Settled just off pacesetter Miss Montreal on the outside by jockey Javier Castellano, the 4-year-old daughter of First Samurai seized the advantage approaching the furlong mark. She was all out to hold off the long charge of Sure Route to secure the win, which was timed in 1:30.64 for 7 1/2 furlongs on firm ground.
A dozen filies and mares contested the South Beach.
Baffle Me's latest win followed earlier victories this fall in the Jazzy and Finney overnight stakes at Belmont Park. The winner, trained by Mark Hennig for owner Lee R. Lewis, was bred in Kentucky by the Peter J. Callahan Revocable Trust out of the unraced Awesome Again mare Wonderously.
Great Britain-bred Sure Route, a 20-1 shot ridden by Jilver Chamafi, edged 25-1 Miss Montreal and Paco Lopez by a neck for second. Miss Montreal carved quarter mile fractions of :24.16 and :48.34 while maintaining a half-length edge on the eventual winner before yielding in the final eighth of a mile.
Baffle Me paid $4, $3, and $2.80 across the board, but keyed a $45.50 exacta with Sure Route ($12.80, $8.60), and a $1 trifecta worth $268.60 with Miss Montreal ($9.40) third. The $1 superfecta, with 5-2 second choice Ana Luisa fourth, came back $1,480 for a $1 wager.
Hennig noted that Baffle Me is a filly that easily lost her composure in the past but has shown improvement with maturity.
“I have to give Javier credit, he’s gotten her to relax well,” Hennig remarked. “A year ago at this time you could have never dreamed that this filly would sit off of a 48-and-change half-mile and, like he said, ‘I almost rated her too much today.’ But that was perfect. It was closer than we wanted it to be, but I think she had something left if they had gotten to her.”
Castellano was enthusiastic about the winner.
“She’s doing phenomenal right now,” said the jockey, who won four races on the Gulfstream card Sunday. "She’s kind of a big filly and it takes her a little bit to get her momentum. It looked like (Sure Route) was going to go by, but when she switched leads she got more comfortable and she gave me another gear, and she galloped out beautiful.”
Hennig took the precaution of saddling Baffle Me in the horse path behind the saddling enclosure to avoid any potential problems.
“We stuck cotton in her ears a few races back because she gets so rattled at noises and people,” he explained. “In the paddock at Saratoga, she really came undone the first time I ran her up there. She still ran well, but I was surprised she did. She was completely washed out when she showed up in the paddock because she had to walk through the picnic grounds up there and she didn’t handle it well. Since then we’ve really, really worked hard with her and she’s responded.”
Baffle Me, a $130,000 Keeneland September yearling acquisition, has shown her best form at seven furlongs to a mile thus far, but she may get a chance at longer distances in 2014.
“We’re just going to enjoy this, rest up, and plan out a schedule for next year,” Hennig said. “She runs well fresh, so we’ll probably try to keep her a little fresh through the winter and look forward to a campaign over the summer. Javier said she could go even further now that she’s relaxing. I think she’ll just settle and sprint home.”
Baffle Me improved her career mark to 7-3-4 in 20 starts while banking $427,556.