06/20/2009 12:00AM

Grazen captures Affirmed in stakes debut

Benoit & Associates
Grazen, ridden by jockey Rafael Bejarano, led throughout Saturday's Grade 3 Affirmed and won by 2 3/4 lengths.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Repelling a solid challenge on the backstretch, Grazen won his stakes debut in Saturday's at Hollywood Park. The style of the win suggested that the late-developing 3-year-old could show further improvement.

Grazen led throughout the Grade 3 Affirmed. He fought off a threat from longshot Fiddlers Afleet through early fractions of 24.06 and 46.97 seconds before pulling away to win by 2 3/4 lengths under a confident ride from jockey Rafael Bejarano.

Sent off favored, Grazen ($5.20) ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.40. Misremembered, third for the first six furlongs, finished second, 2 1/4 lengths in front of Quindici Man in the field of six.

The win gave owner-breeder Nick Alexander his first stakes win, after 28 years of involvement in the sport.

Grazen has won three consecutive races. After winning the NTRA Stakes for California-bred maidens in April, Grazen won his first start around two turns in an allowance race at 1 1/16 miles on May 23. In that race, Grazen set a slow pace, but he needed a quicker tempo to maintain the lead in the Affirmed.

"They all went after him," trainer Mike Mitchell said. "They didn't give him a break this time."

"The first race [around two turns] was kind of a workout. It was a perfect race to get under his belt. I had a lot of horse to work with. He's just learning how to run."

A colt by Benchmark, Grazen, who was 10th in his only start at 2, has won 3 of 4 starts and $135,400. Mitchell said in the winner's circle he was unsure whether Grazen would start in the $300,000 Swaps Stakes on July 18 or be held out of that race in favor of a start at Del Mar later this summer.