A very young Bob Baffert was riding Quarter Horse races in Arizona when he asked the late legendary champion Quarter Horse jockey Bobby Adair for some advice.
“You should quit.” said Adair.
It was the best advice Baffert could have received. He rode his only mount the following day, walked away from his riding career, and went on to become one of the best trainers of all time.
The strength of the Baffert stable lies in their young horses, and the depth was on display yet again last Saturday when Baffert’s Improbable was spectacular winning the Grade I Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity over stablemate Mucho Gusto.
Two races later, Baffert’s Chasing Yesterday, a half-sister to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, overcame a wide trip to win the Grade I Starlet, with stablemate Mother Mother just two heads back finishing third.
So far in 2018, the Bob Baffert stable has won 20 Maiden Special Weight races for 2-year-olds. Thirteen of those victories have been by colts, so the Kentucky Derby prospects appear to be plentiful for the same barn that developed Justify from an unstarted Maiden in February of this year into an undefeated Triple Crown winner. Here is a closer look at some of the most promising juveniles seen so far for trainer Bob Baffert:
1. Game Winner (by Candy Ride) – He has to be ranked on top for now based on his wins in the Grade I Del Mar Futurity, the Grade I Frontrunner Stakes, and the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He is certain to be named Eclipse Award champion 2-year-old colt for this year and is bred to get the classic distances.
2. Improbable (by City Zip) – He is undefeated after three starts, including last Saturday’s Grade I Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity. That was his first try around two turns, and the long stride he showed along with the huge gallop out suggests we have not seen his best yet. That is a scary thought.
3. Coliseum (by Tapit) – A big, long-striding grey is owned by Godolphin, who have turned to Baffert in hopes of winning the one race that has eluded the outfit – the Kentucky Derby. He was an easy Maiden winner in his debut at Del Mar in November and has a very high ceiling. This colt has some maturing to do from a mental standpoint, though, as he can be a handful and want to do too much in the a.m.
4. Roadster (by Quality Road) – He was the “whisper horse” prior to his impressive debut at Del Mar during the summer. He was the odds-on favorite in the Grade I Del Mar Futurity but proved no match for Game Winner that day and was freshened after the race. He is back in training now at Santa Anita and remains highly regarded.
5. Magic On Tap (by Tapit) – This one looked powerful pulling away to win his sprint debut in September at Del Mar. He reportedly had a setback thereafter and is close to resuming training for his three-year-old debut in 2019.
In case you are wondering, the other colts from the Baffert stable who have Maiden wins and more to their credit include Mucho Gusto (Mucho Macho Man), Tale of the Union (Union Rags), Kingly (Tapit), Cruel Intention (Smiling Tiger), Metropol (Shackleford), Much Better (Pioneer of the Nile), Count Di Luna (Liaison), and Dark Prince (Cairo Prince).
Of course, there is no telling if Baffert has yet to unveil yet another top class youngster. Justify became the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby without having raced as a 2-year-old. If were to happen again anytime soon, chances are the Baffert stable would be the ones to pull it off.
Championship QH racing
Few remember that Baffert began his career training Quarter Horses at Los Alamitos, and he has two wins in the biggest race in the nation for that breed’s older horses – the Grade I Champion of Champions – with Gold Coast Express in 1986 and Shawnes Favorite in 1988.
The $600,000 Grade I Champion of Champions will be run this Saturday night at Los Alamitos and there will be a lot of baseball fans rooting for Los Alamitos Super Derby winner Jesstacartel. The gelding is owned by Lesley Joyner, wife of Wally Joyner, who played baseball for the Los Angeles Angels and San Diego Padres.
The huge 3-year-old should love the 440-yard distance and has a chance to upset the likes of Zoomin for Spuds, Heza Dasha Fire (making his fourth appearance in a Champion of Champions), BH Lisa’s Boy, and Bodacious Eagle.
On Sunday night, the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity is the richest race of the week. Keep an eye on Ali Babe Foose, the fastest qualifier who won his trial by a monstrous 3 1/2 lengths going 400 yards. Powerful Favorite, Flash and Roll, and Apollitical Pence look like the ones to fear most.
Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Los Alamitos, Friday, Race 7 – Bragging Rights (No. 10). This filly has won three of her last six starts, all from off the pace. That style worked well opening week and her outside post is a plus, too. Expect her to roll late under jockey Giovanni Franco.