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Baffle Preview: Earls Rock Takes On Baltas Pair
Earls Rock (Credit: Ernie Belmonte)

Baffle Preview: Earls Rock Takes On Baltas Pair

ARCADIA, CA – Trainer Phil D’Amato’s impressive maiden winner Earls Rock takes on a tough group that includes a pair from trainer Richard Baltas in Friday’s $75,000 Baffle Stakes at Santa Anita Park.

The Baffle is a 6 1/2-furlong turf sprint restricted to 3-year-olds. This year’s edition is the penultimate event on an 8-race card and has a local post time of 3:30 PM.

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Here’s a look at the full field for the Baffle:

1. Gator Shining 8/1 – He’s either won or missed by a narrow margin in his 3 starts, all turf sprints between here and Del Mar. Though his maiden-breaking score came going 5 furlongs and his defeats came at 5 1/2 and 6, his late-rallying style should benefit from what looks to be plenty of pace. Baltas legs up Ricky Gonzalez, the only race rider this horse has known.

2. Earls Rock 3/1 – The Irish-bred debuted over his home turf last September, finishing second in a 7-furlong test over soft ground behind a horse who repeated in a Group 3 next out. Privately sold and sent west to D’Amato, he won his stateside debut while breaking from the rail (not an easy ask) in a 1-mile route over this course. Top jockey Flavien Prat keeps the mount.

3. Weston 12/1 – He gives grass a try after putting together a 5-2-0-1 dirt record that includes winning last August’s Best Pal Stakes (G2), though he was well-beaten in his 3 subsequent starts. Trainer/co-owner Ryan Hanson is only 3% on turf, but perhaps this gelding’s pedigree (by 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile [G1] champion Hit It a Bomb) will help overcome his barn’s shortcoming.

4. Mac Daddy Too 8/1 – He brings a 2-race win streak into his stakes debut that began with a 1-mile turf route at Del Mar when risked for an $80k tag and continued here on January 8 in a 6-furlong sprint against allowance rivals, including Gator Shining. Doug O’Neill’s first entry’s lone off-the-board grass effort was a 3/4-length defeat when Gator Shining broke his maiden.

5. Sword Zorro 6/1 – This Irish-bred colt makes his North American racing debut for new trainer John Sadler after putting together a 5-1-3-1 record on his home grass last year. Sadler connects at 15% with a $2.77 ROI when experienced runners debut for his barn and 18% with a whopping $4.07 ROI in turf sprints. Ace rider Joel Rosario is always dangerous for this barn.

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6. Commander Khai 7/2 – He broke his maiden by 3 1/4 lengths in a 5-furlong turf dash at Del Mar and came within 3/4 of a length of winning the 5 1/2-furlong Speakeasy Stakes over this course and distance. Baltas’ second entry cuts back to sprinting after finishing third in the Cecil B. DeMille Stakes (G3) and second in the Eddie Logan Stakes, both two-turn mile races. 

7. Exhalting 6/1 – He reappears under O’Neill’s care after winning 3 straight at Golden Gate Fields for Jonathan Wong, that track’s leading trainer, including a maiden-breaking effort in his lone turf try. The waters get much deeper down in SoCal, where he put together a 3-0-1-0 record in his first stint with O’Neill, and his early turn of foot will be tested from the get-go.

8. Harlan Estate 20/1 – He scratched out of Sunday’s Texas Turf Mile at Sam Houston in order to run here for trainer Peter Eurton, who’s still searching for its first stakes score since the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). Jockey Ruben Fuentes takes the mount for the second time after piloting him to finish fourth in his debut. He’s unraced since finishing ninth in the DeMille.

9. Beer Can Man 4/1 – His win streak halted at 3 when he finished third in the Eddie Logan last time out after getting bumped early and having to race between rivals throughout. He won the DeMille while debuting for new trainer Mark Glatt after putting together a 4-2-0-0 record sprinting on the Indiana Grand lawn. Meet-leading rider Juan Hernandez rides once more.

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