Azar entered Wednesday’s $200,000 With Anticipation S. (G2) at Saratoga with two losses from as many starts on his line, but exited the 1 1/16-mile firm-turf contest a first-time winner.
Jockey John Velazquez allowed Azar to settle behind the pacesetting Next Shares as that 15-1 shot led the way through splits of :23.19, :47.63 and 1:12.39. Monster Bea was drafting to the outside of the leader and was joined by Site Read nearing the second turn.
Meanwhile, Azar was still waiting for his chance while saving ground on the inside. Monster Bea began fading upon hitting the turn but Unbridled Daddy suddenly popped up from last to threaten on the outside.
Next Shares will still going strong in the stretch when Azar abruptly angled off the hedge and came running on the outside. The Todd Pletcher pupil finished three parts of a length in front while stopping the clock in 1:41.68.
Next Shares easily held second over Unbridled Daddy while Site Read followed in third.
Azar finished seventh in his debut on July 19 at Belmont Park but improved to just miss by three-quarters of a length on August 16 at the Spa while stretching out to 1 1/16 miles. He had the lead in that latter contest before just being passed late.
“The last time he ended up being on the lead and getting out and looking around and not really focused on what he needed to do,” Velazquez explained. “Today he was following somebody and when I pulled him out, he responded right away.
“Coming to the last turn I had to squeeze him pretty good, and once I got him going and I put him to the outside and he saw the light, that’s when he started running.”
Azar was sent off at 11-1 on this occasion after attracting around 7-2 odds in his prior two.
“I thought he ran a much-improved race last time,” Pletcher said. “He was on the lead most of the way, and came back and worked really well. We were thinking of maybe running back in a maiden race when this came up a short field.
“(Running a maiden in a stakes race) is not something we do often, but we felt like with two-race experience, and that he did everything except win last time (it was worth a shot). He sold us on the last breeze; he acted like he was doing well and improved since the race.”
Azar photo courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography