Grade 1 winner Klimt will race for his new trainer Art Sherman in his 3-year-old debut

Grade 1 winner Klimt will race for his new trainer Art Sherman in his 3-year-old debut

Benoit Photography

Klimt, West Coast Face Los Alamitos Derby Test

California's last graded stakes on dirt restricted to 3-year-olds brings opportunity.

California's last graded stakes on dirt restricted to 3-year-olds this season is a test of sorts for at least two entrants.

Kaleem Shah's Klimt and Gary and Mary West's West Coast enter the $200,000 Los Alamitos Derby (G3) at very different stages in their sophomore campaigns, but each has something to prove to their connections.

For Klimt—whose grade 1 win in the 2016 Del Mar Futurity (G1) stands head-and-shoulders over the rest of the eight-colt field—the question that needs answering is whether the son of Quality Road  can again find the brilliance he showed as a 2-year-old.

Klimt will race under a new trainer for the first time in his 3-year-old debut. The colt was moved to trainer Art Sherman after the split between Shah and his previous trainer, Bob Baffert. Along with the Futurity, Klimt won the Best Pal (G2) at Del Mar in 2016. Once the races got to two turns, however, the colt ran second in the FrontRunner (G1) and eighth in the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), both at Santa Anita Park.

ANGST: Klimt Gives Baffert 13th Del Mar Futurity

Although preliminary plans early in the season were for Klimt to travel to Dubai and try the UAE Derby Sponsored By The Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group (G2), ankle issues put Klimt on the sideline. Sherman admitted he'd like his colt to go a bit shorter to start off (the Los Alamitos Derby is 1 1/8 miles) and was considering other options, but ultimately landed on the July 15 race at Los Alamitos Race Course, where the Sherman operation is based.

"It's quite a feat to get one ready to go a mile and an eighth," Sherman said. "I'd like to get him going a little shorter—like a mile. He seems to be a lot better, but it's a challenge when you try to get one ready to go that far. We got two (one-mile) works under him (1:38 4/5 June 17 and 1:41 2/5 June 24). They weren't spectacular, but he worked really good out of the gate (1:12 2/5 July 1)."

Sherman considered sending Klimt to the Iowa Derby (G3), which was won by Hence July 7, but complications in the shipping plan made the decision to stay home an easy one.

"At this meet it helps to train here," Sherman said of the two-week summer meet at Los Alamitos. "We were going to go to the Iowa race, but we would have had to (fly to Kentucky) and then van him six, seven hours. That's a lot to ask of a horse that hasn't run in a year. It was to our benefit to run here."

For West Coast, who is trained by Baffert, even though he has worked his way up the class ladder, he still needs to prove a little more to his Hall of Fame conditioner.

Baffert considered running the Flatter  colt in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1), but wasn't overjoyed with his three-quarter-length allowance victory going 1 1/16 miles May 20 at Santa Anita, so he opted for the one-turn Easy Goer (also at 1 1/16 miles) instead.

West Coast responded with a dominating 3 3/4-length victory in the Easy Goer after a troubled start, but Baffert still wants to see if he can handle two turns.

NOVAK: West Coast Best in Easy Goer

"We picked this spot because he's slowly maturing and Gary West has been letting me develop him," Baffert said of the Lexington Stakes (G3) runner-up. "He's won two-turn races, but the way he did it—we're still trying to figure out his running style. I want to see how he handles it.

"I think we're going to find out a lot about him. He's getting better and better, but like Arrogate (last year), I'm taking baby steps."

Jockey Drayden Van Dyke will be in the irons on West Coast, because jockey Mike Smith will be at Delaware Park Saturday to ride Songbird in the Delaware Handicap (G1).

"Too bad Mike Smith has to go ride that little filly of (Jerry) Hollendorfer's this weekend," Baffert said, with tongue firmly in cheek. "I can't believe he's riding for $750,000 and not for us."

When asked what West Coast's future plans might be if he impresses in the Los Alamitos Derby, Baffert gave a not-so-subtle hint.

"We'll see if he can make that big jump," Baffert said. "East Coast races with big trophies." 

Also in the field is a trio of colts from the stable of trainer Doug O'Neill. Calumet Farm's Term of Art has grade 3 credentials from his Cecil B. DeMille Stakes victory in November, but has gone winless in six starts since. B Squared (second last-time out in the grade 3 Affirmed) and Milton Freewater have mostly raced in the California-bred ranks.

Cistron, winner of the Northern Spur Stakes at Oaklawn Park; allowance winner Colonist; and grade 3-placed maiden winner Kimbear complete the field.

Entries: Los Alamitos Derby (G3)

LOS ALAMITOS RACE COURSE, Saturday, July 15, 2017, Race 7

  • Grade III
  • 1 1/8m
  • Dirt
  • $200,000
  • 3 yo
  • 4:58 PM (local)
PPHorseJockeyWgtTrainerM/L
11Kimbear (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJoseph Talamo122J. Eric Kruljac4/1
22Cistron (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateTyler Baze122John W. Sadler7/2
33Colonist (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateFlavien Prat122Jerry Hollendorfer9/2
44B Squared (CA)Corey S. Nakatani122Doug F. O'Neill12/1
55West Coast (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateDrayden Van Dyke122Bob Baffert9/5
66Klimt (KY)Rafael Bejarano122Art Sherman5/1
77Milton Freewater (CA)Norberto Arroyo, Jr.122Doug F. O'Neill20/1
88Term of Art (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateEvin A. Roman122Doug F. O'Neill15/1