Ax Man to Turf in Pasadena Stakes

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6:31 pm EDT

To Face Pubilius Syrus, Heck Yeah, Five Others

Trainer Vladimir Cerin’s streaking two-time stakes winner Pubilius Syrus, Unbeaten Heck Yeah and his highly promising stablemate Ax Man, the latter two trained by Bob Baffert, loom large in a field of nine sophomores going one mile on turf in Saturday’s Pasadena Stakes at Santa Anita.

 A recent winner of consecutive turf stakes, Pubilius Syrus's last outing came on the 6 1/2-furlong hillside turf course on Feb. 18. In the Pasadena, he'll again stretch out to what appears to be his preferred distance.

A winner of three consecutive races, the last two state-bred stakes, Heck Yeah’s speed figures are moderate, but he’s won his three starts by a combined nine lengths.

A 9 ½ length first-out winner sprinting, Ax Man flopped as the 2-5 favorite in the Grade II San Vicente Stakes on Feb. 10 and will try both two turns and turf for the first time.

Here are some more highlights about the three horses in the spotlight.

Owner:  Holly and David Wilson
Trainer:  Vladimir Cerin

The horse to beat, he has two wins, a second and a third from five tries at one mile on turf.  A head winner of the one mile turf Eddie Logan Stakes at the track on Dec. 29, he showed the way under confident handling through the lane in the Baffle Stakes coming down the hill on Feb. 18, prevailing by one length. With an overall mark of 7-3-1-1, he has earnings of $158,940—second only to Heck Yeah’s $194,000. He’ll be ridden for the first time by Corey Nakatani while regular pilot Kent Desormeaux is serving a three-day riding suspension through Sunday.

Owner:  Michael Pageler, Dr. Michael Sigband and Bob Baedeker
Trainer:  Bob Baffert

By Eclipse Champion Turf Horse Acclamation, he returns to what figures to be his preferred surface following a 1 1/4-length win on dirt in the California Cup Derby going 1 1/16 mile on Feb. 19. A 5 1/4-length first-out maiden winner on Dec. 7 at Los Alamitos, he rallied to take the Cal Cup Turf Sprint at 6 1/2 furlongs off the hillside course in his second start on Jan. 27.  Bred in California by his co-owner Pageler, Heck Yeah will be facing open company for the first time and will need to step up his game to beat competition with higher Beyer Speed figures -- 90 top, compared to 80 for Heck Yeah.

Owner:  Patti and Hal Earnhardt III
Trainer:  Bob Baffert

Bred in Kentucky by his owners, this colt by 2010 Santa Anita Handicap winner Misremembered was stirring Derby speculation following his lights-out 9 1/2-length maiden win going six furlongs at the track on Jan. 1. He was subsequently hammered to 2-5 favoritism in the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes on Feb. 10. Head and head for the early lead through splits of 22 flat and 44.20, he tired badly and finished fourth, beaten 16 lengths by Kanthaka, who finished third in this past Saturday’s San Felipe Stakes. With Baffert in charge, it’s expected the surface change will present no significant problems, although if weather conditions dictate, he might relish a switch to the main track.

Race 8 of 10
Post time 6:30 ET
1.    Afleet Ascent—Rafael Bejarano—120
2.    Platinum Equity—Geovanni Franco—120
3.    River Boyne—Joel Rosario—122
4.    Pubilius Syrus—Corey Nakatani—124
5.    Heck Yeah—Mike Smith—124
6.    Buckstopper Kit—Rajiv Maragh—120
7.    Ax Man—Evin Roman—120
8.    La La Land—Joe Talamo—120
9.    Inscom—Tyler Baze—120