Bob Baffert, who is on his way to his fourth consecutive training title at Santa Anita, experienced a high and a low with his two starters on Sunday.
Baffert saw Purely Cozzene go gate-to-wire and win the $85,275 La Puente Stakes. The victory came three races after Right Track, a 3-year-old Cherokee Run colt he trained for owners Bob and Beverly Lewis, suffered a broken leg and was euthanized. Purley Cozzene was refitted with blinkers for his return to the turf, his preferred surface. The 3-year-old son of Cozzene took the lead immediately under jockey Victor Espinoza, repelled a challenge from Hugh Hefner, then kicked away late to win by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:34 for the mile.
Owned by Ed and Natalie Friendly, Purely Cozzene, the 3-1 second choice in the field of seven, won for the third time in nine starts. He's now two for five on the grass.
"He ran very well," said Espinoza, who ranks third in the jockey standings with 52 victories. "The race set up well for me, just the way [Baffert] told me to ride. He told me to just go to the front and slow them down for the first three-quarters of a mile, then when we turn for home, just hit him with the left hand.
"He just took off in the stretch. He's a big, strong horse and he moves so smoothly."
Hugh Hefner, making his first start since finishing far back in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last Nov. 6, finished 1 1/4 lengths in front of 3-1 favorite Final Row.
"I thought he ran really well," said Hugh Hefner trainer Marty Jones. "He just couldn't catch the winner. He hadn't run in a long time, it was his first race on the grass, his first race with blinkers and really his first race running long. He didn't really try to run in the Breeders' Cup."
Right Track, purchased for $180,000 as a yearling, had won once in five starts. He suffered a compound fracture of the cannon bone in his left foreleg in the third race.
Second to General Challenge in the Santa Anita Handicap in his last appearance, Budroyale will be the 122-pound high weight for Saturday's $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap at Oaklawn Park.
Scheduled to ship to Arkansas on Thursday, Budroyale is expected to be opposed by Cat Thief, who defeated Budroyale in the Breeders' Cup Classic last year, Almutawakel, Allen's Oop, K One King and Pleasant Breeze.
Besides the Santa Anita Derby, there are two other stakes on Saturday's card and there will be a $1 million guaranteed pool in the Pick Six. Kona Gold is scheduled to head the field in the $200,000 Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup Handicap and Bonapartiste is among those likely for the $150,000 El Rincon Handicap.