Justify works six furlongs in 1:13 flat April 21 at Santa Anita Park

Justify works six furlongs in 1:13 flat April 21 at Santa Anita Park

Zoe Metz

Baffert Works Justify, Rayya for Derby and Oaks

Talented chestnut runners worked minutes apart at Santa Anita Park.

A pair of classy chestnuts trained by Bob Baffert put in important workouts at Santa Anita Park April 21 to prepare for their upcoming trip to Churchill Downs.

Minutes apart, Justify, the likely favorite for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1), and Rayya, the filly from Dubai who will run in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1), worked six furlongs during the 6:30 a.m. training session at Santa Anita—but the drills were quite different.

Justify came out first, broke off a bit in front of his workmate, and dropped back into a stalking position in the backstretch under jockey Drayden Van Dyke. As the two workers turned for home, Justify was on his stablemate's hip and cruised by in the stretch to hit the wire about two lengths in front. The Scat Daddy colt owned by China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing, and WinStar Farm continued to work an eighth past the wire and was clocked in 1:13 flat for six furlongs.

"He did his thing," Baffert said. "He's a superior racehorse. He does things easy."

While Justify stalked and pounced during his work, Rayya was out in front immediately, and her competition was pretty tough. With a quick break out of the gate in the backstretch chute at Santa Anita under Van Dyke, the Tiz Wonderful filly immediately put two lengths on her workmate, 2017 Kentucky Oaks winner and last year's 3-year-old champion filly Abel Tasman. Rayya was up by about three lengths in the backstretch, but Abel Tasman, with jockey Martin Garcia aboard, caught up in the turn, and the pair finished about even at the wire for a clocking of 1:12 4/5 for six furlongs. Rayya set fractions of :35 4/5, :47 4/5, and 1:00 1/5.

"Abel doesn't have really good gate speed, and I'm trying to get her a little quicker, but Rayya is serious," Baffert said. "She worked with a champion, and she held her own. And she needed it. She needed a stiff work like that because I haven't done much with her since I got her here. I'm just getting her used to everything because we're asking her to do something that's never been done before."

Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi's Rayya, who won the UAE Oaks Sponsored By Al Naboodah Construction Group (G3) at Meydan March 1 before a runner-up effort to the tour de force of Mendelssohn in the March 31 UAE Derby Sponsored By Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group (G2) for trainer Doug Watson, was transferred to Baffert this month to train toward the Kentucky Oaks.

"I've only had her for a couple weeks," Baffert said. "She's class—a really nice filly."

Also on the work tab at Santa Anita Saturday was OXO Equine's Instilled Regard, who will need two defections from the Kentucky Derby leaderboard to make the 20-horse field. The Lecomte Stakes (G3) winner, who finished fourth in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) behind winner Justify last time out, covered five furlongs in 1:01 flat for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.