By Meredith Daugherty, The Blood-Horse:
Cutting through dense fog over a sloppy (sealed) track at Pimlico Race Course, 3-year-old Ax Man led at every point of call to snag the May 19 $100,000 LARC Sir Barton Stakes and take home his third win of the season.
In a portent of things to come, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and fellow Hall of Famer Mike Smith found themselves in the winner's circle only an hour before the Preakness Stakes (G1) as Patti and Hal J. Earnhardt III's homebred Ax Man proved uncatchable in the 1 1/16-mile test over the Baltimore oval.
With the field halved by early scratches due to inclement weather, Ax Man broke second from post 4 in a field of six 3-year-olds, charging to the front to set the pace. Title Readymanaged to drive up to his flank but couldn't muster the speed to edge ahead as Ax Man hit the six-furlong mark in 1:11.30.
Turning for home, the bay colt opened up by a length with a strong kick, and he crossed the finish line in a final time of 1:42.53, 6 3/4 lengths ahead of Title Ready.
"Oh man, he just skipped over it. End of story," Smith said. "He broke sharp and skipped over it, no problem. He's exciting."
Sent off as the 1-2 favorite, the winner paid $3.20, $2.40, and $2.20.
A son of multiple graded stakes winner Misremembered, Ax Man broke his maiden on debut with an easy, 9 1/2-length victory over six furlongs at Santa Anita Park. After running fourth in his next effort and first try in graded company in the San Vicente Stakes (G2), Ax Man rebounded to win a one-mile optional-claiming allowance race by another handy 8 1/2 lengths before heading to Maryland.
"He was a little anxious when he got up here. He was fine until he got to the paddock, but once he got away from the crowd, he settled down," Baffert said. "It's just a lot of raw talent. … I chose this race just to keep him two turns, ship him, and see how he handles it. We've still got to work on some things. He's still a little young."
Bred in Kentucky by Hal J. Earnhardt, Ax Man is out of the Flying Chevron mare Shameful, who produced 2007 champion 2-year-old filly and 2008 champion female sprinter Indian Blessing and grade 3 winner Roman Threat, as well as two other stakes winners. Ax Man has a record of 3-0-0 in four starts with earnings of $138,000.
View Race on NBC here: https://www.nbcsports.com/video/ax-man-sets-pace-wins-sir-barton-stakes-pimlico