ARCADIA, Calif. -- American Anthem may have a leading role in the 3-year-old division after all.
After losing three Triple Crown preps from January to early April, American Anthem won his first stakes in Saturday's $100,000 Laz Barrera Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs at Santa Anita.
The win left jockey Mike Smith optimistic American Anthem can rebound from recent setbacks and be competitive in two-turn races later this spring and summer.
"He did the seven-eighths pretty handily and I don't see any reason another furlong would bother him," Smith said.
American Anthem ($3.60) broke from the rail, and rallied four-wide on the turn to reach the front in early stretch. American Anthem won by 1 3/4 lengths over Kimbear in 1:22.02.
American Anthem was fourth after a quarter-mile. He broke well, but was handy for Smith as he moved the colt to a stalking position on the outside of three other runners, including Sutton Impact, who set a brisk pace of 21.85 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 44.33 for a half-mile.
American Anthem closed through the turn and led by 1 1/2 lengths with a furlong to go.
"I rode him with a lot of confidence," Smith said. "He needed to run to the wire. It was a good experience for him."
Kimbear, who finished sixth in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby in his stakes debut April 8, closed from last to finish 4 3/4 lengths clear of Aristrocratic, the winner of the minor San Pedro Stakes at six furlongs April 16. Taxman's Quest was fourth, followed by Sutton Impact in the small field.
Aristocratic was at the center of a stable switch earlier this week. The colt was transferred from Doug O'Neill to Simon Callaghan last Monday after O'Neill and owner Kaleem Shah parted ways. Aristocratic was second on the turn, but was beaten 6 1/2 lengths.
American Anthem, by Bodemeister, races for the partnership of WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, and SF Racing and is trained by Bob Baffert.
American Anthem has won 2 of 5 starts and has earned $114,545. The colt beat maidens in his debut at Del Mar in December and was a game second to Gormley in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at a mile here in January.
American Anthem was 10th in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park in March and 12th behind Gormley in the Santa Anita Derby.