January 9, 2016
Source: TDN

Transitioning to the dirt after a series of promising moves over the local surface, Connected (City Zip) overcame a three- and four-wide trip to win the first main-track graded stakes of 2016.

The chestnut, whose second and third dams are by noted turf influences, took to this track’s hillside course for his Oct. 12 debut and flashed excellent speed from the outside barrier to be right on the opening half-mile split of :43.07, carried a narrow advantage into the final furlong and managed to get his nose down on the line first. Given plenty of time to recover from that effort, he was sent off at just under 9-1 for the GIII Cecil B. DeMille S. (formerly Generous S.) at Del Mar and, making full use of his low gate, attended the pace, was clear passing the eighth pole and was run over late by Dressed In Hermes (Hat Trick {Jpn}), who was also an intended runner in this race, but was scratched early Saturday morning.

Drawn widest in the field of eight, Connected was away in good order for Martin Garcia, but so, too, were half of his rivals and the race favorite was consigned to a four-path trip around the first bend. Semper Fortis (Distorted Humor), the half-brother to TDN Rising Star Carpe Diem (Giant’s Causeway) emerged with the lead turning up the backstretch and tracked by GI Los Alamitos Futurity third I’malreadythere (Crown of Thorns), as Connected remained deep on the track and the maiden Laoban(Uncle Mo) to his outside. Connected and Laoban came with runs in unison leaving the three-eighths, but Connected was clearly doing the better of the two, bid for the lead outside of Found Money (Square Eddie) with a furlong and a half to race and held sway late. Let’s Meet in Rio (Flatter), ground-saving for the opening six panels, exchanged bumps with I’malreadythere in upper stretch, then leveled out nicely to finish a clear second. Stewards conducted an inquiry into the bumping incident, but the result was allowed to stand.

“He really impressed me with his last couple works, so I was sort of excited to see what he could do, but you never know until they do it,” commented winning trainer Bob Baffert. “I was hoping for a little easier trip, hoping to [be] lone speed, but that didn’t work out. Everybody had the same instructions, but Martin did a great job. He stayed patient with him and still had something left at the end after all that, so that was pretty impressive.

He continued, “Let’s Meet in Rio looks like he’ll go longer. He was really coming late. It’s the time of year when you want to see something like that, so it’s exciting. He really had to work a little extra hard on the outside like that…but he responded the way you want him to respond. He kept on digging away at it.”

The winner’s dam produced a full-brother to Collected, who fetched $140,000 at last year’s Keeneland September sale. Helena Bay was bred to Lookin at Lucky in 2015.

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