A day after he ran 1-2 in the TVG Pacific Classic (G1), trainer Bob Baffert was still unsure about the path his two top Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) contenders will take back to Del Mar in early November.
"They look good. They came out of their races well and that's important," the Hall of Fame trainer said. "We watched the races a few times, and Collected still won. I liked that Arrogate—even though he was running in spurts—I liked that he laid it down in the last eighth of a mile, he showed some willingness, and tried to win."
Baffert indicated previously that Arrogate would likely train up to the Breeders' Cup Classic, while he was undecided on Collected possibly running in the Sept. 30 Awesome Again Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park, but stressed the importance of how each horse trains up to the races.
"Right now both of them have to be training really well to run," Baffert said. "Like with Collected, I didn't like the way he was training (for the grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita). I was going to run him in there, but I didn't like the way he worked. He wouldn't have run well that day, so I pulled him out and threw Cupid in there and he pulled it off for me."
Del Mar closes its track for training Sept. 8 as the Southern California circuit moves to Santa Anita Park, then will reopen Oct. 23 for Breeders' Cup preparations.
"It's too bad they couldn't just stay here and train until the Breeders' Cup," Baffert said. "That would've been a perfect scenario. Collected really likes it down here, you can keep him in an (outdoor) pen, and he flourishes down here. And it would give Arrogate a chance to still get used to this (main track)."
Now a top-level winner on dirt, Collected started his career on turf. The son of City Zip (who was a top 5 North American turf sire in 2016 and is No. 10 on the list in 2017) won his debut down the Santa Anita hillside turf course in 2015 and placed in the Cecil B. DeMille Stakes (G3T) that same year.
Eight dirt starts later, Baffert worked Collected on the turf July 20 and had mixed feelings after the five-furlong drill in 1:04 1/5.
"He worked well on the turf, but it discouraged me, because I really didn't want him to like the turf," Baffert said with a joking tone. "So I worked him back on the dirt here. He's so handy. He's like Gun Runner—they're handy, they're quick, and they can get around these turns. These turns are sharp here."
While the top two finishers from the Pacific Classic will be shooting for the Breeders' Cup Classic, the third-place finisher, Hronis Racing's Accelerate, will go in a different direction.
After receiving a clear signal from the Lookin At Lucky colt that he doesn't want the extra distance, trainer John Sadler is electing to shorten up for the Breeders' Cup.
"My horse is not a mile-and-a-quarter horse, so he's going to go to the Breeders' Cup (Dirt) Mile (G1)," Sadler said. "It was a good race for him. Don't get me wrong. But it was probably a little too far for him. We were happy with his effort and I wanted to try (the distance), because you never know for certain."