A couple days after a whirlwind weekend that included a controversial win with Game On Dude in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) and a monster performance by Misremembered in the Santana Mile, Bob Baffert finally had a chance to exhale and reflect on what had transpired.
The Hall of Fame trainer had plenty to say March 8, including his immediate plans for his two star handicap horses.
“I’m still waiting for Sheikh Mo to call me about the Dubai World Cup; he hasn’t called yet,” joked Baffert, referring to Sheikh Mohammed and the fact that the March 26 World Cup is limited to 14 starters and Game On Dude has yet to be invited to the $10 million event. “I’d like to take Game On Dude there. He came out of the race great.
“I was also thinking Dubai for Misremembered too, and if it was on dirt that would be more tempting, but it's Tapeta. It’s a long way to go and there are too many factors involved. I finally got him right, and so we’ll keep him here. I’m looking at the Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II, on April 9) I think. But nothing is written in stone.”
Game On Dude won the March 5 Santa Anita Handicap by a nose over Setsuko in a controversial finish that was not decided until after a 12-minute inquiry that eventually resulted in the stewards determining that he and jockey Chantal Sutherland did not interfere with odds-on favorite Twirling Candy at the top of the stretch. Baffert was criticized by some for being too outspoken during the lengthy inquiry, including Setsuko trainer Richard Mandella.
“There was a lot of emotion flying around after the race,” Baffert said. “There were a lot of people chirping in (Mandella’s) ear. I’ve talked to him since then and it’s cooled down. I thought they made the right call. The best horse usually gets the benefit of the doubt. (Twirling Candy rider Joel) Rosario told me after the race that the best horse won.
“The thing about Game On Dude is that he’s better the longer he goes. He’s a mile-and-a-quarter or a mile-and-a-half horse.”
Baffert has won the World Cup twice, with Silver Charm in 1998 and Capatin Steve in 2001.
Baffert, who had four starters in the Santa Anita Handicap, was a little disappointed in the second betting choice, First Dude, who was starting for him for the first time after being transferred from the barn of Dale Romans. First Dude finished fifth after contesting a hot, early pace.
“I thought he would do better,” Baffert said. “I guess I haven’t had him long enough to know he wasn’t used to this California speed.”
The horse that won the Santa Anita Derby the year before, Misremembered, might actually wind up being Baffert’s top handicap horse in 2011. The 5-year-old son of Candy Ride turned in a dazzling effort in the March 6 Santana Mile, his first start since the 2010 Big Cap. Bred by Baffert, Misremembered rolled to an easy three-length score in his comeback effort, scorching one mile in 1:33.50 while being geared down in the late stages by Martin Garcia. He missed the track record by one-tenth of a second.
“The way he worked before that race I knew he’d run well,” Baffert said. “If we keep him healthy and place him right we should have something for the Breeders’ Cup. He’s run well (at Churchill Downs) before.”
Baffert is referring to Misremembered's runner-up finish to Blame in the 2009 Clark Handicap (gr. II) in 2009. Misremembered was a 3-year-old at that time facing older horses. Blame, of course, went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) a year later.
“Blame beat him, but Misremembered is a lot better now.”
Misremembered is owned by Baffert’s wife, Jill, and George Jacobs. Baffert bred the ridgling in Kentucky during a rare foray into the breeding business. Baffert bought Misremembered’s mare, Beyond Perfection, for $7,000 at the Keeneland January 2005 horses of all ages sale. He was consigned by Hill ‘n’ Dale’s John Sikura.
“I was going to breed her to Point Given but John Sikura said, ‘No you’re not. She’s going to Candy Ride.’ I said ‘OK, I love Candy Ride.’ It turned out pretty good.”
Baffert, who now owns half of 23-year-old Beyond Perfection, said she is being bred to two-time champion Lookin At Lucky this year.
On the Triple Crown trail, Baffert confirmed that he will enter both Jaycito and Awesome Patriot in this weekend’s San Felipe (gr. II). It will be the season debuts for both colts. Martin Garcia will ride Jaycito while Rafael Bejarano will be aboard Awesome Patriot.
“We’re still not sure of Jaycito’s running style yet,” Baffert said. “Martin (Garcia) is still getting to know him. We’ll learn more from this race.
“Awesome Patriot is still a little immature. But he’s trained well and is definitely a two-turn horse. We want to find out what they are made of in these races. That’s why they are called preps.”