With a hot pace to exploit, classy Billy Batts rallied strongly to capture the $75,000 Baffle Stakes Feb. 7 at Santa Anita Park by 1 1/2 lengths while providing jockey Umberto Rispoli with his first Santa Anita stakes victory. Trained by Peter Miller and owned by Rockingham Ranch, Billy Batts completed the 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:03.37.
Idle since running a close second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Presented by Coolmore America (G1T) at one mile at Santa Anita Nov. 1, Billy Batts broke sharply and was fourth, about three lengths off the lead heading into the far turn. With stablemate Bulletproof One, the lone filly in the race, carving out fast fractions of :22.75 and :45.38, he was able to reel her in leaving the furlong pole and won in impressive fashion.
"It was a great opportunity to ride a horse like him," said Rispoli, a 31-year-old Italian native who began riding at Santa Anita when the meet began Dec. 28. "He comes from the Breeders' Cup, so people were expecting a lot and Peter was confident in the run. He broke quite sharp and for the first couple of furlongs, he was asking me to (get into the race). When we swung out, he was full of run.
"I'm very happy for that and I'm very happy that my first stakes win didn't take so long."
Stakes placed in his last three starts, Billy Batts, a Kentucky-bred ridgeling by City Zip, was the second choice in a field of six sophomores at odds of 2-1 and paid $6.80 to win.
"I thought (Bulletproof One) had a better chance at five and a half, but they pressed her pretty hard the whole way and it took its toll," said Miller. "'Billy is a good horse and we needed to get a prep into him to get him ready" for the $800,000 Saudi Derby Feb. 29 at about a mile on dirt in Saudi Arabia.
Billy Batts has raced exclusively on turf to this point in his career. Out of the Giant's Causeway mare Down to Hearth, Billy Batts registered his first stakes win and now has a record of 2-3-1 from eight starts. With the winner's share of $48,120, he increased his earnings to $302,560 for owner Rockingham Ranch.
Last early, Rager rallied to be second by a half-length under Drayden Van Dyke.
Rookie Mistake, no match for the top two, was third by a length over Bulletproof One.