Can Baffert maiden winner take next step in Bob Hope Stakes?

Can Baffert maiden winner take next step in Bob Hope Stakes?
Photo: Benoit Photo

Even though Nysos enters the Grade 3, $100,000 Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar on Sunday with only a big maiden win for trainer Bob Baffert, the son of Nyquist will likely succeed in his first graded-stakes test based on his raw talent alone. If this race must be played, he is the one to trust on top.

Click here for Del Mar entries and results.

Both the fast time and speed figure Nysos earned in his career debut at Santa Anita point to a runner with tons of natural ability, and therefore he deserves his low odds on the morning line. Furthermore, his pedigree indicates that he should handle more distance without an issue. 

Most speed horses, especially inexperienced ones, do not like running next to other horses as they lead the field. In Nysos' successful career debut on Oct. 2 though, Nysos did not mind Urban Legend contesting the lead on the inside, nor did he mind E J Won the Cup traveling outside of him.

With horses nearby on both sides applying pressure, Nysos led the field through lively early fractions of 21.62 and 44.19 for the six-furlong race. On the turn, Urban Legend and Nysos then began to separate themselves from the other horses, before Nysos finally put Urban Legend away in the stretch. 

After putting Urban Legend away, Nysos opened up in a powerful manner under mild urging from jockey Kyle Frey to win by 10 ½ lengths.

Nysos completed the six furlongs in a blitzing 1:08.97, which resulted in a 96 Beyer speed figure from Daily Racing Form and 119 TimeformUS Speed Figure. His 119 on TimeformUS stands as the best TimeformUS figure in the field by seven points, with his stablemate Wine Me Up second on the scale with a 112.

Now, Nysos steps into stakes company while stretching out to seven furlongs. If Nysos repeats his maiden effort or improves, he should win, although he does need to face the question of handling extra distance.   

From a pedigree standpoint, Nysos is supposed to handle the stretch-out.

Nysos’ sire Nyquist has been the sire of many quality stakes-level routers at this point, including the most recent Awesome Again Stakes (G1) winner Slow Down Andy. Nyquist himself won the Kentucky Derby in 2016.

On the bottom of Nysos’ pedigree, his third dam Unbridled Elaine will  sound familiar to longtime horse racing followers as she won the 2001 Breeders’ Cup Distaff to highlight her successful routing career. In addition, Nysos’ damsire Bernardini has been a solid stamina influence in the breeding world, with the recent Pegasus World Cup champion Art Collector the most recent example of a good dirt router with Bernardini as the sire.

In any case, Nysos only stretches out one more furlong for now, with longer starts on the Derby trail possible if he manages to succeed. Visually, he gave the impression in his maiden win that he can handle just one more furlong without a hitch. More questions can come when he tries a route. 

For an underneath horse to place in second in the exacta, Wine Me Up is a logical one to consider. Disregard his running line in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, as he needed more time to develop before facing the best 2-year-olds. 

Prior to the Breeders’ Cup run, Wine Me Up broke his maiden on this course in a six-furlong sprint on Sept. 2. One month later in the American Pharoah Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita, Wine Me Up set the pace under some pressure early on before his more experienced stablemate Muth took over and won.

Despite losing to his stablemate, Wine Me Up’s second in the American Pharoah still gives him credibility as a runner-up in a Grade 1 race. Based on his proven class, Wine Me Up will likely find himself in the mix.

In case either one of those two runners become scratched, Stronghold might deserve a place on tickets after breaking his maiden in a great one-mile time of 1:35.99 at Churchill Downs. Only a few races earlier on the card, the 2-year-old Catching Freedom broke his maiden at the same one-mile distance in 1:36.58, which makes Stronghold's maiden win seem fast.

Stronghold makes his third start in the Bob Hope and can move forward, although the aforementioned Baffert entries still look faster. But, if Nysos or Wine Me Up become too low in odds or scratched, then consider Stronghold.

Bettors may want to consider skipping this race. But if a vertical wager is necessary, then putting Nysos over Wine Me Up is the play, with Stronghold also worth considering for second as an alternative option to Wine Me Up.

Exacta: 5 over 3

Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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