How to Bet the Lazaro Barrera Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

May 11th, 2018

Just how many talented three-year-olds does trainer have in his barn this year?

One week after winning the Kentucky Derby with the unbeaten Justify, Baffert will send out two more promising colts in Saturday’s $100,000 Lazaro Barrera Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita, and while neither are favored on the morning line, it would come as no surprise to see one of them reach the winner’s circle.

Baffert’s two representatives in the seven-furlong race are #4 Zulfikhar and #3 McKale, who were separated by just a half-length when finishing 1-2 in a 6 ½-furlong allowance optional claiming race at Santa Anita last month. For Zulfikhar, a well-bred son of Bodemeister out of a Mineshaft mare, the victory marked a sharp rebound from a disappointing fourth-place finish in an 8.5-furlong allowance event at Oaklawn two months prior, a race that marked his first start since winning his debut at Los Alamitos back in July. Zulfikhar is now 2-for-2 sprinting and should have no trouble handling the seven-furlong distance of the Lazaro Barrera.

However, I actually prefer McKale in this spot. The son of Congrats won his debut in gate-to-wire fashion on March 10th at Santa Anita, setting a fast pace before pulling away to win by 2 ¼ lengths. He went out even faster in the allowance race against Zulfikhar, dueling for the lead through fractions of :21.73 and :44.80 before battling on gamely when challenged by Zulfikhar. Given the fast pace, you can make a case that the late-running Zulfikhar received the better setup.

McKale might be able to secure an easier lead in the Lazaro Barrera, since the only other front-runner in the race--#2 Calexman—has been running longer distances and seems unlikely to match strides with McKale going seven furlongs. In addition, I think McKale could be poised to take a big step forward now that he has a couple of races under his belt. Certainly his last three workouts (culminating with five furlongs in a bullet :58 1/5 on May 7th) suggest that he's in good form.

With this in mind, I’ll take McKale as my top choice and use him with Zulfikhar in an attempt to beat the morning line favorite, #1 Kanthaka. The Jerry Hollendorfer-trained colt did win the San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) over this track and distance in February, but benefited from rallying into very fast fractions and might not get as nice a setup this time around.

Here's how I would play the race:

$10 exacta: 3,4 with 3,4 ($20) $5 trifecta: 3 with 1,4 with 1,4 ($10)

Good luck!