debut after riding a two-race win streak.

Essential Wager left the gate smartly and came up on the inside to emerge from the early fray with the lead, marking the first quarter in :22.21 with Team Merchants (Nyquist) pressing from the outside. The two held position with the half notched in :45.17, then Essential Wager cut the corner and pulled away with a right-handed reminder. He blazed five panels in :57.41 while Shooters Shoot (Competitive Edge) was flying on the outside. As game as they come, Shooters Shoot could not pass Essential Wager and finished a neck back while Essential Wager held firm.

The winner came into the Palos Verdes off a brilliant work in tandem with Cezanne Jan. 23, in which he finished in front of his stablemate with a time of :59 2/5 for the five furlongs. It was best of 88 that day, with Cezanne hitting his mark in :59 3/5 (2/88).

“This horse is getting better and better, he had trained really well,” said Baffert. “With Cezanne, I think it was a little too short for him. All of Essential Wager's races have been pretty impressive and actually, he's bred not to be a sprinter. [Rider] Abel [Cedillo] did a great job, got him outta there and held off those horses pretty well. You know, he took a lot of heat early and kept going.”

Essential Wager debuted at seven furlongs in October over this track with an educational start: a bump, a stumble, a premature move, and a lost duel. He finished second that day, but moved down to six furlongs and has stayed there since, resulting in a maiden win Nov. 12 at Del Mar, a first-level allowance Dec. 11 at Los Alamitos, and Saturday's Palos Verdes victory.

“We're going to let Bobby [Baffert] do what he wants with him,” said co-owner Mike Pegram, “but I think he can probably get two turns, it looks like.”

Pedigree Notes:
One of nine black-type winners for Honor Code, Essential Wager is his young sire's fourth graded winner. His other three graded winners have all come at the Grade I level.

Inbred 3×5 to Seattle Slew, Essential Wager is one of 19 stakes winners out of a daughter of Officer. His dam has a 2-year-old filly named Bru Na Boinne (Arrogate), who brought $120,000 from Wayne R. Sanders and Kat Kirk at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling sale. She also has a yearling full-sister to Essential Wager named Essential Ellie and visited the court of Wildcat Red for this spring's foal.

Saturday, Santa Anita
PALOS VERDES S.-GIII, $200,000, Santa Anita, 1-29, 4yo/up, 6f, 1:09.95, ft.
1–ESSENTIAL WAGER, 120, c, 4, by Honor Code
               1st Dam: Mr Hall's Opus (GSP, $155,300), by Officer
               2nd Dam: Sala de Oro, by Expelled
               3rd Dam: Kildare, by Flying Paster
1ST BLACK TYPE WIN, 1ST GRADED STAKES WIN. ($200,000
RNA Ylg '19 KEESEP; $300,000 2yo '20 OBSAPR). O-Michael E.
Pegram, Karl Watson, & Paul Weitman; B-Maccabee Farm
(KY); T-Bob Baffert; J-Abel Cedillo. $120,000. Lifetime
Record: 4-3-1-0, $207,200. Werk Nick Rating: A. Click for
the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Shooters Shoot, 120, g, 5, Competitive Edge–Repeat, by
Bernardini. ($90,000 Wlg '17 KEENOV; $70,000 Ylg '18
KEESEP; $300,000 2yo '19 OBSAPR). O-Bella Cavello Stables
LLC; B-Nancy C. Shuford (KY); T-Richard Baltas. $40,000.
3–Cezanne, 122, h, 5, Curlin–Achieving, by Bernardini.
($3,650,000 2yo '19 FTFMAR). O-Mrs. John Magnier,
Michael B. Tabor, Derrick Smith & St. Elias Stable; B-Hill 'n'
Dale Equine Holdings, Inc. & St. Elias Stables, LLC (KY); T-Bob
Baffert. $24,000.
Margins: NK, 2 3/4, 3HF. Odds: 1.80, 20.60, 0.70.
Also Ran: Team Merchants, Dark Vader. Scratched: Arham.
Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs, or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by TVG.

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