The surprise Saturday evening as the well-bred Kingly hit the wire at Del Mar wasn’t, of course, that yet another Bob Baffert-trained 2-year-old prevailed on debut. Rather, it was that this one — a full brother of Mohaymen and half to New Year’s Day — somehow went off at 4-1.
Kingly beat the more experienced Stretford End by 3/4 of a length under jockey Drayden Van Dyke. Given a strong gallop out to boot, we’re adding him to the 2019 Kentucky Derby Radar.
The son of Tapit, out of Justwhistledixie, kept going well after completing six furlongs in 1:10.19 to become Baffert’s 20th 2-year-old maiden winner dating back to the beginning of Del Mar’s summer meet.
It has been one heck of a season following his training job on Triple Crown winner Justify. Now, the challenge for the barn is simple: Separate these horses wisely, and keep them healthy.
Kingly, a Clearsky Farms homebred, is a bay colt, unlike the gray Mohaymen, who sold for a sales-topping $2.2 million as a yearling, then went on to win four graded stakes before finishing fourth in the 2016 Kentucky Derby. New Year’s Day, another out of the Dixie Union mare, won the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile for Baffert.
It’s likely Kingly beat a worthy opponent in Stretford End. The $600,000 purchase for owner Kaleem Shah has been a runner-up in all three of his maiden special weight starts, each of them behind a Baffert runner. His first defeat came by a neck in a battle with Improbable, who went on to win a stakes race and will headline next weekend’s Los Alamitos Futurity (G1).
Baffert is also expected to start Bob Hope Stakes (G3) winner Mucho Gusto in that race. His other top 2-year-old charges include the likes of soon-to-be champion Game Winner and Coliseum, the Godolphin homebred who broke his maiden on debut.
Following the Los Alamitos Futurity, the Dec. 16 Springboard Mile at Remington Park could be a destination for West Coast shippers. The Sham Stakes (G3) runs Jan. 5 at Santa Anita Park, and Oaklawn Park’s series of points-paying Derby preps begins with the Smarty Jones on Jan. 25.
Baffert, who won his fifth Derby this year with Justify, is now only one behind the race’s all-time leading trainer, Ben Jones, whose winners spanned from Lawrin in 1938 to Hill Gail in 1952.