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EZ Warrior Rewards Baffert With a Victory

Times Staff Writer

Trainer Bob Baffert wasn’t thrilled that E Z Warrior drew the inside post for a second consecutive race in the $100,000 Hollywood Juvenile Championship on Tuesday at Hollywood Park.

Baffert said he gave some thought to scratching the 2-year-old son of Exploit, but he opted to keep the horse in the Grade III race.

Wise choice. Even though he did not have the best of trips, E Z Warrior, the even-money favorite, remained unbeaten in two starts with a 2 3/4 -length victory under jockey David Flores.

Purchased for $1.2 million in March at Barretts by Baffert for Zayat Stables LLC, E Z Warrior completed the six furlongs in 1:09.96. It was Baffert’s second win in a row in the Juvenile. He scored in 2005 with What a Song, who suffered a fatal injury not long after winning the Best Pal at Del Mar on Aug. 14.

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“That’s the type of horse we’re searching for this time of year,” Flores said of E Z Warrior. “He’s very professional, he doesn’t panic and he runs when it is time to go. I’m very pleased with the way he ran today. It was only his second time out, and he acts like an old horse already.”

Great Hunter, the 3-1 second choice, finished second, 2 3/4 lengths clear of 15-1 longshot Tom Rickey. Great Hunter was making his first start for owner J. Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O’Neill after being purchased privately after a maiden win in Texas.

Diamond Dave, the 4-1 third choice and also trained by O’Neill, finished fourth.

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Strong Contender, the 2-1 second choice, rolled to a 7 3/4 -length victory in the $150,000 Dwyer at Belmont Park.

The win was the third in five starts for the 3-year-old Maria’s Mon colt, who is owned by John Oxley and trained by John Ward. Ridden by Edgar Prado, he ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.24.

Doc Cheney, a 10-1 longshot, finished second, and California shipper Da Stoops was third in the Grade II.

Keyed Entry, the 9-5 favorite, finished last in the field of six.

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Lava Man, who was assigned highweight of 124 pounds, could have from four to six opponents when he tries to win the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup for a second year in a row on Saturday at Hollywood Park.

Entries for the Grade I at 1 1/4 miles will be taken today. The other possible participants are Magnum, Seek Gold, the 91-1 winner of last month’s Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs, Super Frolic, That’s An Outrage, Lucky J.H. and Ace Blue.

Lava Man, who has won all three of his starts in 2006, is seeking to become only the second horse to win the Gold Cup twice. Native Diver won it three times in a row between 1965 and ’67.

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