Eyeing a Breeders' Cup sweep, Baffert lays praise on Improbable

October 23, 2019 07:09pm
Trainer Bob Baffert has four horses pre-entered for the Breeders’ Cup with three of those potentially favored in their respective races: McKinzie in the $6 million Classic, Eight Rings in the $2 million Juvenile and Bast in the $2 million Juvenile Fillies. 

While Baffert expressed confidence in all three of those runners, he saved his biggest praise Wednesday for his fourth potential Breeders’ Cup starter:
Improbable, this year’s Kentucky Derby favorite, who was pre-entered for the $1 million Dirt Mile

“He couldn’t be doing any better,” Baffert said while on a conference call with reporters. “I mean, he’s
really training well. He likes this track. I’ve never seen him the way he is right now.”

Baffert openly expressed the possibility of winning with all four of his runners next weekend at Santa Anita, which would match the single-year Breeders’ Cup record set by Richard Mandella in 2003 at Santa Anita. Of course, that milestone came when the Breeders’ Cup consisted of just eight races and preceded the advent of the Dirt Mile.

Still, four wins at a single Breeders’ Cup is a monumental effort and would be another career achievement for Baffert.

“I think they’re all doing exceptionally well,” said Baffert, who boasts 15 previous Breeders’ Cup wins. “I’m excited about all four of my horses...I could have a great weekend. But when you think you can win four, you’re lucky if you can win one.”

As the Dirt Mile was oversubscribed at the pre-entry deadline, Improbable will likely have to deal with a full field of 12 that includes fellow 3-year-old and presumed race favorite Omaha Beach.

Baffert surmises the Dirt Mile could come down to the break. He noted Improbable has been compromised at the starting gate in several starts this year, including when fourth in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) at Parx on Sept. 21. 

“His Achilles’ heel is his gate antics,” said Baffert, who believes a two-turn mile is Improbable’s ideal trip. “It’s not that he’s bad in the gate, it’s just he gets in there and he lifts up a couple of times...In the Parx spot, he acted up. I really think he could have won the [Pennsylvania] Derby if he’d gotten away from there.”

Improbable, who was narrowly beaten by Omaha Beach in the Arkansas Derby (G1) last spring, inherited the favorite’s role for the Kentucky Derby after Omaha Beach had to be scratched. After finishing off the board in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, he returned from a freshening to win the one-mile Shared Belief at Del Mar before the Pennsylvania Derby. 

Baffert also provided some thoughts on his two juvenile runners. He said Eight Rings has been training well and is particularly happy some of his previous shenanigans, which in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) resulted in him dumping rider Drayden Van Dyke, seem to have subsided with experience.

“Looking over the Juvenile, it’s a pretty tough race,” Baffert said. “I think all of the dirt races are really competitive this year. This juvenile colt race with him, Dennis’ Moment, the horse that won at Keeneland [Maxwell]...Like always, the break is always really important with these young horses in these championship races.

"[Eight Rings] looks great. He looks healthy. Training well,” Baffert continued. “He came out of the race good. I like the way he behaved, hasn’t tried any of those antics like he tried at Del Mar.   

The Juvenile Fillies appears to be a more wide-open heat. Bast, who is 2-for-3 with a second in her young career, just managed to outlast Comical by a neck most recently in the Chandelier Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita. 

“It was a gut-wrenching win,” Baffert said. “I thought she was going to win by more. But you know, that filly that ran second [Comical] put up a good fight and ran a good race. It was a deep, tiring racetrack and [Bast] worked through it. She’s come back to train well, but I think this filly race is wide open.”


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