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Uncle Chuck wins Los Alamitos Derby as Bob Baffert adds another Kentucky Derby hopeful

Uncle Chuck, with Luis Saez aboard, wins the Grade 3 $150,000 Los Alamitos Derby on July 4, 2020.
Uncle Chuck, with Luis Saez aboard, wins the Grade 3 $150,000 Los Alamitos Derby on Saturday. “He’s learning quickly, and he has brilliance,” trainer Bob Baffert said of Uncle Chuck.
(Benoit Photo via Associated Press)

Bob Baffert’s seemingly endless string of Kentucky Derby hopefuls grew by one Saturday when Uncle Chuck won the Grade 3 $150,000 Los Alamitos Derby by an easy four lengths.

Uncle Chuck took the lead on the far turn and cruised through the home stretch in the diminished four-horse race. It was worth 20 points toward qualifying for the Kentucky Derby, not near enough to make the 20-horse field. He will have to run in another prep race, and do very well, to make the field Sept. 5.

“He’s learning quickly, and he has brilliance,” Baffert said. “I was impressed. I think we just saw something pretty special, and he’s been special from day one. He’s bred to be any kind [of horse].’’

Baffert entered the normal Triple Crown series with many 3-year-olds in the Kentucky Derby conversation. But time has eroded that number. Nadal was injured and retired. Charlatan had a less serious injury and might not be ready until the Preakness in October. There was also heavily thought of Authentic, who was beaten by Honor A.P. in the Santa Anita Derby. Baffert also has undefeated Cezanne, a $3.65-million purchase, who won his second race in an allowance Thursday.

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Still, Uncle Chuck moves into Baffert’s upper echelon.

“We’re just learning more about Uncle Chuck,” Baffert said. “He’s still pretty green, but he’s got gears. [Jockey] Luis [Saez] was excited about him, and I think he’s one of the top riders in the country. He said [Uncle Chuck] is still learning and he’s got a lot of improvement in him. He was full of himself when he came back. It’s exciting.”

Saez was brought in from New York to ride Uncle Chuck as his regular jockey, Mike Smith, was in New York to ride McKinzie, who finished a disappointing fifth in the Metropolitan Handicap. But since Smith also has the ride on Honor A.P., it’s unclear whether he would be available to ride Uncle Chuck in the Kentucky Derby.

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The Kentucky Derby will be held with limited spectators, Churchill Downs announced on Thursday. The exact number of people has not been determined.

“He broke great, and I just left him alone,” Saez said. “He was doing it easy all the way. When I showed him the whip, he took off. He’s a very nice colt.”

Uncle Chuck paid $2.80 to win. There was no place or show wagering after the race dropped to four horses when Anneau d’Or scratched because of an elevated temperature.

In Saturday’s other graded stakes race, Sneaking Out beat heavily favored Bellafina to win the Grade 2 $200,000 Great Lady M Stakes. Sneaking Out paid $16.40 to win.


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