Trainer Bob Baffert carries his usual quiet confidence about the chances of favored Executiveprivilege into the $2 million Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park.
The undefeated filly has won five in a row for owners Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman. She is coming off an impressive 6 1/4-length romp in Santa Anita's Sept. 29 Chandelier Stakes (gr. I), formerly the Oak Leaf, at the Juvenile Fillies' 1 1/16-mile distance. It was her first race on dirt and her initial try around two turns.
"She's just very professional," Baffet says. "She knows where the wire is and she gets it done. Distance is not a problem for her. She'll handle it. She's just a good horse."
Executiveprivilege surprisingly went gate-to-wire in the Chandelier. So facing a field loaded with speed this time, Baffert says he isn't concerned about the race getting away from her. With her nemisis Beholder breaking from the rail and unbeaten New York speedster Kauai Katie in the far outside post, what happens to Executiveprivilege from post 2 after the gate opens is up to jockey Rafael Bejarano.
“I’m not going to worry about a pace thing. It's going to be a fast pace,” the Hall of Fame conditioner said after watching the daughter of top third-crop sire First Samurai put in a strong gallop for exercise rider Dana Barnes Oct. 31. “‘Raffi’ knows her well and he’s a good judge of pace. He’ll take care of business. Executiveprivilege has a lot of speed herself, but she's not a run-off.”
Executiveprivilege has continued to train steadily for the toughest assignment of her young career, though her most recent drill, six furlongs in 1:14 1/5 Oct. 27, caused some questions. She has looked good in her gallops since then, however.
Executiveprivilege is the slight 2-1 morning line favorite in a strong field of eight. Beholder (5-2) and a pair of unbeaten fillies from the Todd Pletcher barn for Stonestreet Stables, Frizette Stakes (gr. I) winner Dreaming of Julia and Matron Stakes (gr. II) victress Kauai Katie (3-1) are also expected to take quite a bit of action.
Baffert beleves the Santa Anita main track, which favored front-runners early in the fall meet, is much fairer as the big weekend of championship races approaches.
"I think it's really good right now. You can win from anywhere," he said. "My horses are really loving it. Especially after Del Mar. I couldn't get out of there fast enough. But Executiveprivilege, she can run on practically anything."
The bay filly, the $650,000 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s April sale topper, nearly suffered her only loss on the Del Mar main track in the grade I Debutante at seven furlongs. The Richard Mandella-trained Beholder set a fast pace over the Polytrack as Executiveprivilege raced mid-pack in her usual style before unleashing her stretch run.
"(Bejarano) said he was waiting on Beholder to come back to the field but she never did," Baffert explained. "She had to really dig in that last eighth."
Executiveprivilege got up at the wire by a nose while drifting out through the final eighth.
Beholder would return in a six-furlong allowance race at Santa Anita Oct. 4, demolishing a field of six by 11 lengths. Her 108 Beyer Speed Figure while running 1:09 flat dwarfs anything anyone else in the Juvenile Fillies has produced, including Executiveprivilege. But she's never been farther than seven furlongs. Beholder certainly has Baffert's attention.
"If she carries that all the way around there ...," he says, shaking his head and allowing his voice to trail off.
The Chandelier/Oak Leaf has been a fertile testing ground for the Juvenile Fillies in recent years. Halfbridled won both races fo Mandella in 2003. Sweet Catomine also turned the trick in 2004, as did Stardom Bound in 2008.
Executiveprivilege, out of the Unaccounted For mare Refugee, was bred in Kentucky by William Betz, D.J. Stable, Dr. Charles Kidder, Jim Betz, and Nancy Robenalt. Consigned by Betz Thoroughbreds for the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale, she went fo $23,000 to Hubert Guy, agent. Seven months later, her value boomed at OBS with Eddie Woods consigning as agent. She is the first stakes winner produced by her dam.
Baffert has won the Juvenile Fillies twice before, in 2007 with Indian Blessing, and in 1998 with Silverbulletday for his old pal Pegram. Silverbulletday went on to win filly divisional Eclipse Awards in 1998 and 1999 and was elected to the Hall of Fame along with the 59-year-old Baffert in 2009.