ARCADIA, Calif. -- There was a time earlier this year when I Will Score was tried in Triple Crown preps. Those races did not go his way. Sprints are another matter.
After finishing second in the Bachelor Stakes for 3-year-olds at six furlongs at Oaklawn Park on April 15, I Will Score won the first stakes of his career in Saturday's $100,690 Lazaro Barrera Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs at Santa Anita.
Ridden by Martin Garcia, I Will Score ($8.80) led throughout to win by a neck over a stubborn Mrazek, a 7-2 chance. Smokey Image, the champion California-bred 2-year-old male of 2015, finished third.
I Will Score was timed in 1:21.30. The win left trainer Jerry Hollendorfer impressed. I Will Score fought for the early lead with Smokey Image and led by 1-1/2 lengths in the stretch before holding off Mrazek.
Mrazek won the Graduation Stakes for California-bred 2-year-olds last year. He offered a sustained threat to I Will Score in the final furlong of the Barrera, but could not catch the winner.
Hollendorfer urged Garcia to use I Will Score's speed early.
"I said get out there and see if you can make the lead," he said.
I Will Score set an early pace of 22.68 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 44.68 for a half-mile.
Westbrook, a maiden race winner at Los Alamitos in his debut in April, finished fourth, followed by Denman's Call, Bistraya, and Iron Rob.
I Will Score races for owner and breeder Hans Poetsch. A colt by Roman Ruler, I Will Score has won 3 of 6 starts and earned $173,145. He won his first two starts -- a maiden race 5-1/2 furlongs at Los Alamitos last September in his only race at 2, and an optional claimer at 6-1/2 furlongs here in January.
I Will Score was later beaten in two races at 1-1/16 miles -- a third behind Mor Spirit in the Grade 3 Robert Lewis Stakes in February and a sixth behind Danzing Candy in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes in March before the runner-up finish in the Bachelor Stakes.
Hollendorfer said the $500,000 Woody Stephens Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs at Belmont Park on June 11 is a goal for Roman Ruler.