Don't look now, but Bob Baffert could have another Triple Crown hopeful up his sleeve.
But the Hall of Fame trainer wouldn't indicate whether Malibu Sunset was on the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) trail after his easy 1 1/2-length allowance/optional claiming win Feb. 28 at Santa Anita Park, his first start for Baffert and first try at two turns.
"We'll see how he comes out of this race," Baffert said of a potential Derby prep. "We know two turns is not going to be a problem for him. He'll let me know."
The Bernardini colt settled just off the early pace of Xingontothebone—who ran fractions of :24.15 and :47.90 through a half-mile—put a head in front through six furlongs in 1:12.45, moved clear in the stretch, and prevailed to the wire in 1:37.97 under a hand ride from jockey Flavien Prat.
Previously with trainer Wayne Catalano, owners Gary and Mary West moved Malibu Sunset out to the West Coast following his 10 1/2-length debut score at six furlongs at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
"You never know until they turn for home if they can go that extra distance," Baffert said. "It was a good race for him. He needed something like that to get some bottom into him."
Just before his Fair Grounds debut, Malibu Sunset got away from the pony twice and reportedly acted up, but he was a cool customer Sunday afternoon, even as others in the six-horse field had anxious moments in the paddock. Assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes said when the colt arrived in California, they made an extra effort to work on his behavior in the mornings.
"He stayed pretty calm and cool throughout," Baffert said. "Reports were, in his first out, he got away twice and was a little rambunctious, but since he has been here, he has been really good—quiet everywhere."
Bred in Kentucky by Mike Abraham, out of the Storm Cat mare One Stormy Mama, Malibu Sunset was a $240,000 purchase at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale.