The reason for the conflict was another Baffert trainee in the race that was close to his heart—St Patrick's Day, the full brother to Zayat Stables' Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah . Zayat watched the Pioneerof the Nile colt grow up in Ocala, Fla., and grew attached, not just because he was related to his best horse.
"I know it's corny, but I saw him grow up the whole year at the farm and I got emotionally attached," Zayat said. "So I told Bob, 'You can scratch my colt. Let (St Patrick's Day) win and we can run next week.' But he said, 'No. We're an equal-opportunity barn and we have to do right by our owners, and if you want to make the (grade 1 Del Mar) Futurity, you need to run.'"
So Zatter stayed in, and sure enough, at the top of the lane during the six-furlong maiden special weight event Sunday at Del Mar, it was a two-horse race to the wire between the Baffert stablemates. Zatter and Rafael Bejarano, wearing the baby blue and gold Zayat silks, were on the outside of St Patrick's Day and Flavien Prat, who wore the deep blue Coolmore colors.
The pair went at it from the start on the front end, with Zatter drawn outside, but it was the Midnight Lute colt who pulled away late to win by 1 1/2 lengths in a final time of 1:10.36.
"It was very special," Zayat said. "Both are very nice horses."
Baffert was encouraged by the effort from both colts, as they finished well ahead of well-regarded Jungle Warfare.
"Pharoah's brother ran a really (good race)," Baffert said. "And Pharoah needed his first race so badly. He's the kind of horse—he'll get so much more out of (racing). I don't see him getting beat next time out. ... Zatter is a nice horse too, and they've been working together pretty well. I was impressed by both."
Prat also said he expects a step forward from St Patrick's Day in his next start.
"He ran a good race," Prat said. "It was a good try, but it was the first time. He should improve next race."
Baffert said the next step for Zatter will likely be the Sept. 4 Del Mar Futurity. He also didn't rule out a run by St Patrick's Day in the closing-day feature at Del Mar, a move he made with American Pharoah as a maiden in 2015 after his debut loss earlier in the summer meeting. American Pharoah won the Futurity by 4 3/4 lengths, the first of his eight grade 1 wins.
"You've got to get (these 2-year-olds going). We needed to run them today, because the Futurity is coming up," Baffert said. "We'll wait until next week (to decide), but Zatter will be in it. I don't know (about St Patrick's Day). It depends on how they come back and work."