Baffle Me has a history of getting
hot and bothered, but she has gradually learned to maintain her
composure. The Mark Hennig-trained filly certainly handled the heat at
Gulfstream Park Sunday to collect the $100,000 South Beach Stakes.
Photo: Eclipse Spotswire
Carrying the colors of Lee Lewis, Baffle Me was bet down to even-money
and came through for her many backers. Jockey Javier Castellano settled
the chestnut in second as 25-1 shot Miss Montreal led through a
leisurely :48 2/5 half-mile. Baffle Me began to tug at the reins on the
far turn and poked her head in front as they straightened into the lane.
Sure Route loomed boldly at the top of the stretch, but there was no
getting by the game Baffle Me.
Baffle Me stopped the clock in 1:30 3/5 for the 7 1/2 –furlong turf
test. Sure Route was a half-length behind at the wire, with Miss
Montreal holding off second-choice Ana Luisa to complete the trifecta.
“I have to give Javier credit, he’s gotten her to relax well,” Hennig
remarked. “A year ago at this time you could have never dreamed that
this filly would sit off of a 48-and-change half-mile and, like he said,
‘I almost rated her too much today.’ But that was perfect. It was
closer than we wanted it to be, but I think she had something left if
they had gotten to her.”
Castellano was enthusiastic about the winner.
“She’s doing phenomenal right now,” the rider said. "She’s kind of a
big filly and it takes her a little bit to get her momentum. It looked
like the other horse was going to go by, but when she switched leads she
got more comfortable and she gave me another gear, and she galloped out
Baffle Me, who has now won seven of 20 career starts, hit the board in
each of her three outings over the Gulfstream grass last winter. Since
then, she has competed exclusively in stakes company. After mixed
success at Saratoga, the 4-year-old collected a pair of seven-furlong
stakes races at Belmont in the fall.
Hennig believes the daughter of First Samurai is finally maturing, but
took the precaution of saddling her in the horse path behind the
saddling enclosure to avoid any potential problems.
“We stuck cotton in her ears a few races back because she gets so
rattled at noises and people,” he explained. “In the paddock at
Saratoga, she really came undone the first time I ran her up there. She
still ran well, but I was surprised she did. She was completely washed
out when she showed up in the paddock because she had to walk through
the picnic grounds up there and she didn’t handle it well. Since then
we’ve really, really worked hard with her and she’s responded.”
Baffle Me, a $130,000 Keeneland September yearling acquisition, has
shown her best form at seven furlongs to a mile thus far, but she may
get a chance at longer distances in 2014.
“We’re just going to enjoy this, rest up, and plan out a schedule for
next year,” Hennig said. “She runs well fresh, so we’ll probably try to
keep her a little fresh through the winter and look forward to a
campaign over the summer. Javier said she could go even further now that
she’s relaxing. I think she’ll just settle and sprint home.”