Making his first start on dirt in the $100,000 Sham (G3) at Santa Anita on Saturday, Collected passed the one-mile test with flying colors while holding off stablemate Let’s Meet in Rio by 1 1/4 lengths in the Kentucky Derby (G1) prep.

A tracking fourth early, Collected bid for the lead approaching the quarter pole, drew off from Found Money in the stretch and finished up the distance in 1:38 over a fast track. Ridden by Martin Garcia for Speedway Stable and trainer Bob Baffert, Collected paid $5.

As part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, Collected earned 10 qualifying points toward eligibility in the May 7 Run for the Roses.

Let’s Meet in Rio, making his stakes debut after breaking his maiden at Los Alamitos last month, rallied from far back to get second, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Laoban, whom he had also defeated in the aforementioned maiden race on December 5. Found Money weakened to fourth.

A debut winner by a nose down Santa Anita’s hillside turf course on October 12, Collected returned to finish second in the Cecil B. DeMille (G3) over a mile on turf at Del Mar in late November. The winner of that race, Dressed in Hermes, was a late scratch from the Sham after spiking a fever.

“He really impressed me with his last couple works, so I was sort of excited to see what he could do, but you never know until they do it,” said Baffert of Collected. “I was hoping for a little easier trip, hoping to lone speed, but that didn’t work out. Everybody had the same instructions, but Martin did a great job. He stayed patient with him and still had something left at the end after all that, so that was pretty impressive.

“Let’s Meet in Rio looks like he’ll go longer. He was really coming late. It’s the time of year when you want to see something like that, so it’s exciting. He really had to work a little extra hard on the outside like that…but he responded the way you want him to respond. He kept on digging away at it.

“I think this race will do him some good. I could tell in the paddock he looked a little heavy. He’s a very fast horse and there’s something about him in the mornings that really encouraged me that he’s going to be a runner.”

(Benoit Photos)