Lord Simba rules over short field in Los Angeles Stakes

ARCADIA, Calif. -- A month ago, Lord Simba was winless after three career starts. On Saturday, he won his second consecutive race, and his stakes debut, in the Grade 3 Los Angeles Stakes at Santa Anita.

Ridden by Martin Garcia, Lord Simba ($3) disputed the pace throughout the $100,000 race and won by 2 1/4 lengths over Eastwood, who had not started in 22 months. Lord Simba ran six furlongs in 1:08.74.

Trained by Bob Baffert, Lord Simba was nominated to the Los Angeles Stakes after an eight-length maiden-race win at six furlongs on March 19.

"When you win a maiden race by [eight] lengths, you have something special," Baffert said. "I knew the race was light. The way he was training, he was training well, and it looked like the right chance."

The race drew a field of five that was reduced to four after the withdrawal of Ike Walker early Saturday.

Lord Simba broke well and was always within a half-length of early leader Kentuckian, who set fractions of 21.86 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 44.73 for a half-mile. Lord Simba took the lead in early stretch and led by a length with a furlong remaining.

"I could tell Martin was confident the whole way," Baffert said.

Lord Simba pulled away in the final furlong to easily beat Eastwood, who was fourth in the Grade 2 True North at Belmont Park in June 2015 in his preceding start. Eastwood joined trainer Richard Mandella's stable last year but did not have his California debut until Saturday.

Grazen Sky finished third, followed by Kentuckian.

The race lacked several of the leading sprinters on the circuit. Denman's Call and Masochistic, first and second in the Grade 1 Triple Bend Stakes last month, are bound for the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes in Kentucky on May 6.

Lord Simba races for Susan Chu's Baoma Corp. and has won 2 of 5 starts and earned $121,200. A 4-year-old colt by Discreet Cat, Lord Simba was purchased for $300,000 at a sale of 2-year-olds in training in Florida in April 2015.