General Challenge, back on track after lengthy absence.

General Challenge, back on track after lengthy absence.

Benoit photo

General Challenge Returns To Baffert Barn

Golden Eagle Farms' multiple graded stakes-winning millionaire General Challenge arrived at trainer Bob Baffert's Santa Anita barn on Wednesday to begin serious training for a comeback after more than 2 1/2 years away from racing.

The 7-year-old gelding had been in light training at his birthplace, Golden Eagle Farm in Ramona, Cal., for the past few months, Baffert said.

General Challenge suffered an undisclosed injury during the running of the 2000 Pacific Classic (gr. I) at Del Mar, where he finished fourth behind grade one winners Skimming, Tiznow and Ecton Park, and has not started since. He trained briefly for a comeback in mid-2001 before another injury sent him back to the farm.

"He looks good, doesn't he?" Baffert said of the big chestnut son of General Meeting. "He's such a cool horse. It's nice to have him back in the barn."

General Challenge scored his biggest triumphs in the 2000 Santa Anita Handicap and the 1999 runnings of the Pacific Classic and the Santa Anita Derby (all gr. I). He also earned victories in the 2000 Strub Stakes (gr. II), as well as in 1999's Santa Catalina Stakes (gr. II), Affirmed Handicap (gr. III), Native Diver Stakes (gr, II) and California Breeders' Championship Stakes. Overall, he has banked $2,876,018 with a career line of 18-9-3-1.

General Challenge is expected to return to Santa Anita's main track for the first time on Friday. No plans have been made yet for a comeback race, Baffert said.