Baffert, who entered three of the five older fillies and mares entered in the 6 1/2-furlong main track test, also saddled Subsidized, who outlasted Silver Swallow and 17-10 favorite Mother Ruth for second.
Gilded Gem, runner-up in the Santa Monica Stakes (gr. I) Jan. 30 at Santa Anita, won by 1 1/4 lengths with Joel Rosario aboard in a time of 1:15.22.
Baffert said the $300,000 Humana Distaff (gr. I) at seven furlongs at Churchill Downs May 7 would be considered for Gilded Gem’s next race. Thomas Gaines and Olin Gentry's Gaines-Gentry Thoroughbreds and Richard Nip's Serengeti Stable bred the daughter of Smarty Jones --Golden Jewel Box, by Slew o' Gold in Kentucky. They also own the 5-year-old bay mare.
The complexion of the Las Flores changed completely when Candy's Pleasure, expected to vie for the lead along with the Baffert-trained Mother Ruth, was scratched by the track veterinarian when she was apparently injured after acting up in the starting gate.
Mother Ruth had things her own way on the front end, leading Broken Dreams and Silver Swallow through swift early fractions of :21.97 and :44.45. Mother Ruth reached the top of the stretch leading by a couple of lengths but she weakened past mid-stretch, allowing Gilded Gem to pick up the pieces in the final sixteenth of a mile.
Gilded Gem was last leaving the bend on the far outside but closed with authority under some urging from Rosario.
“I’ve ridden her before and I moved a little early last time," said Rosario, who won last year's Las Flores with Mona de Momma. "Today I took my time and she responded well. She’s the kind of horse that wants to come from a little bit off the pace. I just let her relax and find her stride.”
Subsidized, stalking the early leaders along the inside for Rafael Bejarano, finished willingly from between horses to edge Silver Swallow and Mike Smith by a neck for the runner-up slot. Mother Ruth was nipped for third by a head, with Broken Dreams far back in last.
Baffert won his first Las Flores since 2006 with Behaving Badly.
“I thought Mother Ruth was going to keep going but she started getting tired at the end," Baffert said. "Gilded Gem likes to sit way back there. Rosario fits her well. He’s a very patient rider. She comes running late and ran them all down.
"The other filly (Subsidized) ran well to get up for second. We’d have liked to be one, two, three, but we’ll take it at one-two.”
The Las Flores was the fourth win in 10 starts for Gilded Gem, who also has four seconds in her consistent career. She boosted her earnings to $223,800.
Under equal weights of 118 pounds, Gilded Gem paid $7.20, $3.60, and $2.40 as the second choice. Subsidized returned $5 and $3.20 in her initial graded stakes appearance and completed a $32.20 exacta. Seven-year-old Silver Swallow paid $3 to show in her 30th career start.