05/08/2011 5:39PM

Hollywood Park: Awesome Patriot may be Belmont Stakes candidate after big Alydar win

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BENOIT PHOTO
Awesome Patriot could under consideration for the Belmont Stakes after taking the Alydar.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Awesome Patriot ran the best race of his career in Sunday’s $72,960 Alydar Stakes at Hollywood Park, a performance likely to lead to a graded stakes in coming weeks.

Awesome Patriot led throughout the Alydar Stakes over 1 1/8 miles, holding off Uncle Sam to win by three-quarters of a length in 1:50.52, his first stakes win. The first two finishers are trained by Bob Baffert, who was absent from Hollywood Park on Sunday, remaining at Churchill Downs following Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.

Awesome Patriot ($6.20) was sent off favored and was ridden with confidence by jockey Rafael Bejarano. Awesome Patriot was hustled to the lead from the rail, led by 2 1/2 lengths early, by two lengths in the stretch, and held on for the win.

“I was comfortable on the lead,” Bejarano said. “I had to rush a little bit in the first furlong. I had a lot of horse and was waiting for the stretch.

“When that other horse came up alongside, I asked him as soon as he switched leads and he had a big kick.”

Uncle Sam lugged to the inside in the stretch, and was a clear second, finishing 2 1/2 lengths in front of Clarke Lake in the field of five. Burns was fourth, followed by Red Sharp Humor.

Baffert had mentioned Uncle Sam as a possible starter in the Belmont Stakes on June 11 if he had won the Alydar, and the same race could be in the conversation for Awesome Patriot.

Owned by Terry Lanni, Awesome Patriot, a colt by Awesome Again, has won 3 of 6 starts and $112,600. The Alydar Stakes was his fourth start in a stakes. He was third in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue Stakes here last November. Earlier this year, Awesome Patriot was sixth in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita.