Updated on 09/15/2011 12:26PM

Two have lots to prove in Affirmed

Benoit & Associates
Early Flyer is the only graded stakes winner in Sunday's Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The parimutuel hope is that Bayou the Moon and Until Sundown are legitimate, that both colts can leap successfully into a graded stakes. Bettors want to accept their consistency, project further improvement, and wager with confidence in the

Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap on Sunday at Hollywood Park.

It's a lot to ask. Six entered the Affirmed, a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds that is the main prep for the Grade 1 Swaps Stakes on July 15. For lightly raced Bayou the Moon and Until Sundown, now is time to prove they belong with Swaps candidates sitting this one out - Congaree, Millennium Wind, and Crafty C.T.

The Affirmed also drew Early Flyer, Take My Note, Top Hit, and Mr. Joe C. Early Flyer is the only graded stakes winner, but Bayou the Moon and Until Sundown revealed ample talent finishing one-two in the ungraded Alydar Stakes May 23.

"The way they came home the last eighth, these are two real good colts," said Until Sundown's rider, Gary Stevens. The neck loss by Until Sundown followed impressive maiden and allowance victories; Bayou the Moon's victory was his third straight.

The last three furlongs of the Alydar were run in 36 seconds, the final furlong in 12.04. By any measure, the finish was huge. "That can be a telltale sign of quality, come-home time," said Gary Mandella, assistant trainer of Bayou the Moon. "For the first time running that far, they both came home really well."

Richard Mandella trains Bayou the Moon, who will be ridden by Alex Solis. Laura de Seroux trains Until Sundown. Each colt is making his fifth career start, brimming with potential. But unmerciful analysis of speed and pace demands caution before backing either. Both horses have much to prove.

The highest Beyer Speed Figure each earned is an ordinary 98. Both enjoyed comfortable trips in recent starts. Finally, neither colt has earned a pace figure that equals par for a

3-year-old stake. The hope is that Bayou the Moon and Until Sundown will prove they belong on Sunday. Going into the Affirmed, however, there can be only one rightful favorite.

Early Flyer, repeatedly proven in graded stakes, is the horse to beat if trainer Ron McAnally starts him. Though possibly best around one turn, Early Flyer's quality may allow him to carry his speed. He won the Grade 3 Laz Barrera last out at seven furlongs, and should loose on the lead Sunday under Chris McCarron.