07/06/2013 4:22PM

Calder: Mico Margarita continues to improve with Carry Back win

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Mico Margarita has stepped up his game with the addition of blinkers.

MIAMI - Mico Margarita finally validated the high hopes trainer Steve Asmussen had for him as a 2-year-old when parlaying a perfect trip into an easy 4 1/2-length victory over longshot Red Rocket Express in Saturday’s $150,000 Carry Back Stakes at Calder.  R Free Roll, the odds on favorite at 4-5 - and the lone filly in the Grade 3 stakes for 3-year-olds - finished a tiring fifth after engaging in a suicidal pace duel with Rockyshomerun.

Mico Margarita was on a path last fall towards the Breeders’ Cup when slowed by a temperature which forced him to skip a key prep for the Juvenile Sprint. It took Asmussen a while to finally get the son of Run Away and Hide back on track, the addition of blinkers among the keys to his big improvement over the past month.

With jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. aboard, Mico Margarita was reserved off the embattled leaders who fought through a 21.35-second opening quarter and 44.33 half-mile. Mico Margarita advanced willingly to engage the tiring duo in early stretch, quickly drew away, and was never seriously menaced thereafter.

Red Rocket Express, a former $12,500 claimer who had won four of his five previous starts, rallied from last to narrowly outfinish the multiple stakes winner Sr. Quisqueyano for second.

Asmussen trains Mico Margarita for owners J. Kirk and Judy Robison. Mico Margarita completed six furlongs in 1:10.97 over a fast track and paid $9.20.

“He showed some talent early at 2 but was never on the right page out in California last fall,” said Asmussen by phone from Saratoga. “By spring he was still going through the motions until I put blinkers on, which helped put his mind back into the game and obviously made a big difference. He got a great draw, a perfect trip, and now he’s a graded stakes winner.”

Asmussen said Mico Margarita would ship to Saratoga but said the Amsterdam comes up a little too quick to be considered an option for his next start.