The California invader Record made his stakes debut a winning one for trainer Bob Baffert, capturing the $114,939 Derby Trial in late-running fashion on the opening day of the Churchill Downs spring meeting Saturday.
Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Record was poised to challenge when the pacesetting Protagonus was pulled out of the race by John McKee at the quarter-pole. After maneuvering around Protagonus, Record squeezed between R Loyal Man and Spotsgone in the stretch and gained a slight advantage. Opening up by more than a length inside the eighth pole, the Kentucky-bred son of Devil His Due
was all out to hold on by a neck over 54-1 outsider Spotsgone, who ran a game second under Earlie Fires.
The late charging Mister Triester and Brice Blanc came on for third, 2 1/4 lengths behind.
The final time for the one-turn mile was 1:36 1/5.
The Nick Zito-trained Protagonus, vanned off following the race, set solid fractions of :23 and :46 while under pressure from both Spotsgone on his outside and R Loyal Man at the rail. He was shipped to an equine clinic in Lexington for testing.
Sunset Stables owns the consistent Record, who had a maiden win to show in four career starts, all at Santa Anita this year, but has never been off the board. Record was beaten by a nose in a one-mile allowance/claiming race in his last start March 26.
Baffert accidentally started making his way to infield winner's circle after the race. That spot, however, is only reserved for the Kentucky Derby winner.
The white-haired conditioner has enjoyed a superb Derby prep campaign, having won the Toyota Bluegrass (gr. I) with Sinister Minister and the Wood Memorial (gr. I) with Bob and John. He also has a third starter in Point Determined. Record is nominated to the Triple Crown but Baffert has no such aspirations with him.
"I think he's a one-turn horse, but maybe later on," Baffert told TVG afterward. "He showed at Santa Anita that he really didn't want to go two turns.
"I was between bringing him and another 3-year-old I have out there (in California) for this race, but I'm glad I picked him," Baffert said. "He was a good fit here."
Jo Williams bred the dark bay Record, who is out of the Chimes Band mare Believe and was purchased for $130,000 as a yearling at Keeneland in 2004. Record, who did not race at 2, improved his record to 2-2-1 in five starts with earnings of $123,343 with Saturday's winning share of $70,543.
The third choice in the field of seven, Record paid $12.20 $6.40, and $4.20. Spotsgone returned $27.20 and $8.60. Mister Triester was $4.60 to show.
B. Wayne Hughes, owner of Mister Triester, said prior to the race that the Illinois Derby (gr. II) runner-up was a possibility for the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) with a strong performance in the Derby Trial. Hughes took last year's Derby Trial winner, Don't Get Mad, to the Derby.
But after never really challenging, Mister Triester will almost certainly skip the Derby, said trainer Warren Stute, even though he has enough graded-stakes earnings to put his name in the 20-horse Derby field.
"It's a very slight chance," Stute said. "It'll be up to the boss."
Dawn at War finished fourth, followed across the wire by R Loyal Man and 9-5 favorite Noonmark, who gradually fell back after chasing the pace from the outside to the quarter pole.
New Awakening and Smokeyjonessutton scratched.