Reflecting on his down-then-up stakes forays this past weekend at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and Saratoga Race Course, trainer Bob Baffert on Monday likened the experience to a trip to the amusement park.
” Racing is one big roller coaster ride ,” Baffert said.” As long as you can stay on, you’re OK .”
Nearly 48 hours after the fourth-place disappointment by Arrogate( Unbridled’s Song) at 1-20 odds in the GII San Diego H ., Baffert was still at a loss to pinpoint a reason for the uncharacteristically dull performance by the world’s top-ranked racehorse.
” He appears good. He really appears good ,” Baffert said of the colt’s demeanor and attitude.” It wasn’t like he got tired or anything. He was just lethargic. He merely did not run and he was flat. And we’re scratching our heads-coulda, woulda, shoulda. Physically, we’ve gone over him. We’ve checked him with the veterinarian. We’ve checked his blood, everything’s normal. He hasn’t indicated any signs of anything. Usually, 48 to 72 hours after[ a bad race ], if there’s something wrong, it will usually show up. But he’s bright. I prepped him a little differently than I would for the big, big races. I simply have to take the blame for it. Apparently, I didn’t have him sharp. I shipped him down here, and it’s been hot and humid, so we sort of went easy with him. But he was just flat, genuinely flat. I’ve had a lot of good ponies[ go inexplicably flat ]. You don’t know. And they come back and they operate[ well ]. Right now I feel pretty confident that he’ll bouncing right back out of that .”
Baffert continued,” Arrogate, I merely guessed I could lead him up there and he’d gallop around and be invincible. But at the end of the day, you still merely have to have them ready. I don’t know what it was, because he never gave me any indications that he was going to run that style .”
Baffert said the next move for Arrogate involves vigilance and a return to develop with the next objective being the Aug. 19 GI Pacific Classic at Del Mar.
” Right now we’re just inducing sure that we’re not missing something ,” Baffert told.” Del Mar’s a really tricky racetrack. You’re not going to close[ from off the pace ]. You cannot operate like[ Arrogate] ran in Dubai. You’re not going to win here. You’ve got to be up close, and turning for home there’s not a lot of passing that goes on. And I knew that[ Accelerate( Lookin At Lucky )] was already run. He got away. You know, I think we all went in there a little bit overconfident. I don’t blamed[ jockey] Mike[ Smith ]. He didn’t have any horse. He only took care of him. As long as he comes back and working for you. Arrogate won’t run again until he works well.
” Right now, the main focus is the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic. I don’t know how I get him there. But right now, I don’t see why he wouldn’t run in the Pacific Classic .”
Baffert watched Sunday’s stretch-battling win by Abel Tasman( Quality Road) in the GI Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga from his home base in California. The televised feed he was watching switched to the head-on view turning onto the backstretch, so Baffert said he didn’t quite grasp the magnitude of Able Tasman’s powerful, loop-the-group move at the six-furlong pole until later.
” I’ve seen Mike[ Smith] build that move before when they were going slow ,” Baffert told.” I thought,’ He knows what he’s doing. She looks good .’ Then they turned for home and I was a little worried because she was on the result and she can get a little bit[ to] is looking forward to ponies. So when[ Elate( Medaglia d’Oro )] came up, I thought that was going to be the pony to beat. When she came up to[ Abel Tasman] like that, Mike just made sure he got her down there so she could see her and not lose that momentum. It was a brilliant, heady ride by Mike. You can get away with it when you have a lot of pony under you .”
As for the foul claim and stewards’ inquiry into the prolonged, heated stretch drive, Baffert said ” I think it was one of those things just like in football, when players are running for a touchdown and they’re trying to stay in binds and they’re just on the edge there.[ Smith] didn’t touch the white line, you know? He strolled a really fine line there. If he had come over only another inch and just touched[ Elate ], I think he would have been in trouble … I figured they had to look at it when it’s that close; they took a long time because they wanted to make sure they got it right .”
So what’s next for Abel Tasman, who has racked up three Grade I victories in succession?
” She’s shipping back[ to California] and I’m just going to wait ,” Baffert said.” I don’t know what my next plan is. I was going to wait for the[ GI] Alabama[ S. on Aug. 19] after[ her June 10 GI Acorn S. win ]. But then all of a sudden she was working really well, so that’s why I put her on the plane. She’s shipped three times so far this spring and summer. I’ll just let her tell me when she’s ready; she’ll tell me when she’s ready to do something.
” For a filly to[ ship multiple times and win] you have to be way the best. She’s just get bigger and she’s getting stronger. I was very proud of her. She’s given us some big thrills. Winning the[ GI] Kentucky Oaks, she only looked hopelessly beat going down the backside, and then she came up and won. She’s about as good as any filly I’ve ever had, and I’m really excited about her .”
Baffert will be right back in Grade I action this Saturday at Del Mar when last year’s Eclipse Award Sprint champion Drefong( Gio Ponti) constructs his 2017 debut in the GI Bing Crosby S. at Del Mar.
” He’s been working well, but he hasn’t run in awhile, so it’s going to be tough ,” Baffert told.” Del Mar, it’s a lot tougher because the air is heavy; it’s a wet, moist heavy air. A lot of horses, they get tired. But I’ve put some good, strong works into him. I prepared him like I would prepare Arrogate for a $10 -million race. The preparation is a lot different, just like Abel was prepared for a Grade I win. But still, you never know .”
Baffert’s top two 3-year-olds are both set to race at Saratoga Aug. 26.
” West Coast( Flatter) came out of his[ GIII Los Alamitos Derby win] really well, and we’re aiming for the[ GI] Travers S .,” Baffert said.
As for American Anthem( Bodemeister ), win of the GII Woody Stephens S. June 10, Baffert told,” He’s really training extremely well. I was seduced to take him to[ Sunday’s GI] Haskell and then maybe back him up and operate him in the[ H. Allen Jerkens Memorial S. at Saratoga ]. I think he could do it, but he’s just doing so well right now going like seven-eighths, and I want to bring him to the[ Jerkens] actually ready for that .”
Mor Spirit( Eskendereya ), who earned a pace-pressing win in the GI Metropolitan H. with a gaudy 117 Beyer Speed Figure June 10, needs a bit more time before resurfacing in the entries, Baffert said.
” I was going to bring Mor Spirit to the[ Aug. 5 GI] Whitney, but it’s taken him a little bit longer[ to regain ],” Baffert told.” I believe those journeys shipping backward and forward, he’s lost some weight, so I’m just freshening him up right now. It’s too far off, but I’m thinking the[ Aug. 26 GI] Forego, perhaps. But the main thing I want him ready for the Breeders’ Cup down here. I don’t know yet[ about preference for either the GI Dirt Mile or GI Classic ]. I’m just keeping those options open.
” Wherever I think he can win ,” Baffert added with a laugh.