Kicking off the black-type action on Belmont Stakes Day with an impressive run, 3-year-old West Coast aced his first trip outside Southern California and picked up his first stakes score off a May 20 allowance victory at Santa Anita Park. The bay colt was making his fifth start and has never finished worse than second.
"We thought he'd run well," Baffert said. "We were debating running in the Belmont (Stakes). He didn't convince us yet, but he's figuring it out. He's really developing the right way. He can handle the distance well.
"He's ready to take on the top races. You have races like the Haskell (Invitational Stakes, G1) or Travers (Stakes, G1). We'll see how he comes back. He needed to show me something like this. We were hoping he'd do this (before), because I wanted to run him in the Belmont, but he just didn't sell me."
West Coast and Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith got pinched slightly at the start, but were able to recover to rate comfortably in sixth behind a quick tempo set by second-time starter Wicked Macho. That one went an opening quarter in :22.79 and a half in :45.62, posting three-quarters in 1:10.09 before the eventual winner swung out four wide and bid powerfully to issue a challenge in upper stretch. It was a new dimension for West Coast, who scored two previous wins after rating second early on in each race.
"He's a nice colt," Smith said. "It was my first time on him, and after the way he ran, I kind of wish they entered him in the Belmont.
"That was a great race to get some confidence in him shipping from out of town. He loved this racetrack... I got squeezed at the start, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because they were going way too quick and I might have got caught up in it."
The final time for the 1 1/16-mile test was 1:41.50 over a track rated fast. West Coast returned $5.70, $3.20, and $2.50, while runner-up You're to Blame, 3 3/4 lengths back, paid $3.60 and $2.50. The trifecta was completed by Outplay ($4.20), who was followed home by Jamminwithbrandon, Tale of Silence, Wicked Macho, Local Hero, Lookin At Blessing, and Sonic Mule.
Sonic Mule was eased in the stretch but walked off under his own power.
West Coast was a $425,000 Keeneland September yearling sale purchase when consigned by Hermitage Farm and purchased by agent Ben Glass. He was bred in Kentucky by CFP Thoroughbreds out of the champion Honour and Glory mare Caressing.