SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – For the second straight year, trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith won the Grade 1, $1,250,000 Travers Stakes – this time aboard Gary and Mary West’s West Coast, who wired the full field of a dozen 3-year-olds.
Breaking cleanly from post 3, West Coast immediately took the lead and never let up, setting fractions of :23.82, :48.12, 1:12.23, and 1:36.82 before completing the 1 1/4-mile main event in 2:01.19.
“They said, ‘listen, you ride him however you want, and he’ll put a big effort,’ and that means I could do whatever I wanted,” Smith said. “Just off of the way it looked, I said I was going to get aggressive leaving here and see where it puts me. If it’s not in front, it puts me in the race, and I’m happy with that. I thought there wasn’t much pace, but man, I caught a good jump, put him on the lead, and he just cruised from there. He was a happy horse all the way around there. There was a time or two when they came to me, but he just put them away, and every time they would, he’d take a big old breath of air, so I felt confident he’d continue to run well.”
A late run from Gunnevera helped him overcome a bumpy start and finish second. Irap spent the entire race near the front but didn’t have enough for one final push at the leader, crossing in third. Tapwrit, Good Samaritan, Giuseppe the Great, McCraken, Cloud Computing, Always Dreaming, Lookin At Lee, Girvin, and Fayeq.
“Usually, he gets all worked up and hot, and today he was perfect,” Baffert said. “He was a saint and that was the key to this horse today. He’s maturing. When I saw him in the paddock, he looked unbelievable. I’ve never seen him look so … great. You could tell he was like a man among boys. He looked the part. I mean, he was a specimen when he came onto that track. And the breeding, his mother, he’s out of a great mare. There was nobody that was going to beat him today.”
Unraced at 2, West Coast improved his record to 7-5-2-0 with career earnings of $993,800.
Baffert became the first trainer to win consecutive Travers since Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey with Easy Goer and Rhythm in 1989 and 1990, respectively. Baffert also won the Travers with 2001 Horse of the Year Point Given.
“I think the key to today was that horse was in his element in the paddock, and he looked great going to the gate,” Baffert said.
West Coast returned $14.20 to win, $7.60 to place, and $5.30 to show. Gunnevera brought back $18.40 to place and $10.40 to show, while Irap paid $5.40 to show.