by Karen Johnson
Trainer Bob Baffert, encouraged by E Z Warrior’s last start in which the colt finished third behind Hard Spun and First Defence in the King’s Bishop Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga, will use the $75,000 More Than Ready Stakes at Belmont Park Sept. 12 as gauge as to what the future holds for the Exploit colt.
Baffert said a good race in the one-mile More Than Ready could lead E Z Warrior to the Oct. 7 Jerome Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont. From there, provided the colt runs well, Baffert is entertaining thoughts of running in the new Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile Oct. 26 at Monmouth Park. The $1-million dirt race will be run at a mile and 70-yards because of Monmouth’s track configuration.
E Z Warrior, who won the Hollywood Juvenile Championship (gr. III) over Great Hunter last year for owner Zayat Stables, makes his first start beyond seven furlongs in the More Than Ready. The colt, who was purchased by Zayat Stables for $1.2 million at the Barretts March 2-year-olds in training sale last year, also won the San Miguel Stakes at Santa Anita Park in January.
“I like the fact he has a great mind, and the farther he goes, the more options it will give us,” Baffert said. “(Jockey) David Flores said he has learned to settle. I was really encouraged by the race at Saratoga; he finished behind two good horses. He has matured a lot and really filled out since last year.”
Flores has the return mount in the More Than Ready. E Z Warrior drew post four in the field of seven 3-year-olds. In four of his five starts, E Z Warrior has drawn the rail, which proved to be a tough post in the 11-horse King’s Bishop.
E Z Warrior’s only poor performance came in July at Del Mar when he finished eighth in the Bing Crosby Handicap (gr. I). He stumbled at the start and never was a factor.
“You have to draw a line through that race; the race was over for him at the start,” Baffert said.
E Z Warrior’s main foe appears to be Tiz Wonderful, who was undefeated in three starts at 2, including two wins at Churchill Downs in the Iroquois Stakes (gr. III) and Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II). In his first start since last November, the colt finished last in the July 29 Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga.
The Steve Asmussen-trained Tiz Wonderful, by Tiznow , figures to benefit from his comeback race in the Jim Dandy, which was won by Street Sense. Believeinmenow, Flashstorm, Shopton Lane, Stunt Man, and Reptilian Smarts complete the field.