Sky Kingdom retained a firm position among trainer Bob Baffert’s deep
contingent of Kentucky Derby candidates Thursday with an easy, 4
½-length victory in Santa Anita’s $55,798 allowance feature for
3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles.
Jockey Martin Garcia had his mount completely in hand when
crossing the wire in 1:44.72 after the Empire Maker offspring had
previously impressed when rallying for fourth, beaten 2 ¼ lengths behind
stablemate Liaison in the Grade I CashCall Futurity on Dec. 17.
Smart Ellis finished second Thursday, one length ahead of 17-10
second-choice Spirit Rules in a field reduced to four starters with the
late scratch of Sir Allison.
“It was a paid workout,” Baffert said in the winner’s circle. His
only regret was that Garcia wrapped up so early. “I wish he would have
let him run through the lane a little bit,” said Baffert.
The Hall of Fame trainer wasn’t certain where Sky Kingdom might
resurface, but he was sure it would be in a stakes race. “I don’t know
where, but he’ll run in a stake next time,” Baffert said.
He noted that Sky Kingdom has a similar appearance to a widely
seen horse named Finders Key. “This horse has the same markings as that
horse in (the movie) ‘War Horse,’” commented Baffert. “I don’t know if
that’s an omen or not.”
Baffert might want to rethink that analogy and hope it’s not an omen.
Finders Key, who portrayed the horse named Joey in the motion
picture, started three times during his racing career, all in $2,500
maiden claiming events at Los Alamitos—finishing out of the money all
Sky Kingdom has improved rapidly after being stretched out to
route distances. After failing to hit the board in two maiden sprints at
Del Mar last summer, he graduated by 2 ½ lengths at 5-1 odds when
traversing two turns for the first time at Hollywood Park on Nov. 24.
His solid effort in the Futurity followed.
An $180,000 Keeneland sales purchase in November of 2009, Sky
Kingdom earned $34,800 for Thursday’s victory to bring his total to
As the odds-on favorite, Sky Kingdom paid $3.20 and $2.10. Smart
Ellis, ridden by Joel Rosario, returned $3 to place. There was no show