07/02/2016 10:09AM

American Freedom dominates Iowa Derby as heavy favorite

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Coady Photography
American Freedom and jockey Rafael Bejarano win the Iowa Derby by 4 3/4 lengths Friday night.

To say that Bob Baffert was confident that American Freedom would win the Iowa Derby on Friday night at Prairie Meadows would be an understatement, and American Freedom backed up his trainer’s belief, as well as all the money bet on him to win, scoring a dominant 4 3/4-length victory over Texas Chrome as the 3-10 favorite.

American Freedom won for the third time in four races while putting to rest any notion that he needed a wet track to show his best. Sandwiched between wins in his debut over a sloppy Churchill Downs track and the Sir Barton Stakes in Pimlico mud was a sixth-place, fast-track finish in the Pat Day Mile. Baffert said this week that American Freedom “just didn’t show up” in the Pat Day Mile and that his off-track success was mere coincidence. And he was right.

American Freedom and jockey Rafael Bejarano were prepared to settle into a comfortable pressing trip into the first turn of the Grade 3, $250,000 Iowa Derby when the rail-drawn Lookin for a Kiss got rank and started lugging out. With Lookin for a Kiss more intent on battling his rider than his pace rival, Bejarano decided turning onto the backstretch that he’d seen enough and let American Freedom go to the front.

American Freedom went a half-mile in a manageable 47.75 seconds, with Lookin for a Kiss hemmed down to his inside, was challenged around the far turn by Texas Chrome, but disposed of that foe in upper stretch and drew away in the final furlong as much the best. He ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.62 and paid just $2.60 to win.

Texas Chrome finished four lengths in front of Hint of Roses, who was followed across the line by Lookin for a Kiss, Catfish Creek, and Colonel Dan. Synchrony and The Rouge Diesel were scratched.

“I’ve been working this horse a lot of times, and he’s been working good every time,” Bejarano said. “He was ready for this race. I felt confident in the stretch.”

American Freedom, owned by Gary and Mary West, was purchased for $500,000 as a yearling at Keeneland. He’s by Pulpit and is out of the Pleasant Tap mare Gotcha Last. Baffert said this week that if American Freedom ran to expectations Friday, he probably would be pointed to the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park or the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga.