Remember when people were saying trainer Bob Baffert didn’t like Saratoga?
Those were the mumblings after the 2015 Travers when American Pharoah was shocked, losing the only race of his Triple Crown season to a late-charging Keen Ice.
Well, Baffert got his revenge in the 2016 Travers, unleashing Arrogate on the world in a dominant 13 1/2-length, track record-breaking romp. With $17 million in earnings since the Travers and victories in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Pegasus, and Dubai World Cup, Arrogate helped Baffert get the last laugh on those doubting if he likes Saratoga.
Even though Arrogate will not ship to Saratoga this summer, opting instead for the Grade 2 San Diego and Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar, Baffert is still loaded with a stable of stars that may steal the show at The Spa.
Let’s take a look at the big names Baffert is planning to bring from his California base to upstate New York throughout the summer.
Abel to Ship & Win
Starting this Sunday, July 23, Baffert is expected to ship in his Kentucky Oaks champ Abel Tasman to Saratoga for the Grade 1 Coaching Club America Oaks (CCAO).
Abel Tasman looked dominant in her last visit to New York, making a huge move while splitting fillies under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith to win the Grade 1 Acorn on June 10 at Belmont Park. The Acorn was confirmation of Abel Tasman’s talent, as many doubted her ability around one turn after getting a super-fast pace over a sloppy Churchill strip to close like a rocket in the Kentucky Oaks.
Abel Tasman currently sits atop the 3-year-old filly division, and only a small field (led by Acorn runner-up Salty, for trainer Mark Casse) will contest her in the CCAO. Elate, from the Bill Mott barn, is also expected to enter the race, while Berned and Jamyson ‘n Ginger are possible.
Baffert’s other top 3-year-old filly is Faypien, who he’s pointing to the Grade 1 Test at 7 furlongs on Saturday, August 5. The Grade 2 Summertime Oaks winner has won three out of her four lifetime starts, but all have been at Santa Anita Park.
Faypien will bring her West Coast speed, but California-based trainer Simon Callahan also has his eyes on the Test with American Gal, who won the Grade 3 Victory Ride at Belmont on July 9. American Gal was one of the top 2-year-old fillies last year, finishing third in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. She returned off of a long layoff (absent since December) to impressively take the Victory Ride in her 2017 debut. The 2016 Saratoga champion trainer Chad Brown is also expected to enter his undefeated (2-for-2) Your Love in the Test.
Baffert has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the older dirt male division and will possibly ship in two of his trainees for the prestigious Grade 1 Whitney on Saturday, August 5.
We’ll be tracking where these three go throughout the summer in a new weekly column coming to RacingDudes.com called “The Saratoga Skinny,” so we’ll delve into this race as we draw closer.
Travers Day Onslaught
Baffert has a way of dominating big days and had two Grade 1 wins on 2016 Travers Day, including Arrogate’s romp. He also recently shipped into New York on Belmont Stakes day and went a perfect 4-for-4 (all stakes wins) on June 10, so Travers Day this year may be another onslaught for Baffert.
Two Baffert horses that won on Belmont Stakes Day, West Coast and American Anthem, are expected to run on Travers Day.
West Coast won the non-graded Easy Goer Stakes on Belmont Day and returned on July 15 to crush the Grade 3 Los Alamitos Derby in a sweeping five-wide move. After the race, Baffert said that West Coast is his Travers horse and will point to Saratoga on Saturday, August 26.
Another top 3-year old Baffert is pointing to Saratoga is American Anthem in the Grade 1 Allen Jerkens (formerly the King’s Bishop). After his dominant Grade 2 Woody Stephens win at 7 furlongs on the Belmont Stakes undercard, Baffert said that the Jerkens was his target and has backed off of stretching him out in longer-distance races.
In the older male sprint division, Baffert has the 2016 Eclipse Award champion sprinter Drefong, who came to Saratoga last year on Travers Day and romped in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop. Baffert also has Danzing Candy as a top sprinter/miler, so it is possible that he ships in either one to contest the Grade 1 Forego.
Baffert has Saratoga in his crosshairs and he may have other tricks up his sleeve to show everyone that he really does love New York.