11/19/2016 4:53PM

Sharp Azteca returns with solid City of Laurel triumph

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Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Sharp Azteca will now be pointed to the Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 26.

LAUREL, Md. - Sharp Azteca returned in top form following a foot injury to win the seven-furlong City of Laurel Stakes by 5 1/4 lengths in fast time at Laurel Park on Saturday.

After the race, trainer Jorge Navarro said Sharp Azteca would be pointed to the Dec. 26 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita.

Sharp Azetca and even-money favorite Hot Seat battled on the lead of the City of Laurel, basically turning the nine-horse contest for 3-year-olds into a match race. Following quick fractions of 22.53 and 44.86, Sharp Azteca drew off under jockey Edgard Zayas.

It was 3 1/2 lengths farther back from previously unbeaten Hot Seat to third-place finisher Rated R Superstar. Sharp Azteca paid $7.40 and completed the course in 1:09.33.

"I never thought he would come out that fast," Navarro said. "The plan was to lay back and make a run. If you watch, after he passed the other horse, he just kind of floats when he runs."

The City of Laurel was Sharp Azteca's first start since he finished a close second in the Prelude Stakes at Louisiana Downs on Aug. 6. Navarro planned to send Sharp Azteca back to Louisiana for the Super Derby, but soon after returning to Monmouth Park he grabbed a quarter while galloping.

"It was a bad injury," Navarro said. "My blacksmith did an excellent job. The horse is fine now and back in his glue-on shoes."

Sharp Azteca is now 4 for 8. He scored his biggest career victory in the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day.