Weekend Wrapup: Baffert Babies Avert Weekend Washout

If it weren't for the heroics of Bob Baffert-trained 2-year-olds Flame Thrower, Arabian Light, and Notable Career, the first of the two big Breeders' Cup prep weekends would have been a lot more fizzle than sizzle.

The main thing we learned is that Baffert will go into the Breeders' Cup with a tight grip on the two juvenile races. It's rare for one trainer to send out two youngsters with the class and brilliance we saw from Flame Thrower in the Norfolk Stakes and Arabian Light in the Breeders' Futurity, not to mention Notable Career in the Oak Leaf Stakes. And Baffert has more ammo ready to fire in next week's Champagne Stakes in the form of Point Given.

Flame Thower, the copper chestnut with the flaxen mane and tail, once again put on a dazzling display of speed and courage, holding off the determined challenge of Street Cry, just as he had done in the Del Mar Futurity. Not only did the son of Saint Ballado dig in again to hold off his rival, he closed his last two quarters in :23 3/5 and :24 3/5, and final eighth in :12 2/5, to complete the two-turn mile in a sizzling 1:34 4/5. Both colts showed what they are made of by continuing their slugfest despite bouncing off each other and getting knocked back on to their left leads. These are two horses who are not only brilliant 2-year-olds, but bred to go classic distances.

Arabian Light, coming off a sensational 6-furlong work in 1:10 3/5, ran back to that move in the Breeders' Futurity, although the race certainly didn't go as expected. Instead of pressing the pace, as Baffert had planned, Arabian Light wound up near the rear of the pack, about 10 lengths off the lead, then unleashed a monster move around the turn to blow away the field, winning by 3 lengths. But despite the ease of Arabian Light's victory, there was glory enough to go around for the second-, third-, and fourth-place finishers, Dollar Bill, Holiday Thunder, and Burning Roma, respectively.

Dollar Bill, conqueror of dynamite maiden winners A P Valentine and Griffinite, was the least-experienced horse in the field, yet still closed a ton of ground, while circling horses, and was running strongly at the wire. Holiday Thunder pressed the early pace, dropped back, then came on again after getting caught in traffic. Burning Roma had the worst trip, rallying from far back, then getting bumped around in traffic and losing all momentum. He regained his best stride and was coming fast at the end, beaten two heads for second.

Another hot 2-year-old who looked impressive was Macho Uno, who beat up on a small, weak field in the 1 1/16-mile Grey BC at Woodbine Monday. The son of Holy Bull put his field away with ease, then drew off to win as Jerry Bailey pleased. We don't know what this virtually meaningless race did for him, but off his race in the Hopeful, there is no doubt that this colt is legitimate.

This is as strong a group of 2-year-old colts as we've seen in quite a while, and we should have one of the deepest, most talented Juvenile fields in the 16-year history of the Breeders' Cup.

As for Notable Career, her front-running, 4-length victory in the Oak Leaf, after setting brisk fractions of :45 1/5 and 1:09 4/5, stamps her as one of the choices for the Juvenile Fillies.

As if Baffert doesn't have enough ammunition aimed at Churchill Downs, he'll be sending Kentucky Cup Juvenile winner Point Given to Belmont for the Champagne. The son of Thunder Gulch, who is also owned by The Thoroughbred Corp, made a huge run around horses to inhale his field at the head of the stretch, then drew off to a 3 1/2-length victory in much the same manner as Arabian Light.