Baffert 1-2 In Los Alamitos Derby As Uncle Chuck Defeats Thousand Words

Less than one month removed from a daylight debut win, Uncle Chuck stepped into stakes company and impressed again, easily capturing the Grade 3, $150,000 Los Alamitos Derby Saturday at Los Alamitos race course in Cypress, Calif.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert for owners Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, Uncle Chuck, a 3-year-old son of Uncle Mo, tracked the pace outside Great Power for about six furlongs, looked like he might face a challenge from stablemate Thousand Words, but kicked away under Luis Saez to win by four lengths in 1:47.65 for the 1 1/8 miles.

The victory was the fourth in a row for Baffert in the Los Alamitos Derby and the fifth in seven years since daytime thoroughbred racing returned in 2014. The other winners include Gimme Da Lute (2015), West Coast (2017), Once On Whiskey (2018) and Game Winner last year.

The Los Alamitos Derby was added to the Road to the Kentucky Derby, with 20-8-4-2 qualifying points going to the four runners.

A $250,000 purchase out of the 2018 Keeneland September sale, Uncle Chuck, who is out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Forest Music, paid $2.80 as the 2-5 favorite. There was no place or show wagering in a race reduced to four starters after Anneau d’Or was scratched due to illness.

A road trip could be next for the very promising colt, who has banked $120,000.

“That was good,” said Baffert. “At the top of the lane, I thought Thousand Words might get him, but at least that horse ran better.

“We’re just learning more and more about Uncle Chuck. He’s still pretty green, but he’s got gears. (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 has got a lot of improvement in him.

“The colt was full of himself when he came back.  It’s exciting. He’s learning quickly and he has brilliance. 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.”

Thousand Words, who won the G2 Los Alamitos Futurity last Dec. 7, finished seven lengths clear of the maiden Cosmo as the 9-5 second choice. Great Power completed the order of finish.

Racing without blinkers for the first time since he scored in his sprint debut last Oct. 26, Thousand Words was seeking his initial victory since capturing the G3 Robert B. Lewis March 7.

Saez, who gained the mount on Uncle Chuck since Hall of Famer Mike Smith was at Belmont Park to ride McKinzie in the Runhappy Met Mile, had a double for Baffert as he also won the first race aboard debuter Mohemian Rhapsody.

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

Racing resumes Sunday at Los Alamitos. Post time for the final day of the Summer Thoroughbred Festival is 1 p.m.

Through six days, Juan Hernandez tops the jockey standings with six wins, one more than Edwin Maldonado, who doubled Saturday. Baffert leads the trainers with four victories.

Apprentice Alexis Centeno, a native of Puerto Rico, earned his first U.S. win with Love Your Life in Saturday’s second race.

Updated Kentucky Derby points leaderboard

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