Trainer Bob Baffert made his trip east with Bob and John pay off with an impressive 1 1/2-length victory in the $750,000 Wood Memorial (gr. I) for 3-year-olds at muddy Aqueduct Saturday.
It was a huge day in New York for Baffert, who also saddled Too Much Bling to victory in the Bay Shore (gr. III) a race earlier.
Baffert brought Stonerside Stable's homebred Bob and John, a son of Seeking the Gold
, to New York because he figured the slower pace would be better for the colt's running style than the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I). Instead, Bob and John encountered the first off-track of his career.
But the wet, windy, and sloppy conditions were not a problem. After being squeezed a bit in the first turn, Bob and John was able to get a stalking position for jockey Garrett Gomez behind the even-money favorite Keyed Entry and the outsider Marco's Tale. On the far turn, it came down to the two choices in the field of nine. Bob and John got his head in front at the eighth pole and extended the lead as they approached the wire, completing the 1 1/8-mile test in 1:51 2/5.
"From the half-mile pole, I was just biding my time," said Gomez, who was also aboard Too Much Bling earlier.
Jazil, ridden by Fernando Jara, came flying down the lane on the inside to nip Keyed Entry for second by a half-length. Scanlon's Song, last for the first half-mile, rallied mildly for fourth.
Keyed Entry, rdden by Edgar Prado, set quick fractions of :23, :46 1/5 and 1:11 on the sealed track before tiring late.
Bob and John, coming off a third-place finish behind A.P. Warrior and Point Determined in the San Felipe (gr. II) at Santa Anita March 18, won for the fourth time in nine starts. He earned $450,000, nearly doubling his previous bankroll, which now stands at $680,070. He won the 1 1/8-mile Sham (gr. III) at Santa Anita Feb. 4.
"Just goes to show you that there is so much speed in California, it's like a vacation when you get away from there," said Baffert. "I knew he would run much better here. He needs a bigger track. The last time, he was completely wiped out and never got a chance to run and he needed the race. I wasn't really hard on him. I was hoping that if we tried something different, it would work and it did. Good horses run on any track."
The second choice in the field, Bob and Joh paid $6.40, $4.50, and $2.20, topping a $72 exacta with Jazil ($12.20, $4.80), who was coming off a seventh-place showing in the Fountain Of Youth (gr. II) March 4 at Gulfstream. Keyed Entry, who won the Hutcheson (gr. II) in February before losing by a neck to Like Now in the Gotham (gr. III) at Aqueduct March 18, paid $2.10 to show.
"We're happy, very happy," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who substituted Jazil in the Wood when Like Now spiked a fever this week. "We were very happy that he was able to close, that's his style. Fernando has been on him his previous three or four races, and he always comes running late. So, we were happy that he showed that same run today again, especially against this caliber of horse. It looks like he will like a mile and a quarter and we are sure looking forward to the opportunity."
Trainer Todd Pletcher is not as sure what will be next for Keyed Entry, who struggled with nine furlongs. Prado, in fact declared after the Wood Memorial that Florida Derby (gr. I) winner Barbaro was his likely Kentucky Derby mount.
"I thought he dug in and tried hard," Pletcher said of Keyed Entry. "Originally, I thought the sloppy track was a blessing. I don't know if that was the case, considering they went the final eighth in :14. It looked like they were all laboring. It is disconcerting that he didn't win. I don't like to make decisions right after a race, so we're not going to jump to any conclusions just yet. We'll see how he comes out of it, let the smoke settle and figure it out."
After Scanlon's Song came Platinum Couple, Deputy Glitters, Greeley's Legacy, Niagara Causeway and Marco's Tale.