Cal-Bred The Chosen Vron Changes Tactics In Affirmed Triumph

In a race in which most observers thought trainer Eric Kruljac’s talented California-bred The Chosen Vron would be on or contending for the early lead, instead the 3-year-old Vronsky gelding was last early and although Bob Baffert’s Defunded had what appeared to be an insurmountable four-length edge turning for home, it was The Chosen Vron who rallied for an impressive 1 ¼-length score in Sunday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif.  Ridden by Umberto Rispoli, he got 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.01.

Stretching out for the first time off a huge win in the G3 Lazaro Barrera Stakes going 6 ½ furlongs, The Chosen Vron settled nicely under Rispoli heading into the first turn as longshot Jimmy Irish and Defunded contested the early going.

With Defunded assuming command around the far turn, he quickly dispatched of his favored stablemate Classier and had what appeared to be a winning advantage a quarter mile out but The Chosen Vron, who had moved into contention at the rail, switched leads straightening for home and reeled in the leader just inside the sixteenth pole to leave no doubt about who was best on the day.

“I thought he’d show more natural speed but they sent a couple horses real hard and Umberto took the initiative,” said Kruljac.  “He rode the horse with a lot of faith and he got there.  He had a lot of kickback (dirt) on him, but he’ll run through it, this horse…The way the track was playing all day…I told Umberto, if the opportunity is there, if there’s not much pace, feel free to go.

“And then I said, ‘By the way, for the next 10 minutes, you own this horse.’  And he rode him his way…I think we’re going to be going for the easy money now, I mean those races are going to be tough too, there’s some good Cal-breds.  But it looks like we’ll run for a $175,000 in the Real Good Deal going seven furlongs at Del Mar (for Cal-breds on July 30).”

A two-time stakes winner coming into Sunday, The Chosen Vron was off as the 8-5 second choice in a field of five sophomores and paid $5.20, $2.80 and $2.10.

“When the gates (opened) his intent was to go, obviously he’s coming from a (sprint) race, but it’s so far he understood that when we didn’t go anywhere, he just switched off his mind and on the first turn he was just completely relaxed,” said Rispoli, who was aboard for the second consecutive time today.  “I had him in a good spot, I threw him on the inside because I know he likes the kickback, and I traveled all the way inside to find a good spot at the three furlong pole just moving him up.

“At that point I knew he was the horse to beat.  I felt that I had so much horse under me that he did the rest.  After I got behind Classier, I came out and said, ‘Okay, it’s business time,’ and it was just a feeling that he was going to switch his lead and I knew he was going to go by them easy.  He’s a small horse but he’s got a big heart.  He’s got an amazing mind to go from (6 ½) furlongs to a mile and one sixteenth for the first time.”

Owned by Eric Kruljac, Robert Fetkin, John Sondereker and Richard Thornburgh, The Chosen Vron is out of the Tiz Wonderful mare Tiz Molly and was bred in California by Tiz Molly Partners.  A 6 ½-length maiden winner versus statebreds here on Dec. 27, he’s now got a pair of graded stakes wins and an overall mark of 5-4-0-1.  With the winner’s share of $60,000, The Chosen Vron increased his earnings to $270,600.

Defunded, who was ridden by Abel Cedillo, finished 11 lengths in front of Classier and paid $3.00 and $2.10 while off at 3-1.

Classier, idle since well beaten in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland Nov. 6, was off as the 7-5 favorite with Flavien Prat and with no apparent excuses, paid $2.10 to show while finishing 14 lengths clear of Mr. Impossible.

Fractions on the race were 23.25, 46.34, 1:10.82 and 1:37.23.

Three days remain in Santa Anita’s current Winter/Spring Meeting, with first post time for an 11-race card on Friday at 1 p.m.

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