Ridden by Tyler Baze at 116 pounds, Avanzado ($15) ran six furlongs in 1:07.85 and always appeared to be in control.
Breaking from post 5 in the field of six, Avanzado quickly took the lead, but was closely tracked by Disturbingthepeace through an opening quarter-mile in 21.52 seconds. Racing two-wide, Avanzado had a two-length lead at the quarter pole and stretched his advantage to 4 1-2 lengths at the finish.
The other five runners finished within a length. Mellow Fellow closed from last to finish second, a half-length in front of Disturbingthepeace. Radiata and D'Wildcat finished a neck behind Disturbingthepeace in a dead-heat for fourth and were a half-length in front of Kona Gold.
Sent off as the 7-5 favorite, Kona Gold, the 124-pound topweight, was fifth on the backstretch, but drew within three lengths of Avanzado entering the stretch. A similar move produced a rail-skimming win in the El Conejo Handicap on Jan. 1, but on Sunday Kona Gold did not threaten Avanzado.
Owned by Cees Stable and trained by Doug O'Neill, the 6-year-old Avanzado has won 9 of 21 starts $373,480. An Argentine-bred, he has won 4 of 6 starts since arriving in this country in the middle of last year.
Avanzado won his first three starts in the United States, including the Forest Hills Handicap at Belmont Park in October. He followed with a seventh in the De DeFrancis Memorial at Laurel and and a sixth in the El Conejo before O'Neill decided to add blinkers.
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