Collected wins Grade 3 Sham for Bob Baffert at Santa Anita

ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) Heavily favored Collected won the $100,000 Sham Stakes for 3-year-olds by 1 1/4 lengths Saturday at Santa Anita, giving Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert a possible Kentucky Derby contender.

Ridden by Martin Garcia, Collected ran a mile in 1:38 and paid $5, $3.60 and $3 as the 3-2 favorite in the field of eight.

California Chrome returned to racing after a nine-month layoff to win the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes for older horses by 1 1/4 lengths.

Under Victor Espinoza, California Chrome ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.39 and paid $3.20, $2.40 and $2.10. The 5-year-old California-bred had not run since finishing second in the $5 million Dubai World Cup last March.

''He's been wanting to run quite a bit right now by watching his workouts,'' trainer Art Sherman said. ''He could've opened up turning for home, but Victor put the full-nelson on him. It was just what we needed. It's very heartwarming to see his fans and the reception he received. It was just jammed full of people around the paddock.''

Winner of the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, California Chrome is being pointed to a return trip to Dubai for this year's race March 26.

''We're going to Dubai, I'm adamant,'' majority owner Perry Martin said. ''I think he ran perfect.''

Imperative returned $5.80 and $3, while Hoppertunity was another length back in third and paid $2.20 to show.

Espinoza rode American Pharoah to the sport's first Triple Crown victory in 37 years last year. He and California Chrome had their Triple try dashed with a fourth-place finish in the Belmont.

''The way Chrome ran is how he ran before,'' Espinoza said. ''He's one of the best horses I've ever been on. I am so proud of him. American Pharoah and California Chrome are too hard to compare. I won't.''

In the Sham, Let's Meet in Rio, also trained by Baffert, returned $5 and $4 after surviving a stewards' inquiry into a minor bumping incident at the top of the stretch. Laoban was another 1 1/2 lengths back in third and paid $6.40 to show in the Grade 3 race.

Dressed in Hermes, the 7-2 second choice on the morning line, was scratched because of a fever.

Collected earned 10 points in the Kentucky Derby qualifying process that decides the 20-horse field for the May race. The second, third and fourth-place finishers earned four, two and one qualifying points.

Breaking from the far outside post, Collected pressed the early pace and took command leaving the furlong pole.

''I was full of horse on the backstretch,'' Garcia said. ''I knew I never wanted to be in behind horses, I just wanted him to flow. Everybody decided to send (from the gate), so I took advantage of that. He was a little wide, but I took him back a little after the first turn and he let me do whatever I wanted. When I asked him, he took off.''

Collected won his debut over the track's turf course on Oct. 12 and was coming off a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Cecil B. DeMille Stakes at Del Mar on Nov. 29.

''I knew the post was going to be tough on him. He really had to work a little extra hard on the outside like that,'' Baffert said. ''He kept on digging away at it. This race will do him some good. He's a very fast horse and there's something about him in the mornings that really encouraged me that he's going to be a runner.''

The victory, worth $60,000, increased Collected's career earnings to $111,200.

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