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The Racing Dudes react to Taiba winning the 2022 Pennsylvania Derby (G1) at Parx. Is a trip to the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) next for the Bob Baffert trainee? Watch the replay for the Racing Dudes’ INSTANT reactions, then tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
A late entry came into the mix for the best 3-year-old colt in the land.
It arrived on an early fall Saturday, at the conclusion of the 41st running of the Grade 1, $1 million betPARX Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing. And it came from the rapidly developing Taiba, a strapping chestnut colt who turned the Pennsylvania Derby into a coming-out party.
Zedan Racing Stables Inc.’s son of Gun Runner ran over his 10 opponents in the 1 1/8-mile Pennsylvania Derby, winning the signature event of the Keystone State’s racing season by 3 three lengths over Jeff Drown’s Zandon. Taiba, the 7-5 favorite, won his second Grade 1 race in just his fifth career start, all of them this year.
“He proved today that he is a good horse,” Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said by phone from his home in California. “He ran his race. He is a horse that has been slowly improving.”
Going into the Pennsylvania Derby, the leader in the 3-year-old division was Grade 1 Travers winner Epicenter, who also finished second in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
Taiba’s resume now includes wins in the Pennsylvania Derby as well as the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby. He was a head away from a third when he lost the Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park in his prior start.
“This was a spot that puts him right there,” Baffert said. “He is just a tough horse. Powerful.”
“This is kind of what we expected,” said Gary Young, the bloodstock agent for winning owner Amr Zedan. “We always said this horse has a lot of room for improvement. We think he will be even better next year and he is pretty damn good this year.”
Ridden by Hall of Famer Mike Smith, Taiba showed a powerful turn of foot nearing the stretch in the Pennsylvania Derby. After being inside in the early portions of the race – a spot Baffert said the colt doesn’t like – Smith got him outside and his mount responded.
Zandon, trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Joel Rosario, rallied behind Taiba to finish second but was no match for the winner.
Florida Derby winner White Abarrio, trained by Saffie Joseph Jr. and ridden by Luis Saez, had set the early pace in the race. He completed the first quarter in :23.27, the half in :47.21 and 6 furlongs in 1:11.06.
Taiba took over when Smith tipped him out – “I was in the rumble seat,” Smith said – and the race was over.
“I was a little worried when he was down on the inside because he doesn’t like being on the inside,” Baffert said. “When he tipped out, he just took off.”
Cyberknife, who had finished second in the Travers following his Haskell win, was third, 3 3/4 lengths behind Zandon. He was never a factor.
“No excuses,” Brad Cox, Cyberknife’s trainer, said. “When they broke, they got away from him a little bit. He was maybe a little further back than we expected. (Jockey Florent Geroux) had to move him early to get into position and, obviously, the winner was kind of gone at that point. He ran on, I just wish he was running on in front.”
Taiba’s final time was 1:48.67 and he returned $4.60, $3 and $2.60.
Baffert said the next start for Taiba will be the Grade 1, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic Nov. 5 Keeneland Race Course, where he will meet the likes to Flightline and Life Is Good, a horse Baffert used to train.
“You know, horse racing changes day by day,” Baffert said. “I’m not looking forward to running against Life Is Good and Flightline. Those are two very fast horses.”
After Cybernknife, the order of finish was Simplification, White Abarrio, B Dawk, Naval Aviator, We the People, Skippylongstocking, Tawny Port and Icy Storm.
Trainer Bob Baffert (Taiba, first): “That was exciting. He did it. He ran his race. He is getting better and better. He is a horse that has been slowly improving. He had a little bit of a rough trip in the Haskell, but we had some time to get him ready for this one. He proved today he is a good horse. It was the last chance to run a Grade 1 against 3-year-olds and it was a tough race, a good field. The main thing is that he ran his race. I was a little worried when he was down on the inside because he doesn’t like being on the inside. When he tipped to the outside, he just took off.”
“Gun Runner is an unbelievable sire and this guy looks more like Gun Runner than a lot of them. I was just so excited watching it. I was not loving it on the backside, but once he tipped out it was like, ‘wow! Look at this guy!’ We have such a great team and to get rewarded with a win like this makes it all worth it. Fantastic.
Where does he rank with the 3-year-olds: “You want to be the best 3-year-old. This was the spot that puts him right there. He is just a tough horse. He is powerful. He is a heavily muscled horse and you would not think he would run this far. He has speed but he will sit behind horses. He comes running and he is just a fighter.
He does not really like to train, does he: “He will train, but he is a little lazy. Lately, though, he has been very willing. I can see the improvement. Today was his day. I really think he is starting to figure it out. I’m just happy he was able to win another Grade 1. I have always enjoyed having horses in the Pennsylvania Derby. They treat you well there.”
What’s next: “If all is good, we are going to point to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. You know, horse racing changes day by day. I’m not looking forward to running against Life Is Good and Flightline. Those are two very fast horses.”
Gary Young (Bloodstock agent for winning owner Amr Zedan’s Zedan Racing Stables): “We thought an effort like this was going to be what we got. He was much more comfortable down inside horses today than he was in the Haskell. Once he got him outside coming to the top of the stretch the race was over. He has a really good turn of foot, he was good in the paddock, good in the post parade, kind of what we expected. we always said that this horse has a lot of room for improvement and we think next year he will be even better than he is next year and he is pretty damn good this year.”
Joel Rosario (Zandon, second): “He saved ground and everything, came home strong, but just wasn’t the winner today. It looked like for a second we were going to go get him, but it always looked like the winner would be a little bit better at the end.”
Trainer Brad Cox (Cyberknife, third): “He ran good. I’m not certain this is his track. He galloped over it a few days but it is what it is. No excuses today. He was third best honestly. When they broke they got away from him a little bit but it is what it is. He was maybe a little further back than we expected. He had to move him early to get into position and obviously the winner was kind of gone at that point. Overall, it was a good effort. He ran on, I just wish he was running on in front.
What could be next: “I don’t know. It’s real tricky. It’s a bad year to have a good horse is what I say.”
Maybe the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile: “It’s possible. We’ll look at that. That might be better option (versus the Classic). But we’ll let the dust settle and see what everyone else is doing, see how he comes out of it and go from there. You never know.”
Jockey Florent Geroux (Cyberknife, third): “He didn’t seem to really like the track, he was never really on the bridle. He was way farther back than he usually is, kind of throwing his head at the kickback. He finished nice at the end, but I didn’t like the way he was traveling all around.”
Trainer Antonio Sano (Simplification, fourth): It was a good race and the horse came back good. The horse doesn’t like it, to be close the front like that. Next time.”
Jockey Paco Lopez (Simplification, 4th):“We couldn’t hold show and ran fourth, but my horse was very good. He was running in second early. He was running very well. I wasn’t really where I wanted to be. I kind of wanted to be maybe third or fourth, but I really didn’t have any choice. I had a bunch of horses to my inside, and I couldn’t hold them. He tried hard, no excuse, but I think the other horses had the best of him. I think the top three were the horses that were much the best. The winner, [Taiba], I kept an eye on them the whole way on the first turn, but on the second turn I saw him on the outside and he was flying. Not much I could do.”
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