Darley Stable's homebred Out of Bounds was overlooked at 10-1 in his stakes debut, Saturday's Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita, but rallied strongly to win the first graded race of the year on the Kentucky Derby trail, greatly enhancing his credentials in the process. Trained by Eoin Harty, the son of Discreet Cat relished the added ground in his first start around two turns, completing a mile in 1:34 2/5 over the fast track.
Garrett Gomez, who has now won all four stakes of the New Year at Santa Anita, picked up the mount on the well-bred colt. He has six stakes wins overall this meet.
Out of Bounds broke from post 1 in the five-horse field and saved ground along the inside as Longview Drive sprinted to the fore from his outside post, establishing splits in :22 3/5 and :45 4/5 on a short lead. Secret Circle, the 1-2 favorite off his win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint, stalked the pacesetter in second and Out of Bounds was close to the action, only two lengths back after the opening half-mile.
Gomez guided Out of Bounds off the rail entering the stretch as Secret Circle went after the pacesetter in the final furlongs, hooking up with Longview Drive with a quarter-mile remaining. Those two dueled through the drive, and Out of Bounds was still a length back in third with a furlong remaining. The chestnut offered his best stride late, closing fast on the far outside to win going away by a half-length.
"My horse jumped away really well and traveled really good," Gomez said. "I was able to cover up behind a couple horses. He did everything really professional for a horse that's only run a couple of times. I was excited by his last couple races.
"He's such a good-sized colt and I thought the two turns would really help him because he's such a long-striding horse. It's just a matter of getting him to understand how to do it the right way. I think he's got enough ability to do it. He showed us all today. He traveled really well, did things the right way, and finished up well."
"He looked like he had plenty of horse under him at every stage of the way," Harty said. "I felt very confident in the middle of the turn. I looked up and Garrett still had plenty of horse...I felt confident during the course of the stretch he was going to run them down.
"I really didn't know what to say to Garrett (pre-race instructions). I kind of left it in his hands. I felt sure that Bob's horse (Secret Circle trained by Bob Baffert) would be on the lead simply because of his style of running and the way he'd been working. I just told Garrett, 'Don't do the grunt work for everybody else. If Baffert's on the lead, think of the big picture. There are lots of battles but only one war.'"
Secret Circle edged a half-length clear of Longview Drive on the wire, and it was a 4 3/4-length margin back to Handsome Man in fourth. Hierro, the 2-1 second choice, advanced to a threatening position on the far turn before weakening to last in the stretch. Senor Rain was withdrawn.
Secret Circle suffered his first career setback, but jockey Rafael Bejarano was happy with the runner-up's performance.
"I felt like I had a lot of horse at the three-eighths pole, so I just let him go little by little," Bejarano said. "I switched leads at the top of the stretch and he showed me a big kick, but at the same time, he started looking at the horse on the rail (Longview Drive). My horse tried to stay close to him and that's why he lugged in. That's when I started hitting him. He passed the inside horse but wasn't paying attention to the outside horse (Out of Bounds)."
Baffert also wasn't disappointed with the outcome.
"He just got beat," the Hall of Fame conditioner said of Secret Circle's effort. "He didn't shut it down. He wasn't exhausted when he came back, so it was a good experience for him. It was the first time he was able to rate off of horses. I think he got a lot out of it."
Fourth when making his career bow in a October 22 maiden special weight at Santa Anita, Out of Bounds entered the $100,000 Sham off a narrow score in a seven-furlong maiden special weight at Hollywood Park on December 10. With the $60,000 winner's share, the lightly-raced sophomore has now earned $89,700.
"He's a very big horse, but he's a gentle giant," Harty said. "He's come around mentally as well as physically, and sometimes it takes a while for both to catch up. Lucky this horse has the mental attributes as well as the physical attributes."
Out of Bounds hails from a superb female family. He is out of 2001 Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Unbridled Elaine, making him a three-quarter brother to multiple Grade 2 winner Etched. Unbridled Elaine, a daughter of Unbridled's Song who earned more than $1.7 million, is also the dam of a two-year-old colt by Distorted Humor. She is out of the multiple stakes-winning Carols Folly, who also produced Grade 1-winning millionaire Glitter Woman, the dam of Grade 1 winner Political Force; and Gwenjinsky, the dam of multiple Grade 2 queen Lead Story and stakes winners Capejinsky and Prize Catch.