Sarava, winner of this year's Belmont Stakes (gr. I), has been transferred from trainer Kenny McPeek to the barn of Bob Baffert in preparation for a 2003 Southern California campaign that his owners hope will carry him to the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, held during the Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.
"We want him on the West Coast," said Gary Drake, whose New Phoenix Stable co-owns the son of Wild Again with Paul and Susan Roy of Great Britain. "We researched where the best place would be to send him and decided on California. We also decided on Baffert, and he was interested in training the horse." Sarava arrived in California on Monday.
Drake, from Louisville, said the decision to take the horse from McPeek "was a horrible thing to have to do. Kenny did a great job with the horse, and we appreciate everything he did. If Kenny was in California we'd probably leave Sarava with him. But this was a decision of trying to do what is right for the horse."
Sarava's owners turned the colt over to McPeek last January. He began his career in England and then was under the care of Burk Kessinger in Kentucky for his first two U.S. starts last fall.
Sarava's Belmont victory was the first for McPeek or for his owners in a Triple Crown race. The colt's 70-1 upset came at the direct expense of Baffert-trained War Emblem, who was the 11-10 favorite as he went for a sweep of the Visa Triple Crown Challenge. War Emblem stumbled badly at the start and finished eighth.
"Kenny handled this like a gentleman and was very professional about it," Drake said. "He is doing great, winning the training title at Churchill, and he is loaded with good horses turning three and yearlings turning two. But obviously, he was disappointed."
Five weeks after his Belmont win, Sarava suffered a hairline fracture to the bone connecting the cannon bone to the back of the knee, Drake said. "We could have brought him back in 60 to 90 days, but our veterinarian is conservative and we decided to err on the side of caution. So he's been off four and a half months at Upson Downs Farm in Goshen (Kentucky). He was jogging on a machine there on alternate days and really looks great. We're optimistic."
Drake said Sarava could be ready to run as early as March, but said he and the Roys are more interested in having a sound horse later in the year. "We told Bob to take his time. They don't award championships in the spring," he said.
Sarava, produced from the Deputy Minister mare Rhythm of Life, also won the Sir Barton Stakes on Preakness Day at Pimlico. Bred by William Entenmann's Timber Bay Farm, Sarava's career record is three wins from nine starts for earnings of $696,852.