- Associated Press - Friday, July 4, 2014

LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. (AP) - Sky Kingdom returned from nearly a year’s layoff to win the $83,850 American Flag Stakes by three-quarters of a length at Los Alamitos on Friday.

Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Sky Kingdom ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.32 and paid $13.40, $5.40 and $3.60. The 5-year-old horse was making his first start since last Aug. 31 for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

Handsome Mike returned $4.40 and $3.20, while 17-10 favorite Magic Mark was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third and paid $2.80 to show. The field was reduced to six after Fly Lexis Fly was scratched.

It wasn’t the first time that Sky Kingdom ran well after an extended break. He won a race at Santa Anita in January 2013 after being away nearly a year.

“He was very comfortable out there,” said Espinoza, who recently won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness with California Chrome. “Most horses like this track, and this horse loves it. He bounced right out of there and I wanted to let him go. The long stretch really helps, because you don’t have to move as soon on the turn.”

The victory increased Sky Kingdom’s career earnings to $367,872, with five wins in 14 starts.

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