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West Coast passes distance test in Los Alamitos Derby

CYPRESS, Calif. -- From a stakes win around one turn in June to a graded stakes win around two turns in July, West Coast is rapidly developing into a promising 3-year-old.

Saturday, West Coast won the most prestigious race of his career in the Grade 3 Los Alamitos Derby, a $200,690 race at 1 1/8 miles that represents the longest start of his career.

Distance races will be prominent in West Coast's late summer schedule. Trainer Bob Baffert said West Coast is a candidate for the Grade 1 Travers Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/4 miles at Saratoga on Aug. 26. The stable won the race in 2016 with Arrogate, currently the top-rated horse in the world.

In the Los Alamitos Derby, West Coast did not appear to be a winner until the middle of the stretch, which is more than a quarter-mile in length. Fifth on the turn under jockey Drayden Van Dyke, favored West Coast closed well in the final furlong to win by 2 3/4 lengths over 7-1 Klimt.

"When he turned for home, he kicked it in four more gears," Van Dyke said. "I knew I'd win when he cut like that."

West Coast ($2.80) was timed in 1:48.65 for his third consecutive win. The streak includes an optional claimer at Santa Anita on May 20 and the Easy Goer Stakes at 1 1/16 miles around one turn at Belmont Park on June 10.

Baffert said before the Los Alamitos Derby that the race would determine whether the colt would start around two turns later this summer. West Coast's patience despite a wide trip in the Los Alamitos Derby left Baffert encouraged.

Van Dyke had West Coast in sixth place in a field of seven in the first quarter-mile, and fifth down the long backstretch and into the turn. All the while, West Coast raced on the outside of the field.

West Coast, was third with a furlong remaining, trailing stretch leader B Squared by a little more than a length before quickly closing the margin.

"He was instructed to wait and wait and wait," Baffert said of Van Dyke.

"Turning for home, I thought he was okay. All of a sudden, he took off. He did have a wide trip and all that."

Owned by Gary and Mary West, West Coast, who is by Flatter, has won 4 of 6 starts and earned $323,800.

Klimt was the second choice in the betting based largely on his 2-year-old form when trained by Baffert. Klimt won his first four starts, including the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity last September, and was later eighth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita in his final start of 2016.

Klimt was part of a group of horses sent to trainer Art Sherman at the beginning of the year after owner Kaleem Shah and Baffert parted ways. The Los Alamitos Derby was Klimt's first start since November.

"I thought he ran great for his first time back," Sherman said.

B Squared, who was second in the Grade 3 Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita on June 24, finished third, followed by Colonist, Cistron, Kimbear and Term of Art. Milton Freewater was scratched early Saturday.