05/15/2011 5:46PM

Hollywood Park: Bench Points gets up by nose in Laz Barrera

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BENOIT PHOTO
Bench Points, returning to a one-turn race, reaffirms his status California's best 3-year-old male sprinter by taking the Laz Barrera.

INGLEWOOD, Calif.-The day after Bench Points finished seventh in the Santa Anita Derby last month, ending any plan for a start in the Triple Crown, trainer Tim Yakteen redirected the gelding’s career back to one-turn stakes.

So far, the plan has worked to perfection. Bench Points won his first graded stakes in Sunday’s $100,000 Laz Barrera Stakes for 3-year-olds over seven furlongs at Hollywood Park. The Grade 3 Barrera extended Bench Points’s unbeaten record around one turns to five races.

 “It’s a reflection on the talent of the horse,” Yakteen said.

Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Bench Points ($4.40) closed from last in a field of five and held off a persistent threat from Runflatout to win by a nose in 1:22.50. Ain’t No Other, who had won his last five starts, led at the eighth pole, but faded to finish third, 2 1/4 lengths behind the winner. Sinai was fourth, well clear of early pacesetter Flightofalifetime ,who faded through the stretch.

Bejarano had Bench Points as far as 8 1/2 lengths behind the leader on the backstretch and moved closer to the front with three furlongs remaining. Bejarano said his only concern in the stretch was staying clear of Runflatout, who moved to the outside, near the path of Bench Points, when the field settled into the stretch.

“I knew [Runflatout] would be tough on the end,” Bejarano said. “I tried to stay clear of him.”

Bejarano has ridden Bench Points in five of his seven starts, including two wins in statebred stakes at Del Mar last summer. Bench Points was later named the champion Cal-bred 2-year-old male of 2010.

Bejarano thought that the Barrera will help Bench Points return to his best form.

“He’ll be better next time,” Bejarano said. “He’ll improve now that he’s getting back.”

Owned by a partnership Bench Points, by Benchmark, has won 5 of 7 starts and $308,280. Yakteen said that Bench Points will stay in one-turn stakes this summer.