Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, a 12-time winner of the championship race of the summer season for two-year-olds, the Grade I $300,000 Del Mar Futurity, demonstrated he’ll have another powerful contender in that closing-day feature with Kaleem Shah’s Klimt, an impressive winner of Saturday’s Grade II $200,000 Best Pal Stakes.
With jockey Rafael Bejarano in the saddle, Klimt, the even-money favorite, disposed of 2-1 rival Big League in deep stretch and went on to win the Futurity prep by two and three-quarter lengths in 1:16.11 for the 6 ½ furlongs.
The winner, a $435,000 buy last March at the Ocala, Florida sale of two-year-olds in training, provided Baffert with his eighth Best Pal victory. Four of his previous Best Pal winners went on to triumph in the seven-furlong Del Mar Futurity – Worldly Manner, Flame Thrower, Officer and Lookin At Lucky.
Runner-up Big League, who was piloted by Norberto Arroyo, Jr., was three and one-quarter lengths ahead of Thirstforlife at the wire, with Rinse and Repeat fourth in the field of six juveniles.
Klimt, a son of Quality Road, was fourth in his career debut at Santa Anita, but came back to easily break his maiden by more than five lengths in his next effort. He paid $4, $2.60 and $2.10 Saturday while earning a prize of $120,000. Big League returned $3.20 and $2.60, while Thirstforlife paid $3 to show.
Klimt supplied Bejarano with his third win of the afternoon. His earlier winners were Te Rapa, a deadheat winner at $2.80 in the third and Seve’s Road at $8.20 in the fifth.
Upstaging Bejarano was Santiago Gonzalez, who booted home four winners: County Lineman at $6 in the first, Look Twice at $10.80 in the sixth, Brainspin at $21.60 in the ninth and he capped his day with a $23.60 upset aboard X S Heat.
Gonzalez’ quadruple moved him to within one of leading rider Flavien Prat, 21-20. Prat rode at Arlington Park near Chicago Saturday. Bejarano, four-time defending champion at Del Mar, is a close third with 18 triumphs.
Best Pal STAKES QUOTES
RAFAEL BEJARANO (Klimt, winner) – “This horse is strong. He’s been working so well. I’ve been on him in the mornings and he was working great. He relaxed for me today and finished well. The way he finished, going to six and a half (furlongs) today (after earlier races at five and five and one-half furlongs), he’ll definitely run on.”
NORBERTO ARROYO, JR. (Big League, second) – “I didn’t even ask him last time (maiden victory in his first start July 30 at Del Mar). That was like a workout. I knew he’d have to face this moment today though (stiff competition) and he responded well to it. He got a little tired, but it was a good race for him. With this one under him, he’ll run a lot better next time. That horse (winner Klimt) won’t beat him next time.”
JOE TALAMO (Thirstforlife, third) – “It was a good race for him. He ran well. He’ll want to run on. He showed that today.”
BOB BAFFERT (Klimt, winner) “I was disappointed (with his first start) and thought that maybe he’s just a grass horse. But he came back, won his next one, and he’s worked really well here. He’s always shown that he’s a horse that’s going to go farther. It was a good race, they didn’t go too fast. The kind of race you want to see. The Futurity is next. That’s the plan.”
FRACTIONS: :23.26 :46.03 1:09.88 1:16.11
The stakes win was the third of the meeting for rider Bejarano and his third in the Best Pal. He now has 51 stakes victories at Del Mar.
The stakes win was the third of the meeting for trainer Baffert and his eighth in the Best Pal. He is Del Mar leading stakes-winning trainer by far with a total that has now reached 116.
(Of Baffert’s seven previous Best Pal winners, four of them went on to win the Del Mar Futurity – Worldly Manner (1998), Flame Thrower (2000), Officer (2001) and Lookin at Lucky (2009).
Del Mar Thoroughbred Club